Absorbing the news, implications of Bin Laden’s death
May 2nd, 2011
Omaha, NE – As the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden is absorbed around the world, the questions are numerous. What does it mean for the fight against terrorism, has it shifted momentum, does the threat remain? And what about Pakistan? How much did the government know?
â€œSymbolically itâ€™s been huge, no question,â€ said Moshe Gershovich, Professor of History and head of the Middle East Project Fund at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Gershovich said the death of Bin Laden comes at a historic time, and sends a message to a region already on its way to massive transformation.
â€œIn the entire Middle East, we see in country after country, people who have lost their fear,â€ he said, â€œpeople going to the street, demanding change.â€
â€œMore and more people, especially young people who are the natural recruits for such thing, are realizing the Al-Qaeda way is not the way for them,â€ Gershovich said. â€œThey are fighting within their countries and they are fighting for things that are very different things than the Al-Qaeda agenda.â€
Gershovich said the momentum shifted away from Al Qaeda several years ago, when individual Muslims began to perceive the network as targeting them, and detrimental to all. But, he said, although taking out Bin Laden delivers a symbolic blow, his death was not an operational victory.
â€œThe greatest threat is not so much from an organization called Al Qaeda, which is more theoretical than real, but from what I might call freelance terrorists,â€ he said, â€œpeople who organize locally, assume the identity of Al Qaeda, and carry out their operations.â€
â€œThese local initiatives are very hard to detect ahead of time, to penetrate through intelligence and to foil their activity. We usually get familiar with those after they carry out their initial operation.â€
Tracking those locally organized operations, however, may become more intently focused on Pakistan. Bin Laden was found in a compound in Abbottabad, what some have called a â€œsuburbâ€ near the capital city of Islamabad in Pakistanâ€¦not hidden in a cave on the border with Afghanistan as initially believed.
â€œNo one can come to the conclusion, knowing now what we do about where he was found, that someone in Pakistanâ€™s ISI didnâ€™t know where he was,â€ said Thomas Gouttierre, the Director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at UNO, who travels to the region regularly.
â€œI havenâ€™t been to that compound where they found him, but I have been to Abbottabad, and I can tell you thatâ€™s not the type of town where that building where we found Osama Bin Laden would go unnoticed,â€ Gouttierre said, â€œand particularly in a country where the intelligence organization keeps such a tight tab on everything thatâ€™s happening.â€
Gouttierre said the United States needs to sit down with the Pakistani government, and figure out how the countries might have a relationship â€œbased more on reality than claims that prove to be unproveable.â€ Gouttierre, who is often in close contact with the leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, said an initial response of Karzai was to point out that his government has said all along the centers of terrorism are not in Afghanistan, butare in Pakistan.
â€œAnd this only proves that,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s going to be hard for the Pakistanis to dispute that.â€
The fallout from the historic event will likely continue for weeks and months, as more information comes to light. For now, around the world, people continue to absorb the news, and the reactions are variedâ€¦ from celebrations by protestors in Yemen to rallies in New York and Washington D.C to a message of mourning from Hamas in Gaza, who called Bin Laden a â€œMuslim and Arab warrior.â€