One Death Doesn’t Signal the End

For ten years, Americans awaited the death of Osama Bin Laden. On Sunday, he was finally found and killed by the elite SEAL Team Six. But despite this victory, the fight for American security is far from over.

Many Americans paraded outside the White House Sunday, but the death of Bin Laden does not mean troops will be brought home or that peace has been achieved. Far from it, in fact, as we are still engaged in three wars, and there appears to be no end in sight for terrorist attacks.

Bin Laden’s death is more a symbolic victory than anything else, as he had eluded American forces for so long. His mystique gave the impression that al-Qaeda was impenetrable, but that mystique is no more.

There are a couple tangible gains. The commando group that raided Bin Laden’s compound also retrieved numerous documents and laptops that will be invaluable in stemming the tide of terrorism across the world.

And by authorizing the operation, President Obama has gained significant political clout regarding foreign policy. The Taliban, already demoralized from fighting for so long, will be more likely to make a deal in Afghanistan, and Republican opposition at home will be less inclined to criticize Obama on foreign policy.

Since Bin Laden was caught in an urban center in Pakistan, the heat is also on the Pakistani government for not knowing about this earlier. Pakistan’s embarrassment will allow America to successfully pressure them in engaging more forcefully with terrorists in the northwestern part of their country. After receiving $1.5 billion in U.S. aid, Pakistan must step up its operations against the notorious Haqqani Network, a militia group hiding in Pakistan that has killed many American soldiers.

Nevertheless, al-Qaeda is a decentralized organization — meaning Bin Laden’s death will likely have little effect on terrorism in Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Even then, there is also Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s lieutenant, as a clear second-in-command. Bin Laden has already become a martyr for many followers of al-Qaeda, and terrorist groups are plotting revenge.

Only last year, the renowned underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to destroy a plane over Michigan. Last week, German authorities arrested al-Qaeda militants suspected of planning a bombing in Germany. Sixteen people killed by a bomb blast in Morocco were also likely victims of al-Qaeda members. Unless security forces remain vigilant, innocents are at risk everywhere — even with the death of al-Qaeda’s number one.

Celebration is premature as terrorist groups continue to operate freely. The relatively peaceful Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions attest to the fact that al-Qaeda’s ideology is a dying one, but enough extremists still exist to spread violence. Bin Laden’s death is nothing to be scoffed at, but it would be naïve to treat this as mission accomplished.

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