Expect little change - Chris Cork - Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44825&Cat=9

Described by some as the ‘world’s most wanted man’ Osama bin Laden died of a bullet to the head during a firefight with US Navy SEALS at the compound he occupied in Abbottabad. He was killed less than a thousand yards from one of our premier military academies and in a town that is militarised almost like no other in the country.

Four American helicopters ferried in the troops that carried out the raid, one was destroyed on the ground by its crew because of technical failure and there are no reports of American casualties. One of Bin Laden’s sons were killed as was a woman said to be used as a human shield during the fight. He is reported to have been buried at sea in order to conceal his last resting place and prevent it becoming a place of pilgrimage.

The BBC reports that the Saudi Arabians were asked to take his body but that they refused – hardly surprising given the antipathy between Bin Laden and the Saudis. These are the bare facts as we know them, and the detail will emerge in coming days. Is this interesting? Undoubtedly. But is it important in the wider scheme of the conflicts now playing out? Almost certainly not.

For the American people this will bring a sense of closure. The killing or capture of Osama bin Laden has been high in the mind of just about every American since 9/11. This was in every sense personal for the Americans and many will doubtless rejoice as the crowds that quickly gathered at the White House and Ground Zero in New York are testimony to. But Osama bin Laden had ceased to have any operational role with al-Qaeda years ago, he commanded no forces in the field and his organisation had been reduced – locally – to a shadow of its former self. Al-Qaeda has become a global terror franchise, and its various arms have long since lost physical connection with ObL. However, he was the ideological backbone that has spawned a patchwork of terrorist units in a number of countries and it remains to be seen if his death will affect their ability to operate – but it is doubtful.

What the operation does raise is a host of questions for our government, which apart from an ambiguous statement from the foreign office has been largely silent. A careful reading of the FO statement indicates that we were told about the raid after it happened and that we seem to have had little or no foreknowledge of it. The statement also suggests that the Americans acted unilaterally in accordance with their policy of hunting and striking against ObL wherever he was in the world.

That he was living in the heart of the military and intelligence establishment of a country that has denied any possibility of him being within its borders almost as often as the accusation is made; practically beggars belief. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan President Karzai was almost gloating in his comments about the incident, with a finger-wagging ‘I told you so’ feel to it. Is the world a safer place now that he is gone? No. The conflicts that he was midwife to will continue, perhaps for many years; including here in Pakistan. But what his death may do is provide the Americans with a sense of ‘job done’ in Afghanistan and in the wider game hasten their regional exit. History is never going to forget Osama bin Laden. He has no obvious successor and we can but hope we never see his like again.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

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