USIP’s Special Adviser, Muslim World Initiative Steve Heydemann; Senior Program Officer Col. Paul Hughes; Military Fellow Col. John Maraia; and South Asia Adviser Moeed Yusuf react to Osama bin Laden's death.

May 2, 2011

BIN LADEN REIGN ENDS AS ARAB SPRING BLOSSOMS – USIP’s Steve Heydemann notes that the Arab Spring has created an opening for Arabs to express their views in a new way, and that the death of Bin Laden may test that newfound voice. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces in a large compound outside Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday. “Even if you get negative reactions from some sectors in the Arab world, I would hope that the political environment is such that those sentiments won’t automatically feed into extremist movements,” Heydemann says.

LETHAL FORCE JUSTIFIED – There will be a mixed reaction from different quarters about what will be seen as a unilateral action by the U.S. Whether the ends will justify the means remains unclear. But most, at least for now, will see the U.S. action as positive. “This is perhaps one of the clearest cases in which the use of force has to be seen as legitimate and justified and moral,” Heydemann says. “I believe there will be counter claims on each of those three issues, but there’s not going to be a lot of sympathy for that viewpoint,” he says.

HEYDEMANN’S BOTTOM LINE – The euphoria over bin Laden’s killing will be short lived, Heydemann asserts, and at the end of the day “will not disrupt the underlying patterns of the longer-term conflict between the U.S. and extremist, Islamist organizations.”

A GAME CHANGER? – USIP’s Paul Hughes says the death of bin Laden “could be a game changer for the U.S. strategy in Central/South Asia,” but, he said, it’s too early to say just how. Hughes, a retired Army colonel who is himself a survivor of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, said he is personally gratified that Osama is dead, but it doesn’t mean terrorism is dead, too. “The nature of al-Qaida (AQ) was to be a diffuse network whose various affiliates worked independently of AQ-Central,” Hughes says of al-Qaida, meaning there is still command-and-control even without the nominal head of al-Qaida. Still, the hit will have an impact. “I’ll bet other AQ leaders around the world are scurrying around like rats right now trying to change their modes of operations.”

PEACE IMPACT? – “This may alter how leaders in the region view the U.S. and might make them more cooperative in seeking regional stabilization arrangements,” Hughes said.

AMAZING THINGS – Hughes said the fact that the U.S. could effectively penetrate bin Laden’s compound signifies how the U.S. “can still do amazing things when it wants someone.”

Echoing that sentiment, USIP’S military fellow, John Maraia, says “killing the acknowledged leader of al-Qaida is a critical step in this war of ideas and images; it clearly sends the message to Bin Laden’s followers that America’s pursuit is relentless and that even hiding in a well-appointed compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan is no guarantee of safety.” | Read more in "The Impact of Osama bin Laden's Death on al-Qaida"

THE PAKISTANI REACTION – USIP’s Moeed Yusuf suggests that the success of the operation has probably embarrassed many within Pakistan’s strategic community. Yusuf says “the Pakistanis were not on board and were only informed after the fact. While it is too early to tell, this revelation will raise lot of questions in Pakistan; and perhaps even between Pakistan and the U.S.” | Read more in "Osama bin Laden's Death in Pakistan"

Explore Further

Related Publications

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Dispute Heats Up

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Dispute Heats Up

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Ambassador Richard Olson;  Andrew Watkins

In at least two incidents in late December and early January, Afghan Taliban soldiers intervened to block an ongoing Pakistani project to erect fencing along the shared border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — the demarcation of which prior Afghan governments have never accepted. Despite attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically, and the Taliban’s dependence on Pakistan as a bridge to the international community, both sides remain at odds over the fence. USIP’s Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Andrew Watkins assess the implications of this border dispute for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s bilateral relationship and the region at large.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Pakistan’s Shifting Political and Economic Winds

Pakistan’s Shifting Political and Economic Winds

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

By: Uzair Younus

There was an air of optimism in May 2021, when Pakistan’s finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, told Bloomberg that his government would spend almost $6 billion to create jobs and stimulate growth. The aim, he argued, was to achieve a GDP growth rate of over 5 percent. Fast forward to October and the tone has significantly changed, with the finance minister informing an audience in Washington that growth had to be moderated to prevent macroeconomic risks from materializing, meaning that Pakistan cannot afford to grow too fast. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By: Kate Bateman;  Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Ambassador Richard Olson;  Andrew Watkins

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly expressed the expectation that the international community will recognize their authority as the new government of Afghanistan and have taken several procedural steps to pursue recognition. But the group has done very little to demonstrate a willingness to meet the conditions put forward by Western powers and some regional states. USIP’s Andrew Watkins, Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Kate Bateman assess the latest Taliban efforts to win international recognition, the position of Pakistan and other key regional players and options for U.S. policy to shape Taliban behavior and the engagement decisions of other international partners.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyReconciliation

How the Region is Reacting to the Taliban Takeover

How the Region is Reacting to the Taliban Takeover

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.;  Donald N. Jensen, Ph.D.;  Garrett Nada;  Tamanna Salikuddin;  Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.

While the Taliban’s swift advance into Kabul over the weekend has left much of the West reeling, Afghans themselves will bear the brunt of the militant group’s rule. Beyond Afghanistan’s borders, its neighbors will feel the most immediate impact. Earlier this year, Russia, China and Pakistan affirmed that the future of Afghanistan should be decided through dialogue and political negotiations. How will they engage with the Taliban now?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications