Hot Topic: After bin Laden's Death, What's Next?

Hot Topic: After bin Laden's Death, What's Next?

Rutgers professor calls bin Laden killing a major setback to Pakistan's credibility with United States

 Wojtek M. Wolfe
The killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001, has captivated the nation and much of the world, prompting both relief and euphoria. But the al Qaeda leader’s death also raises many questions: How will it affect the battle against global terrorism? Will it spark reprisal attacks against the United States? Rutgers Today spoke with Wojtek M. Wolfe, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers-Camden, about the impact of bin Laden’s death on U.S. foreign policy and the war against al Qaeda. Wolfe is the author of Winning the War of Words: Selling the War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Rutgers Today: What is the implication of bin Laden's death on the war on terror?

Wolfe: Osama bin Laden became the symbol of al Qaeda and his death allows the United States to claim a symbolic victory in the decade long “War on Terror.” Since bin Laden went into hiding, he has had very little operational control over al Qaeda activities, therefore his death will not significantly impact al Qaeda's ability to operate. His death, however, does indicate an intelligence failure for al Qaeda, and if this failure leads to the death or capture of other more operationally relevant figures within the organization, then we could expect to see a weakened al Qaeda presence in the region.

Rutgers Today: Is it too early to tell if his death will alter U.S. strategy in Afghanistan?

Wolfe: Speculatively, as bin Laden was seen as the figurehead behind the September 11th attacks and the focus of the resulting war on terror, bin Laden's death opens the possibility of the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan or shifting its strategy toward a troop withdrawal from the country. 

A symbolic victory?
Rutgers Today: What does this mean for United States-Pakistan relations?

Wolfe: This is a major setback to Pakistan's credibility with the United States. It appears that bin Laden was conspicuously hiding in plain sight near a military base and relatively close to the capital. This raises further questions about the intentions of the Pakistani intelligence service and whether it is aiding or sabotaging U.S. efforts. It will take significant effort for both sides to rescue those relations. Currently, however, Pakistan's leadership is probably more concerned with maintaining domestic stability and increasing its influence over Afghanistan.

Rutgers Today: Could we expect a revenge attack?

Wolfe: If there was already an operation in place, then we could expect a significant attack to take place soon. Barring that possibility, we could see a 'lone gunman' type of attack. If that is the case, then it will be extremely difficult to accurately predict the time and place of such an event. Recent reports suggest that Europe presents more vulnerability to attack and contains a more active al Qaeda presence than the United States.