The war against Afghanistan started as a reprisal for the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of New York in 2001. The main aim of this American revenge against Al Qaeda and their Afghan protectors, the Taliban, was to 'get' Osama Bin Laden. Almost ten years later Washington succeeded. Bin Laden wasn't taken into custody to be trialled, no, he was shot by US soldiers who operated beyond the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities on their territory. This is certainly not according the rules of international law which don't allow that foreign government officials just enter the country and kill people. The normal way is a court trial. But Washington chose from the start for a military answer in stead of a judicial approach of the problem of terrorism. In this field President Obama just continues the policy of his predecessor G.W. Bush and the neo-conservative team around him.
Immediately after nine-eleven the CIA was granted permission for secret murder-operations. This measure was withdrawn two years ago, so it seems as president Obama gave personally the green light for the assassination of Bin Laden. Obama's policy differs in words from Bush's, but when it comes to facts? Commentators have pointed regularly at the discrepancy between the CIMIC-operation - civil military cooperation - to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and the targeted murder-operations in Afghanistan. The latter have been growing in number since general Petraeus is leading the Afghanistan war. Petraeus was recently asked by Obama to become the new CIA boss, as the current director, Leon Panetta, will take the office of Defence Minister to replace Robert Gates.
A dead Osama Bin Laden – whose corpse was thrown into the sea in order not to create a pilgrimage site – is most probably a better solution for the US elite than a living Osama. Case closed. During a judicial procedure Bin Laden might have been able to accuse the US of spreading military personnel and facilities all over the Arab world – amongst others in the country which harbours the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia – and he might be tempted to explain how the US pushed his position during the war against the godless communism in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Nobody in the US is waiting for this. Neither the Republicans of president Reagan who carried out this policy of support to jihad-mudjahedin, nor the Democrats whose grand strategist, Zbigniew Brzezynski, designed and started this policy under president Jimmy Carter.
Is Bin Laden's execution the necessary condition for Barack Obama to follow his path towards re-election? Obama's plan for Afghanistan is a copy of the situation in Iraq and wants after a first surge of the number of US military in that country to start withdrawing troops. After 2014 only 'non-combatant' troops would stay in Afghanistan to assist the new national army, as is the case now in Iraq. President Obama was clear about that when he announced the surge at the end of 2009. The war in Afghanistan started as revenge, but grew to the actual proportions because the country is of considerable geo-strategic importance. Afghanistan itself has a rich underground, it neighbours various Central Asian countries but also China, Pakistan and Iran. Moreover it is of crucial importance as transit country for Central Asian gas.
Does Bin Laden's death represent the end of the US policy of war on terror? This will only be the case if there is a tremendous pressure form beneath, I think. In reality Al Qaeda ceased years ago to be the operational global terror network and became a label that local terrorists use to present their actions in a broader international perspective. The end of Bin Laden as the figurehead he surely was, will probably lessen the sympathy for terrorism that existed in several places. If now, next to the end of the war on terror, the western hegemony with its double standards would disappear, maybe our relationship with the Arab world could get straight some day.
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