So what to add to the cacophony of opinion and analysis that has already filled the airwaves and the internet?
Some thoughts, boiled down to their very basic bottom-line.
I don’t think the death of bin Laden will directly impact the fighting capabilities of any of the parties engaged in the war in Afghanistan.
I don’t think the US administration plans to use bin Laden’s death to orchestrate a speedy retreat from Afghanistan – but they may not be able to control where public opinions takes them.
I don’t think the death of bin Laden signals “The End of the War on Terror” (unless this is meant in terms of the conclusion of a certain narrative, or the closure of the various departments tasked with the search for bin Laden).
To most Afghans the killing of bin Laden in itself is not such a big deal. But that he was killed on Pakistani soil – close to the country’s largest military training facility, in the kind of compound that could or should not have failed to attract the attention of the country’s security services – is huge.
To most Afghans this proves and confirms what they have told the world all along. It can be summed up as: Pakistani double-dealing, international indifference, unnecessary Afghan deaths.
I guess the Taleban are now trying to figure out how to position themselves. They will want to use the mobilising potential of bin Laden’s death, but they will also want to leave their position vis-à-vis Al Qaeda sufficiently ambiguous to keep all future options open. So far they have said nothing.
Relationships with Pakistan – both for the US and Afghanistan – can still go both ways. It depends on Pakistan’s public stance and on what kind of story all sides want to spin. There is the possibility to present this as another “change-of-heart” moment. For the moment Pakistan is playing along, indicating that they may even have helped.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020