With bin Laden dead, what's next for war in Afghanistan?
U.S. troops walk through Camp Hansen, in Marjah, Afghanistan.
May 4th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

With bin Laden dead, what's next for war in Afghanistan?

If the impetus for the U.S. war in Afghanistan was the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda and pursuit of its leader Osama bin Laden, then what does his death mean for the war in Afghanistan and against global terrorism? That's the question being raised by politicians, world leaders and security experts.

What happens next?

Osama bin Laden's death may have little impact on the continuing course of the war or on the continuing threat of terrorism, analysts said.

But the big question is what's next for al Qaeda operations and U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

After news of bin Laden's death, Sen. Dick Lugar questioned whether the United States needs to change course in Afghanistan, saying the country doesn't pose as big of a threat anymore given the reason it was there in the first place was to hunt down bin Laden.

And with the big man at the top out of the picture, Time magazine's Mark Thompson writes, "pressure will increase to speed up the withdrawal of some of the 100,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan."

Lisa Curtis, former CIA analyst and former state department adviser, told CNN she believes "now is not the time" to announce large-scale changes for the U.S. timeline in Afghanistan.

"If [the U.S.] were to hasten the plans for withdrawal just because we captured bin Laden, it would send the wrong signal," she said.

The decision is also a matter of message, versus money and strategy.

"The war in Afghanistan was never solely about killing or capturing bin Laden. The United States sought to overthrow the Taliban because it had allowed bin Laden to operate inside Afghanistan," Nora Bensahel, deputy director of studies and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, wrote in an opinion piece for CNN.

"Even those who recently supported the war may now believe that the war’s main goals have been achieved and it is time for U.S. forces to come home," Bensahel wrote. "Obama will face an uphill battle convincing Americans – and some members of Congress – that U.S. strategic interests still require spending billions of dollars a month on military operations in Afghanistan."

What impact does bin Laden's death actually have?

Some question whether bin Laden's death will actually mean a significant blow to al Qaeda and its operations, but others worry the death may lead to retaliations that will require more U.S. resources.

It's part of the long-standing, grand ambition of our foreign policy - to delink the "good" Taliban from the "bad" Taliban and al Qaeda as a way to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the death was a warning that the Taliban cannot hide, but she hopes his death can mark a road to peace for those who want it. 

A U.S. senior official who deals with policies in Afghanistan told the Washington Post the death changes things because it “presents an opportunity for reconciliation that didn’t exist before.”  The hope, as Clinton hinted, is that somehow the death can be leveraged into peace talks.

"Administration officials think it could now be easier for the reclusive leader of the largest Taliban faction, Mohammad Omar, to break his group’s alliance with al Qaeda, a key U.S. requirement for any peace deal," the Washington Post writes. "They also think that bin Laden’s death could make peace talks a more palatable outcome for Americans and insulate President Obama from criticism that his administration would be negotiating with terrorists."

Divided views

What should happen next, of course, depends on the vantage point.

For U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the answer is simple: It's time to pull out of Afghanistan now.

"Notwithstanding the unparalleled performance of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the demands of a global war on terror cannot be met by concentrating resources in this one region indefinitely. The president has yet to articulate a definition of success in Afghanistan. Our forces on the ground remain the best in the world, having decimated al Qaeda and diminished its influence even before the death of bin Laden," he wrote.

However, he believes the U.S. should focus on the broader war on terrorism.

"While we expend massive resources shoring up a questionable government [in Afghanistan,] the real war on terror continues to be a global problem that extends beyond the borders of Afghanistan," he wrote.

It's a feeling other members of Congress are beginning to express louder, as well.

For members of the military and their families, that's a welcomed sentiment, but one that comes with great concern.

For some, like the father of the first U.S. victim of the war in Afghanistan, the death was a day of "victory," perhaps a sign that his son did not die in vain.

But for those still on the front lines, there are many questions.

While they are thrilled with the news, military families worry about their loved ones and fear retaliation. They know their family and friends in combat will be called on as threat concerns rise, but they continue to hope the death could mean more calls for them to finally come home from Afghanistan - once and for all.

If not Afghanistan, then where?

With the death of bin Laden, many questions about the strength of terrorist groups, specifically al Qaeda, are back in the forefront.

The New York Times writes that the raid itself has "called into question many of the administration’s basic assumptions about how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for Islamic terrorists."

Looking into the future will be key to what role the United States plays in Afghanistan and where it focuses its efforts in the war on terror.

Analysis of many profiles of Guantanamo detainees suggests that becoming a member of al Qaeda in Yemen in the late 1990s was relatively easy, which may explain why Yemenis comprised the third largest group (after Afghans and Saudis) held there. A major concern is where the new hotbed of terrorist activities will center, and Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are of great concern.

And with bin Laden becoming the latest high-ranking terrorist to be caught in Pakistan, questions are swirling about the United States' relationship with the splintered country - and its role in the war on terrorism.

U.S. officials said they hope the attack will inspire the Pakistani government to cooperate more fully with the United States. Several officials predict Pakistan will go through a period of soul-searching about the fact that bin Laden was hiding there in plain sight and that the U.S. killed him on its soil.

Some of the focus of the war may, in fact, depend on the information from bin Laden's compound that intelligence officials are combing through now.  Perhaps new clues and details may provide insight into the terrorist organization - and whether the United States should continue to focus on Afghanistan or divert resources, both financially and with troops, elsewhere.

For now, that's still up for debate. And with politics, emotions, money and lives on the line, it's bound to be a heated one.

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Big "E"

    First of all can someone tell me who these "Good Taliban" people are? And where are they? Hillary Clinton has in mind having terrorist come to the table and talk peace.One would have to acknowledge them as a credible nation or state to do so.They are terrorist and as George Bush said,we do not negociate with terrorist! The choice to the Taliban and Al Quaeda is simple.Disarm,disassemble and disperse,or else!

    May 4, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • iServe

      Sons of Iraq. The Awakening Council. Ever heard of them? Google it, wiki it, figure it out. They were created under Pres. Bush. Kinda shoots to hell any credibility of your opinion within the first 2 sentences of what your wrote.

      So yea no, I didnt finish reading after those 2 pointless sentences. Or how many ever sentences it was.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Billy D.

    As a young man, I drove a towtruck and worked many, many, wrecksites. I have seen more dead people than most morticians. Some were decapitated, some were butched. I helped the coroner retrieve an adult from under the dash of a vehicle. He was almost unrecognizable as human. I was always amused, angered, and perplexed at the preoccupation that it seemed that some "humans" have with blood, gore and guts. I saw two women get killed in a subsequent accident while rubber-necking to see two deceased in a car that had been made into a convertible from the wipers up ! I truly believe that if Hollywood wants a new HIT series, they should bring back "the Christians and the Lions". Or perhaps the more MODERN version, "the MUSLIMS and the Lions" !! Sick, sick. There is NOTHING glorious or entertaining anout a mangled or disfigured human. Every human being on the planet has a "worth", to somebody. Their passing will bring grief and suffering to SOMEBODY. We kill one of theirs, and we cheer. They kill one of ours, and they cheer. It seems to me that we , as a species, haven't evolved very much since the cavemen. Perhaps we never will. Bin Laden had to be killed. He has been. Let's leave it at that, and move on. Let's concentrate on those issues that affect those still living and trying to feed our families. The aborigines of New Guinea until recent times have eaten the brains and intestines of their slain enemies. Would that be enough for these sick people ? What's for dinner ? Or perhaps, WHO is for dinner ? I quit my job after six years. I could no longer deal with all those dead bodies.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Billy D.

    You might want to watch your back now. One of our "gay" seals might want to get into your back door. It must be very hard to have to admit that a bunch of gays killed your most-ferocious fighter/leader. Think what might have happened if they were "real men" like you. I bet you know a bunch of "yur momma" jokes too.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. nur amabo nur

    Police using tear gas, sound weapons, beating students during annual street party at W I U. U tu be (mass arrests, tear gas, sound weapons used on W I U students). Police beating college students in show of force at W I U.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Prayerwheel

    Yeah right, and those who use 7 year old kids as suicide bombers are brave? Some men!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Prayerwheel

    Yeah right, and those use 7 year old kids as suicide bombers and place sneaky bombs to kill unarmed innocents are brave? The only thing that goes through the head of a fanatic is a bullet. Period.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |

      One way or another,the right-wing thugs in Washington will find another excuse to keep us in Afghanistan. The brutal murder of the purported Usama bin Laden won't change a thing. In fact,I won't be al all surprised if they make May1 a national holiday.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • luke

      May 1st is the day Hitler died –
      and is now the day Bin Laden died –
      It Should be a national holiday.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzzzz

      Freaky weird

      May 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don_J

      ...actually it was 30 Apr 1945... just saying...

      May 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      April 20th he was born and April 30th he died, sorry if I said any different.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bree

    That just goes to show how educated you are, making ignorant, idiotic comments like that.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nur amabo nur

    HUNDREDS OF AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS BEATEN BY POLICE IN FULL RIOT GEAR. Police using military weapons and tactics on W I U students during annual street party. SOUND WEAPONS, TEAR GAS, kettleing and beating of students at W I U !!! U tu be (mass arrests, tear gas, sound weapons used against W I U students). Our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, innocent students being attacked by POLICE !!!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eddy

    I thought this was a war on terror, not a man hunt for osama

    May 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ben

    Impact: They know that from the top down, no one is safe. And, countries who support them know that they are not as important or capable as they think they are.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cp

    He was Terror..It gives hope to Americans the we can live in a better world now that he is dead

    May 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Eric

    The big mistake would be rushing out of afghanistan.
    the stupid mistake would be forrgetting Afghanistan like we did at the end of the cold war.
    Sure it took ten years, but there was progress.
    regarsless of what your opinion is, A peaceful Afghanistan is a safe America.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. viranka

    Jason Chaffetz another butt head republican engaging his butt head mouth before his brain!!

    May 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Linari

    Uh, fake RUFFNUTT, it's those right-wing thugs that are clamoring to bring our troops home. I notice you in all your forms say the same old same old. Why don't you switch it up a bit? You know, sing a different tune?
    Bla, bla,bla. Right-wing thugs in Washington. Tea-party lingo that has no place here. How revolting, how disgusting, how.......whatever.
    Just. Shut. Up.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. peter

    fvck this war. there will always be terrorist in the world because noone will agree with one government. They are not a big threat like a hitler or even north korea. The most they can do is what they did on 9/11. That will never happen again so i say move on. Hate spending money on a war that has only about 100 al quida left.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
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