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. luke

    Osama is dead – the war is over –
    time to pull out of Afghanistan, come home
    and get this country back to normal again.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    hey how about those hot chicks at cnn now i see why people keep tuning in and for the other side of the fence theres anderson cooper if hes not jolly i dont know what jolly is. ok so someone correct me if im wrong because of the hooter girls i lost track. so the raid was at nite the pictures of blood were taken then but the blood is dry and very hard and those picture they show are day shots im confused and lets see, 3 sets of seal team 6 is 666 who cut off the serpants head, gee where have i heard that at.o and the jews waiting for crist to return on the west bank. o sorry CNN were only supposed to say the west bank settlement then we arent killing christians oops sorry did i blow it for you. this all started with good old ronald reagan first it was star was and when that failed it was one world order, golly what a boo boo.and lets see we dont fund terrorism really it seems like the affericans hold our ships for ransom and we keep paying, so they can buy more guns and boats, golly after black hawk down, why dont we bomb them into the ground like every one else. o wait a minute those are obamas people go figure. and how about good old pierce morgan there has to be some ties with hamas, i mean did you see the glow in his eyes, if only they would have brought osamas daughter bach for some water boarding, think of the things pierce would have learned, you know what i mean pierce. and lets see torture is ok if we do it what,libia is committing war crimes, what maybe i havent seen the torture videos yet, o the white house wont release them, i think if we are gonna torture people we should for give hitler, for the torture of jews o i forgot the people of the west bank settlement, as isreal would call them. lets see if you sale drugs you are supporting terrorist well i have drug dealers on both sides of me do i scream terrorist and go kill them i think not, lets face it we arent based on that. well i would love to committ more but my hooter girls at CNN await me its really hard to keep on the subject.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. picasso12345123

    Truer words were never spoken. Bravo to you sir for paraphrasing one of the major ills of society. This war will never be won, because you cannot ever possibly hope to extinguish an IDEAL. Even if 1 person lives on that believes in the ideals of al Queda, then the "war" is lost. Just as most people in the US feel right in their beliefs, these people feel just as right in their beliefs. How an intelligent person cannot understand this, I don't know.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jazzzzzzzzzz

    I just looked it up on Answers.com
    Hitler was was on April 20th and died on april 30 ... ten days after his 56th birthday

    May 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • PGelsman

      April 20th was my anniversary. I knew it was a bad omen.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Don_J

    Have we forgotten that Army Spc. Bowe Bergdahl is still POW/MIA in Afghanistan... let all hop that there is no backlash imposed on him.

    How soon we forget.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lucky


    May 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      He bombed the cole. We know that.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Contrary to popular belief, typing in all caps does not make what you say automatically correct, nor does it make what you say seem more "profound."

      May 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Daniel Gonzalez

    my brother quickscoped osama in the face with steady aim 🙂

    May 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. alan

    how do you know osama was killed last Sunday ? somebody told you that ?

    did you see the body ? did you see any photos of the body ?
    did you examine the DNA ? did you interview anyone who went on the mission ?
    how do you know there was a mission ? somebody told you that ?
    seriously, do you believe everything you're told ?

    especially when it is the mackdaddy who tole you dat ?
    good grief, you'll believe anything they tell you!


    May 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sharon

    until i see real photos of bin ladans death i will not believe he is dead or gone..obama got to see this why we americans cant see this is all wrong obama ur wrong...

    May 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jerisue

    osama will go to heavan and have his 72 virgins they will all be male

    May 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. boomer132

    from a former ranger to the navy seals and to all the other spec ops operators good job and keep it going

    May 4, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    yes we should trust them hell i just told some truth on here and im not sure if it was cnn or the white house that just had my post removed, so people what are you afraid of ? you tell me im retired, maybe i know to much? maybe free speech isnt real

    May 4, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TV

    Read The Art of War... any battle fought without strategic value is a losing battle. 100% of the time this has proven true throughout history... stop the Afghan war NOW

    May 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tarek Hamzi

    I once met a man in a subway. He was gay like me. We had such a great time that we fell in love.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • gayboyq

      lol lol lol lol into poly? 🙂

      May 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pete

    Not showing Bin Laden dead will create doubt and conspiracy theories. However, the fact that he had a 17 year old
    wife should also tell people that he was not only a terrorist but, also a pedophile. I hope he was shot in the balls
    before he was shot in the head! Disgusting! What kind of religion supports that? Not a religion anyone with half a
    brain would follow. These idiots have no place on this planet!

    May 5, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
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