Latest on bin Laden-Did US Throw Al Qaeda a Knock Out Punch?
May 3, 2011

Politico offers this think piece about the impact of bin Laden’s death. And a Former instructor at the Ft. Leavenworth, Ks Army Staff college  makes an interesting comparison.

The killing of Osama bin Laden will send Al Qaeda reeling, but likely won’t be a death knell for the anti-American terrorist network because of the way the movement has morphed in recent years, some analysts said Monday.

As intelligence analysts and military officials sifted through what they learned during the U.S. raid Monday, policy experts tried to divine what bin Laden’s death means for the “global war on terror” that President George W. Bush launched after Sept. 11, 2001. Many saw it as the most important U.S. victory to date, though they differed about its long-term significance. They also warned the operation could roil U.S.-Pakistan relations.

“No doubt it’s a psychological blow to Al Qaeda in the main and, certainly, [Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula] and other affiliates have to be morally shattered, as their essential wartime star is gone,” said Cully Stimson, who was in charge of detainee affairs for the Pentagon late in the Bush administration. “It’s got to be a gut punch, but as to whether it will have a tactical or strategy effect on the downside is an open question. I think it probably won’t. … He has had less and less control with respect to the minutiae over the years.”

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan argued bin Laden’s death was the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda, even as the White House braced for the possibility of retaliatory attacks.

“This does not mean that we are putting down our guard, as far as Al Qaeda is concerned. It may be a mortally wounded tiger that still has some life in it, and it’s dangerous and we need to keep up the pressure. We cannot relent,” Brennan said. “We’re hoping to bury the rest of Al Qaeda along with bin Laden.”

One prominent foreign policy expert, Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, said killing bin Laden probably would have been more significant a few years ago in terms of his importance to Al Qaeda operations. Earlier this year, the Obama administration said the Yemen-based Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which has fewer ties to the central Al Qaeda group, now poses the greatest terror threat.

However, Clemons said bin Laden’s death will help the U.S. at home and abroad in ways that go far beyond its impact on planning of terror plots.

“The real is question is the self-doubt many Americans felt about leadership in Washington and the impotence many around the world felt it reflected on the part of the U.S.,” Clemons said. “People don’t understand how incredibly important it is to demolish the brand of Osama bin Laden. He’s a pop culture figure, a rock star of transnational terrorism. To have that lurking out there unresolved would have permanently handicapped us psychologically.”

One intelligence official also laid out the prospect that Monday’s raid could lead to even more trouble for Al Qaeda because of unspecified items the Navy SEAL team recovered during the operation. “It is a robust collection of materials that … we need to sift through,” the official said. “We hope to find valuable intelligence that will lead us to other players in Al Qaeda.”

Bin Laden’s death prompted several pundits to proclaim or call for an end to the war on terror, though they stopped short of suggesting that Al Qaeda no longer poses a deadly threat.

A former Special Forces Lt. Colonel Charlie Gregor compared bin Laden’s death to the 1968 Tet offensive in Viet Nam, and it’s impact on Americans at the time.

Gregor spent 25 years in the Army and used to teach at the Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas.

“They may, or may not lose the war”, Gregor told KMBC TV. He said the psychological impact on Al Qaeda is substantial.

“They are severely damaged by this”, he said.

“Killing bin Laden is the end of the war on terror. … there’s no one that can replace him in Al Qaeda,” analyst Peter Bergen said on CNN Monday.

Daily Beast political writer Peter Beinart urged that the “war on terror” metaphor Bush popularized now can be discarded, and that the U.S. change the way it approaches terror threats.

“Bin Laden’s death is an opportunity to lay the war on terror to rest,” he declared.

Beinart and other skeptics about the U.S. military surge Obama ordered in Afghanistan said they hoped bin Laden’s death would give more impetus to rein in the U.S. mission there and quickly bring American troops home from that country.

Beinart said he hoped bin Laden’s demise would expose the U.S. effort there as “a crushingly expensive adventure in nation building in a desperately poor country whose powerful neighbor wants us to fail.”

Clemons characterized bin Laden’s death as critical to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan: “There really was no narrative for the U.S. to pivot in an incredibly different direction in Afghanistan without taking out Osama bin Laden and [Al Qaeda leader] Al-Zawahiri,” he said.