With more Sherlock Holmes than Rambo and judging from press accounts, not much role for the 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, US intelligence tracked Osama bin Laden to a safe house in a well-appointed suburb of Pakistan's capital and a small US force raided the compound. Press reports say Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight in the compound and that his body has been buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition that expects a burial within 24 hours.
Success typically has many authors, and I don't doubt the ability of some to argue that our occupation of Afghanistan has contributed to this result. Perhaps, it will turn out that some prisoner captured in Afghanistan by US forces contributed a key piece of information that helped investigators find bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
And, of course it will be argued, correctly, that Osama bin Laden's death is not necessarily the end of al-Qaeda nor of groups inspired by al-Qaeda; indeed, that there will be an incentive now for al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired groups to retaliate and to prove that they can still carry out actions against the United States.
No doubt, there will be a window of celebration and relief now, in which many will be willing to give the US government the benefit of some doubt about its future plans.
But if the Afghanistan war continues as it has in the past, this window won't last for long.
Recall that Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006. Since that day, nearly 1,500 US soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq. If the war in Afghanistan continues as it has, public opinion will soon ask, "We got our man. Why are we still there?"
Indeed, in Afghanistan, the immediate reaction has been: "Congratulations! Well done! Now it's time for you to leave our country." The Wall Street Journal reports:
The death of Osama bin Laden is reinforcing calls for a quicker pullout of American troops from Afghanistan and strengthening pressure to end America's longest war by finding a political settlement with the resilient Taliban insurgency.