Osama’s Death is Only ‘End of the Beginning’
By Mohamed Elibiary (Dallas News)
Sheikh Osama bin Laden, as he was known to his associates, is dead. Americans have eagerly awaited this news story for more than nine years. In the face of so much evil in the world, it’s no wonder freedom-loving people rejoice that the good guys have won another one.
President Barack Obama’s administration deserves credit for maintaining the aggressive posture that George W. Bush and his White House began in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the details continue to come out, the American people should take pride in the hard work of all their national security agencies, especially the CIA, for bringing about this development.
In today’s “Global Jihad” world, bin Laden represented an almost prophetic figure guiding a generation’s worldview. His personal story was always the stuff of legends, told and retold by millions around the globe. He connected modern-day jihadi recruits with an almost ancient historical time. He revived the mujahadeen spirit, which brought about the defeat of the mighty Soviet Union.
To many Americans, bin Laden was a mixture of Pancho Villa, the Mexican bandit whom the U.S. Army pursued unsuccessfully for years, and an aspiring 21st-century Hitler, undeterred by the normal tools of statecraft. He was perceived quite differently among jihad-supporting Muslim populations across the globe. While Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 man, and all other senior al-Qaeda leaders have been rightly viewed as simple thugs with a religious veneer, bin Laden possessed far different qualities.
Because of his message of self-sacrifice and his accomplished “soft skills” — those found in generals who successfully lead fighting men — bin Laden’s followers emulated him by supporting fellow Muslims in distress by any means necessary on battlefields in Afghanistan, Yemen, Bosnia, Somalia and beyond.
Sadly for the United States, a predictable course of events has been unleashed that will test the commitment of the American people to our role as the guardian of global security. With bin Laden’s death, we have seen the end of the beginning, but not the beginning of the end.
In Iraq, the Bush administration made it a priority to decapitate the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization by killing its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In militant ideological movements such as al-Qaeda, when the top leader is gone, the ensuing power struggle leads to an extremely violent and tumultuous period that could last for years. The U.S. military met this spike in violence associated with the flattening of the al-Qaeda in Iraq group through a unique interagency-collaboration mechanism called High Value Targeting Teams.
These High Value Targeting Teams did not go after every militant opposing us but instead prioritized the key hubs in the militant human terrain. By targeting key individuals operating as hubs, the entire insurgent movement was effectively collapsed into only random acts of violence with no effective political alignment.
Such a strategic victory guarantees that the militant revolutionary movement bin Laden inspired, much like Che Guevara did in a previous age, will end up exhausted and buried in the ashbin of history. Our challenge as Americans in 2011 remains unchanged from the immediate aftermath of9/11; it is vital for us to remember that we can’t simply kill our way to victory and instead must assess strategically how we confront each unique threat to our national security.
Mohamed Elibiary is an appointed member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council who assisted the Department of Homeland Security in formulating its Countering Violent Extremism strategy. Mohamed was recognized by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for assisting with the creation of the Nationwide Terrorist Information sharing system and has testified before Congress on counter-terrorism matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.