Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Osama Bin Laden's Death: What It Means for Taliban Fight

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Osama Bin Laden's Death: What It Means for Taliban Fight

Article excerpt

The Taliban say Osama bin Laden's death won't affect them. But assessments are mixed.

Afghanistan's Taliban, who once gave refuge to Osama Bin Laden, say that the Al Qaeda leader's death today will not damage their battle readiness. But officials and analysts give mixed assessments of whether militant operations will be thwarted going forward - and say that the news at the very least is likely to dent morale among both Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"It's a big loss for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but the fight will continue in his absence and the insurgency work will go on. Even if there is just one Talib or Al Qaeda fighter is left, they will die fighting," says a Taliban member who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Intelligence sources located Bin Laden's compound in the city of Abbottabad, less than a kilometer from the Pakistan Military Academy, the Islamic nation's equivalent to West Point. Following a shootout and an American helicopter crash, US forces reportedly took custody of Bin Laden's body, which officials say was later given a proper Islamic burial at sea.

"Of course we are human and we have feelings. At one moment, we feel like it shouldn't have happened, but overall I think this was a great chance for him to get martyrdom," says another Taliban fighter in Pakistan who maintains ties with Al Qaeda fighters. Still, he adds, " [Bin Laden's death] will never affect the operations of Al Qaeda or the Taliban."

Ideological differences between Taliban, Al Qaeda

Though the Taliban and Al Qaeda are sometimes lumped together as the same among some in the West, the two have major ideological differences and maintained competing goals. The Taliban are more focused on a national insurgency in Afghanistan, while Al Qaeda is more interested in global jihad.

Additionally, Al Qaeda's footprint in Afghanistan has decreased markedly since NATO forces invaded the country in 2001 at the beginning of the US war on terror. Some estimates now place the number of Al Qaeda operatives here below 100 fighters. And the group has come to increasingly rely on the Afghan Taliban organization for its survival here, rather than the other way around.

"I don't think it's going to have any impact on the Taliban. …

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