Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Spring, Not Osama Bin Laden's Fall, Will Determine Middle East's Fate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Spring, Not Osama Bin Laden's Fall, Will Determine Middle East's Fate

Article excerpt

The Arab Spring will be even more significant and enduring than the historic operation that killed Osama bin Laden. And with bin Laden gone, it'll be harder for President Obama to justify spending more than $100 billion a year for military operations in Afghanistan.

The dramatic change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa will have more enduring impact on global security than the death of Osama bin Laden. Ironically, overthrowing the so-called apostate regimes of the Middle East was a key part of Mr. bin Laden's strategy. But peaceful demonstrations by thousands of people, many of them young, advanced change without his brand of violence. Bin Laden's death is not likely to have any effect on countries experiencing broad-based popular calls for change.

Rationale for war in Afghanistan

However, it does remove part of the rationale for US force deployments in Afghanistan and likely will smooth the planned commencement of US force withdrawals. That bin Laden was killed in Pakistan adds credence to the view that the terrorist threat flows from there and not Afghanistan. Since the 1980s, when Afghanistan expelled the Soviets, the country spiraled into conflicts among its ethnic and tribal groups, and between traditionalists and those seeking a more modern lifestyle. That situation remains today.

US forces went into Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban, who refused to hand over bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda in 2001 was a strong terrorist group in a weak Afghanistan led by Mullah Omar and the Taliban. Al Qaeda took advantage of the rights that Afghanistan enjoyed as a sovereign state; the organization operated with impunity against international norms followed by most nations. The security lesson for the future is that weak states that give safe harbor to terrorist groups present significant dangers.

Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers lost sanctuary in Afghanistan when US forces overthrew the Taliban government. He then sought refuge in neighboring Pakistan. Since 2001, most major Al Qaeda leaders have been killed or captured in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. …

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