May 2nd, 2011
10:11 AM ET

Terrorism will continue, and Pakistan remains a fraught partner

Editor's Note: Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. This is his First Take.

By Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations

The killing of Osama bin Laden constitutes a significant victory over global terrorism. But it is a milestone, not a turning point, in what remains an ongoing struggle without a foreseeable end.

The significance of what was accomplished stems from Osama bin Laden's symbolic importance. He has been an icon, one representing the ability to strike with success against the United States and the West. That icon is now gone.

There is also the demonstration effect of what U.S. Special Forces are able to do. It sends a clear message to terrorists that they are at least as vulnerable as those they would seek to hurt.

But any celebration needs to be tempered by two realities. The first is that bin Laden's demise is in no way to be equated with the demise of terrorism. There is no time for a V-T Day–a Victory over Terrorism Day celebration.

Terrorism is a decentralized phenomenon–in its funding, planning, and execution. Removing bin Laden does not end the threat. There are successors in Al Qaeda–and successors in autonomous groups operating out of Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. So terrorism will continue. Indeed, it could even grow somewhat worse in the short run as there are sure to be those who will want to show that they can still strike against the West.

The second reason for responding with caution to this welcome development is that it underscores yet again that Pakistan, home of some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, is decidedly less than a full partner. Some parts of the government there are sympathetic to terrorism and unwilling to act against it; others are simply unable to given a lack of capacity.

This reality is unlikely to change. As a result, the sort of independent operation carried out against bin Laden is likely to be the rule as much as the exception going forward.

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Topics: Global • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism • United States

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Johnny

    Bin Laden is dead – big deal. He was just a figure-head. The Hamburg Seven were hell-bent on hurting us before they went to Bin Laden for an assignment. Read the 9-11 Commission Report. Until you get to the root cause of why young men want to kill us you are not doing anything. Here's the root: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stop funding Israel! Get AIPAC, the cancer, out of our government.

    May 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Four or five weeks ago, I wrote regarding the future of the Middle East that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were the root of all evil and some readers were angry with me. Later on, my view was supported by people like Brzezinski, who expressed the same concern in his interview a few weeks ago on Fareed's show. "And, beyond that, there's also the question of peace because whether we like it or not, the Israeli Palestinian conflict is a major impulse for hatred of the United States, and, therefore, it's in our interest and in Israel's long-run interest to move forward before the regimes that are now in the process of emerging begin to adopt an increasingly hostile position towards us and towards Israel. And I have particularly in mind Egypt, potentially also Jordan".

      May 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply
      • Johnny

        If our politicians just had the same common sense you have, we wouldn't be in this mess now. But I am a little surprised with the heavily pro-Palestinian Egyptian position now, with plans to reopen the border with Gaza and mediating Fatah-Hamas negotiation. Last time I checked they were still receiving the 2 Billion dollars/year from the US to keep their mouth shut and not interfere with Israeli matters.

        May 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • topman4

      Is Usama Bin Laden really dead? Where is the proof? Why have US not published his pictures? There are number of unanswered questions. US administration should make all proofs public to support there claim.


      May 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • livinfree

      This is a simplistic analysis. If it wasn't Israel, it would be Kashmir, if not Kashmir, it would be Chechnya, if not Chechnya, it would be something else. "Terrorism" will continue full force as long as the petro-dollars flow to despotic regimes.

      May 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  2. Kumar

    Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in Pakistan: in a town called Abbotabad just 30 miles from the Capital of Pakistan (Islamabad). This is akin to Baltimore to DC. The tow itself is an army base. Can you believe if Pkistan was not shielding bin Laden. The fact that USA carried out the operations to kill bin Laden without the knowledge of Pakistan itself tells a lot of story.
    This exposes Pakistan more so now. Wake up America! It is not only ironic, it belies common sense that America continues to call Pakistan its ally! Pakistan is a terrorist country and hub of Islamic fundamentalism.
    USA's next mission should be to eliminate Pakistan- a task India should have done!

    May 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • ...

      thank you kumar bin laden

      May 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
      • Brosv21

        At least he uses his actual (non-Muslim) name -unlike you, my little Islamist 😉

        May 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Maybe you should blame the Brits for what is happening in Pakistan to-day! The painful partition 60 years ago left wounds unhealed ! In fact, Pakistan rose to signifcance only since the 9/11. It is interesting to see, how crafty the ruling elite plays game with the West and its neighbours.

      May 2, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  3. Bill

    How many Americans lives, and how much American money has been wasted by our government on nothing? how are we any closer to ending this than we were on 9-11? How do we get out of this mess? You can celebrate this today, but wake up tomorrow to the fact that we are no closer to ending the terrorist threat to this country, we are no less broke, and all these American lives have been about killing one man? How did we get here?

    May 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
    • total nonsense

      As long as Islam is permited to exist, there is no peace possible.

      May 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Reply
    • Elsie E. Connelly

      Bill: We are in this mess because of people like you, who do not believe that we are indeed the World's Policeman, until you can wrap your weenie brain around this fact (like it or not) we are the only ones with enough patriotic people who will volunteer to enter the armed services, and from your response you are not patriotic at all. Dumass!

      May 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  4. jared

    Expert: "This isn't the end of terrorism."

    Non-expert: "No sh!t."

    May 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • WA

      Perfectly said.

      May 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  5. sagebrush shorty

    It took an expert to figure out that this was not the end of terrorism? Did you really pay this guy,CNN?

    May 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  6. melinda

    Terrorism will not end. Terrorism has existed for all of millennial, so long as there has been differing opinions towards religion and challenges to status quo. The death of Bin Laden has not, at any time, been portrayed as belief that terrorism has ended. It is important symbolically that this beast who has openly and gleefully attacked thousands and thousands of people who ideologically or religiously do not agree with him. He's also murdered thousands of arabs too and has ruptured families by luring young teens into his "cult" who died in the name of his (Osama's) warped beliefs.

    May 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  7. Khuspoo

    So how about handing over David Headley and his friend Rana to the Indian government so they can bring him to justice for the acts of terror in Mumbai on 26/11? They have already accepted guilt, and both are of Pakistani origin.

    Next up, how about getting hold of Mullah Omar and the Haqqanis? True control of these elements lies with the ISI, so it might be a better idea to start with Ass-af Kiyanahi (the beloved COAS of the PA). He'll sing like a canary once he shares a cell with Big JoeMullah.

    May 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  8. pillayan

    we all have to fight against the terrorism.Usa are killed the wolrd biggerst terror leader osama and to finished the terrorism also whole world has to accept and help how the small tini island srilanka fought against the one of world rithless terrorists call tamil tigers. therefore we all have to get together to fight against the terrorism.

    May 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  9. Onesmallvoice

    Now we see the true Evil triump in the Middle East and Central Asia true to what the Apostle John wrote in the 1st century in the Book of Revelations. Now the Beast is upon that part of the world!!! This is enough to make a believer out of Karl Marx himself!!!

    May 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  10. Kaye

    Why is Fox News referring to Bin Laden as USAMA????

    May 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  11. Patrick

    How can a president of the Council of Foreign Relations (someone much more accomplished than I ever will be), write an article that assumes that we can ever end "terrorism"? Isn't that like saying let's end "warfare"? Surely the use of violence to achieve political ends will always be with us?

    May 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  12. Isobel

    I don't think there is any reason to suppose that killing Osama bin Laden would end al Qaeda's determination to continue. The most likely 'dent' is not so much his death, although that will be a very significant blow to them, but any useful computer inormation acquired at the compound. My immediate thought was that amongst his supporters, there will be huge rage and grief. One of their greatest reasons for loathing in the first place was encroachment on Arab/Muslim lands by the West; now al Qaeda's revered leader has een killed by the US in a raid n his compound in Pakistan. The rage they will be feeling I should think is practically impossible to imagine, and I am certain there wil be numerous attempts to exact retribution upon us in the West for that. The end of bin Laden's in itself does not signal the end of al Qaeda, and we know that. However i thnk we sometimes forget as stated in this article, there are other similar groups as well. Hatred of the West will have sgnificantly increaed due to this and I thhk the threat of terrorism now is greater, not less. The only thing that would prevent that is immediate capability, not Bin Laden's demise.

    May 3, 2011 at 6:04 am | Reply
  13. Mohammed Naeem

    I think this is the right time to think about for both the US and Pakistan to abondon their relations to a normal one and not a strategic or so called non-Nato allies etc. There is much more distrust between the two countries. On one side while Pakistani are very anxious to live in USA but on the other side they are side lined by the US policies. Even the US top officials are very rude when they talk to the international media etc. Also look at the US media how they are discriminatingly writing about almost always again Pakistan. And according to one report the sentiments about the bad image of US is growing among the people. It is Pakistani people who are suffering and not the rulers of Pakistan. Also I will appeal to US financial agencies to stop paying your people tax income to Pakistani rulers, since they are still suffering, I am sure they can live without money. The best solution is to abondon each other in a respective way.

    May 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Reply

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