News Editor, The Pendulum
Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda and decade-long fugitive on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, was announced dead by President Barack Obama late Sunday night, following years of domestic and overseas efforts toward his capture.
Obama said the operation had been ongoing since August 2010, when he was briefed about a possible lead to bin Laden indicating he was hiding in a compound deep in the north western part of Pakistan.
“It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to the ground,” he said in his speech. “Finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”
U.S. forces at his direction launched a targeted operation against bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan Sunday. Although firefight ensued, killing four people, Obama said no Americans were injured. American forces then took custody of bin Laden’s body, which has reportedly been buried at sea.
Jason Kirk, assistant professor of political science, said he first learned of the news when he read it in Monday’s newspaper. Americans should not make the mistake of making bin Laden’s death only about the United States, he said.
“The most important question right now is what this is going to mean for our relationship with Pakistan,” Kirk said. “Pakistan obviously is where bin Laden was killed, not far from the capital at all. Did the U.S. help because of, or in spite of, Pakistan? It’s simply not credible that he could have been in a place like that. Someone had to know.”
Soon after hearing of bin Laden’s death, hundreds of Elon University students crowded onto the nearby streets, chanting and shouting patriotic songs. While this sentiment has been echoed across the country, Kirk said Americans should question what and why they are celebrating.
The most important issues will present themselves in the coming days, he said, as other nations begin to respond to the strike.
“The manhunt for bin Laden has been one of, if not the most, important forces driving U.S. political relations with Pakistan,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a simple reaction to this.”
Bin Laden’s death could not only significantly impact U.S.-Pakistani relations, but also Pakistan’s relations with other countries, particularly India, which has already commented that Pakistan is a refuge for terrorists, according to Kirk.
Many students celebrating bin Laden’s death voiced feelings of relief that an international terrorist had been neutralized. But Laura Roselle, professor of political science, said she thinks al-Qaeda has already been on the decline for some time.
“If it makes people less afraid and they can focus more on our democratic values, to me, that would be an interesting way to think about this,” she said. “I understand why people are celebrating, but the most important issues are issues that require a thoughtful analysis.”
The Arab Spring, the current chain of uprisings erupting in the Middle East, will do more to diminish al-Qaeda than bin Laden’s death, Roselle said, as it has been showing there is an alternative to al-Qaeda and terrorism.
“Al-Qaeda’s not a very hierarchical, vertically-based organization,” she said. “We know that it’s more of a horizontal organization, it’s more like cells. Almost like a franchise, where you have local groups that have a lot of autonomy, a lot of control over what they’re doing. He was no doubt a very important symbolic leader. But that doesn’t mean all these other groups are necessarily going to go away.”
Smith Jackson, vice president and dean of Student Life, and Phil Smith, director of Religious Life, both said conversational events in response to bin Laden’s death have not yet been planned, but students will be notified if plans for such events do arise.