What does this mean, many ask. My answer? Not a whole lot. Mullah Omar is still drawing breath, as are Haqqani pater and fils, as is Hakimullah Mehsud, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and countless others. And of all of them, Osama commanded smallest number of men, and in many ways was nothing more than a figurehead. ISAF troops continue to flow into Afghanistan today, not from it. Deployment dates remain firm. Attacks have not ceased. The war stopped being about Osama a loooong time ago.
Surveys have shown most Afghans do not know what 9/11 is, nor why we (the U.S.) are in Afghanistan. The greater effect of his death will be in American policy circles, where a new withdrawal timeline may be generated, and in Pakistan, where the government is beginning to plan for a post-ISAF Afghanistan. The short term effect will be minimal among the Afghan population, or the insurgents.
In the longer term, though, I suspect either a serious attempt on Pakistan’s part to clean up its side of the border, or an ISI attempt to ramp up the violence, in order to convince the U.S. to leave sooner rather than later now that America’s accomplished what she set out to do in October of ’01 (my money’s on the latter). Much will depend on how the Pakistani government spins, and handles, the fallout from the raid in Abbottabad.
My hat’s off to SEAL Team Six, and to the government official who decided to bury Osama at sea (no jihadist likes to think of waiting for judgement in the briny depths, plus the burial ground can never be made into a shrine). I would be extremely interested in hearing from folks on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan if anything’s changed today. But I doubt it.