Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

On Sunday night, May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama made a televised declaration from the White House, heralding the discovery and death of Osama bin Laden, the U.S.'s most wanted foe. Bin Laden had been tracked to a compound in Abbottabad, a leafy town not far from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The clandestine raid that followed — carried out by a crack unit of Navy SEALs — took the world (and likely Pakistan's leaders) by surprise. Bin Laden's body was reportedly given Muslim rites of burial and dumped into the Arabian Sea.

The repercussions of his death were legion. It capped the decade-long manhunt that had originally driven the U.S. to war in neighboring Afghanistan, while sounding a death knell for al-Qaeda, a group that had already lost much of its allure and capabilities in the decade that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. More crucially, the discovery of the location of bin Laden's hideout — not in a mountain cave but in a quiet suburb just down the road from Pakistan's main military academy — raised obvious alarms over Islamabad's commitment to fighting extremists. The ensuing months saw a steady deterioration of ties between Washington and Islamabad, with growing calls in the U.S. Congress to cut aid to Pakistan's murky military, whose intelligence agency, the ISI, is considered to have a long history of abetting militant groups in Afghanistan and India.