Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive May  9, 2011)

Now that UBL is history: what’s next?

By Scott Newark




The recent decision by President Obama to publicly reveal that US Special Forces had located and killed Al Qaeda’s founder and leader, Usama bin Laden, has understandably stirred up something of a fuss to put it mildly. Included in this are the to be expected conspiracy theorists who demand specific ‘proof’ that he’s dead and certain self appointed Islamic spokesmen (they don’t have spokeswomen) who are upset about the manner of disposal of the corpse.

After some initial stumbling, the Americans now appear to be wisely disregarding both the tinfoil on the head and the Islam trumps everything crowd although the best way to ensure this murdering psychopath fades into deserved haze of history is for “officials” to stop talking about him “officially”. Getting your story straight when you do is also recommended because changing versions of what actually happened is just fuel for the whackos.

There are, however, some extremely important potential outcomes from bin Laden’s death, and how it occurred, that merit close consideration.

First and foremost among these is that the Navy Seal Unit (Team 6) that launched the action were there on a military capture/kill mission and not to serve a subpoena. This is a huge shift in approach for President Obama and his (now reversed) anti Gitmo Attorney General Eric Holder. President Obama will deservedly benefit politically from this decisive change in tactics but this reversal demonstrates how wrongheaded Holder’s forceful condemnation of the military option has been since assuming his office. Don’t be surprised if he suddenly is chosen to fill the vital post of Ambassador to Latvia.

More important, this choice of a military strike instead of a criminal prosecution likely signals a determination to take similar action against other terrorist ‘leaders’ who are probably moving out of their imagined protected locations back to some deep dark hole where they belong. Failing that, keep your head up Aymann al Zawahiri, Adnan el Shukrijumah, Anwar Awlaki, Adam Gadhan and a score of other dirtbags because Uncle Sam has got a body bag with your name(s) on it.  

Operationally, bin Laden’s demise will not likely result in any dramatic decrease in existing AQ activities as NATO/US efforts has largely reduced the AfPak AQ entity to an ‘inspirational’ rather than tactical command role. AQ has however decentralized rather than disappeared with active branch offices in the Arabian Peninsula/Somalia (AQAP) and in North West Africa (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb- AQIM).

AQAP is as intent on killing Shia Muslims and apostate Sunni Arab rulers as it is on coming after the ‘Zionist Crusaders (that would be us) and they are also clearly focusing on ‘inspiring’ Muslims living in the West to start murdering their neighbours in the name of jihad. This is, in fact, likely the next, and possibly final, face of the Islamist terrorist threat. It presents huge new domestic security challenges but it will not likely be increased or decreased by bin Laden’s demise.

AQIM will also not likely be strengthened or weakened as they will continue with their marginally concealed traditional banditry and thuggery now supposedly done in the name of Allah. Local regimes and people who chose to be in their ‘hood’ will be at risk until a like determination to put them out of business arrives. Knocking off bin Laden may also make them think twice about angering the Americans. The concept is called deterrence.

Ironically, bin Laden’s death may result in a reduction and even elimination of the jihadi training of Western recruits as that has become an AQ role for the foreign Arabs and Central Asian terrorists hiding out in the AfPak zone. Both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and other local Islamist groups have their own local priorities which rank higher for them than training converts and second generation Muslims from the EU or North America. This potential benefit is also likely because with bin Laden dead, the Pashtun obligations of Melmastia (hospitality) and Nanawatai (asylum) extended originally to bin Laden may have lost their relevance.  

The most difficult consequence of the raid that got bin Laden may actually not be who got snuffed but where it happened. Pakistan’s claim that…honest…they had no idea he was in a compound across the street from their military training academy in a town filed with the highest levels of intel and military is a stretch to say the least. Even Afghan President Hamid Kharzai made the point that maybe instead of bombing the crap out of Afghan villages the US should pull up stakes and chase the bad guys where the boss was being hidden. In an ironic twist the name of that place is pronounced Abadobad.

The Pakistani government now finds itself in the awkward position of having the West conclude that the best you can say about them is that they don’t know what they’re doing while the worst is that they do. This situation is so bad for Pakistan that even the laughable UN is chiming in to ‘help’ Pakistan by questioning the legality of the strike. Planet Earth to Ban Ki Moon…the UN is not exactly credible on such matters and this time the Americans may not just ignore the usual political posturing.

Security issues aside, it is a wonderful coincidence that bin Laden’s failed attempt to impose his pre medieval, authoritarian fanatic Islamist world comes at a time of the ‘Arab Spring’ when tens of millions of young Arab Muslims have personally risen up against authoritarian rule to seek a say in their lives and choice in their futures. Al Qaeda and the Islamists’ dictate to Muslims that the way forward is by going backwards has clearly been rejected.  

Bravo Zulu Navy Seal Team 6.  

Scott Newark has a thirty year career in criminal justice, law enforcement and security policy matters. 


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011