Osama bin Laden is dead. However, despite some comments on certain media outlets, this does not end terrorism. In fact, if anything, we need to be more alert and aware than ever before. While bin Laden was the clear leader of al Qaeda, terrorism is not a new threat, and Islamic Jihad is a movement that will not stop because of a fallen leader.
Being a veteran of sorts of the drug wars of the late 80s and early 90s, I remember when Pablo Escobar was killed. While Escobar was a kingpin in drug trafficking, and his death was a victory for the good guys, others would take over his supply lines, routes and customers. Drug operations run like terrorist cells, characterized by small operations, consisting of individuals who operate largely independently. They come together, do an operation and then vanish. You can kill a cartel leader, but the trafficking goes on. Others will take their place, some more effective, some less. But it will go on.
What should we expect at this point? First, it would not surprise me to see some low level attacks, lone gunman type situations of followers of bin Laden who are now either leaderless, or let their emotions get the best of them and head to the streets with a gun or bomb. Second, there are plenty of other leaders within al Qaeda out there – particularly in the Yemen area. With bin Laden’s operations severely limited due to the entire world hunting for him, other cells of al Qaeda have ramped up their operations.
Also, remember that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of both the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and Operation Bojinka, a multi-level plot that included blowing up 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific using liquid-based explosives, and the arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle and the mastermind of 9/11, did not stop the al Qaeda engine. This is a 100 years war (probably longer) and the killing of bin Laden, while a necessary response, and a victory on our side, the threat is not going to go away. If anything, the threat will increase as some al Qaeda personnel will “go to ground” (lay low) and may start working more intelligently on either multiple small scale or large-scale attacks.
But for tonight, it’s okay to celebrate. This is a victory. I believe that to a certain extent tonight, maybe some of the victims of 9/11 have been vindicated.