The demise of Osama bin Laden may signal a tipping point in American intelligence operations.The successful raid on bin Laden’s compound is a significant indicator of the relentless,lethal and bold tactical capability of America’s special forces, and how they are able to strike the enemy elite at will. This dose of reverse terrorism is a major advance in the fight against radical Islamic jihad. The raid on bin Laden, accompanied by his sudden killing, has had a profound effect on the strategic leadership of jihad;none of them is now beyond the reach of United States forces. They will all rest more nervously at night–a result of their own ruthless medicine.
This strike could also be evidence that the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is ready to shift into a new phase in which counter terrorism becomes the choice to replace the much more labor intensive counter insurgency strategy now being employed to a greater degree. While the nation building component of the current strategy is showing signs of success in developing Afghan forces to protect the nation’s population, the political side, that of developing a national government, is a much slower and more tedious process with a less successful ultimate outcome in sight. At some point a realistic assessment of the capacity for further progress must be made and a decision reached about the transition to a more dominant counter terrorism strategy. Since both counter terrorism and counter insurgency are now in use and will continue, it is really a question of which strategy will become the more dominant one to pursue. In any event the bin Laden killing should not only lift the morale of all of us, but also give us cause to reexamine our current strategy in Afghanistan. While the forces of Islamic jihad are still alive and well, we can all be cautiously optimistic that America assuredly has the capacity to reach the enemy in its hiding places, making it more vulnerable, and to strike a psychological blow that may be a game changer in the future