The death of Osama bin Laden by American forces on May 2nd, 2011 represents a symbolic victory on the war on terror campaigns (Bowden, 2012). Bin Laden is the first leader and founder of Al Qaeda terrorist movement that is based on extreme Islamic beliefs to execute political and religious objectives. Bin Laden had issued threats and declared war on the US and its allies in the 1990s and was responsible for many attacks on America and its citizens around the world. Bin Laden and his organization orchestrated organized attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, The World Trade Center, Pentagon, as well as other operations in London, Madrid and beyond (Bowden, 2012). The US government made it its mission to bring Osama to justice after the 9/11 attacks in the widely popularized global war on terror that led to attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. After the attacks, USA’s President Bush promised to find Osama and bring him to justice. His death, orchestrated by Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, was expected to have a significant boost on the war on terror.
Osama’s death has little impact on the terrorist network (Colonel, 2011). The killing of Osama may only have a symbolic effect on Al Qaeda and may not affect the group’s current operations. Osama bin Laden had risen from an operational leader to a symbolic leader (Jim, 2011). His involvement in terrorist operations, in the later years, was minimal, but he still maintained a huge influence in the system. Bin Laden still had the final command of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, albeit having other trusted jihad loyalists such as Ayman al-Zawahri whole can organize attacks on his behalf.
According to Bale (2006), Osama bin Laden represented an ideology for which he was prepared to die. His desire was to spread his ideologies to as many Muslims as possible around the world. By the time he was killed, there were many terrorist groups scattered around the world in Africa and Asia, all founded on Bin Laden’s jihad ideology. Most of these groups owed allegiance to bin Laden despite having been revolutionized and acting independently. Such groups include the Al Shabaab terrorist group based in Somalia (Bale, 2006). Bin Laden’s death has had little effect on the operations of these groups.
Another key point to note is that Bin Laden’s death was inevitable in the long run, and the group may have possibly prepared for his eventual death by preparing another leader to take charge of the group (Atwan, 2012). Bin Laden was the most sought after person in the world and the terrorist network must have prepared for his demise by having someone next in line to take over. His successor, presumably his chief operations officer Al-Zawahri, would ensure that the movement remained strong.
Finally, while Osama’s death represents a major move on the war on terror in western nations, it had little effect on Al Qaeda and terrorist activities. Al Qaeda may have reduced in numbers after Osama’s death, but its influence remains the same. The group is still influential across the Middle East and some parts of Africa. The success of the group depends on how the next leader will manage to hold the whole network together. For America and its allies, the war on terror is still an ongoing process and Osama’s death helps to shift the focus from the symbolic person to the entire group and its activities.
Atwan, A. B. (2012). After bin Laden: Al-Qaeda, the next generation. London, England: Saqi Books.
Bale, J. M. (2006).”Deciphering Islamism and terrorism”. Middle East Journal, 60(4), 777–788.
Bowden, M. (2012).The finish: The killing of Osama bin Laden. New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Maraia C. J. (2011). The impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on al-Qaeda. Retrieved from http://www.usip.org/publications/the-impact-osama-bin-ladens-death-al-qaida.
Muir, J. (2011). Bin Laden death: Effect on al-qaeda in Middle East. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13260545.
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