The death of Osama bin Laden came as a welcome surprise to most Americans; the 90% approval rating in recent polls conducted on the subject underline the overwhelming support of the American people while they are sharply divided on most other matters of foreign and domestic policy. His death at the hands of American Special Forces has served as salve for some of the pain felt by the families and friends of those murdered nearly 10 years ago. The blow of the attacks on September 11th, 2001 on the American Psyche has been unrelenting in its severity and the trauma has scarred the USA deeply. The death of its mastermind has served to begin the healing process for some while other wonder what difference it will make on the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden’s removal from the jihadist sidelines will do little to change the course of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan as his relevance to insurgent operations on the ground has been negligible for some time now. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other top Al-Qaeda figures remain at large, however they have also become mere figureheads in the conflict as they concern themselves with staying a step ahead of Coalition Intelligence efforts rather than running any aspects of the actual fighting on the ground.
In fact, the majority of the summer fighting season awaits Afghan and Coalition Forces. The strength of the insurgency is open to conjecture while their heavy reliance on Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) and suicide attacks demonstrate the toll that 9 years of war have had on their various organizations.
Critical tasks ahead of the Afghan people
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIROA) is preparing for the transition and turnover of responsibility for several cities, districts and provinces from ISAF control to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The readiness of these institutions for this responsibility is questionable at this time. However, the transition must begin in areas of relative stability, allowing both GIROA and the ANSF to start small before they take on the massive task of securing and governing the entire country on their own.
Corruption on a massive scale at every level of the Afghan Government continues to impede Governance and sap the patience of the Afghan people. The problems facing GIROA and the ANSF as the 2014 deadline for a complete handover from ISAF to GIROA draws ever nearer are far too numerous to detail in this posting. In the end, one man’s death will not decide the conflict for one side or the other, rather, we may hope that it is a harbinger of things to come as Coalition Intelligence efforts and ISAF actions on the ground in Afghanistan continues to make steady gains against the insurgent networks. As the recent focus of GIROA and the Coalition on winning the hearts and minds of the people have demonstrated, soft power in the form of Counter-Insurgency Assistance, Humanitarian Aid and a complete overhaul of the country’s educational system are the keys to a successful exit strategy for ISAF and the only way ahead for the Afghan people.
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