The War on Terrorism: What Comes Next?

               Finally, the day we’ve long waited for has come.  Osama bin Laden (or Usama, if you prefer) is dead.  About that there is no doubt, no matter if, or really when, photos are released.  The U.S. government could not, and would not, be so adamant if there was any chance that Osama could show up in a video, obviously alive.
               The real question then is what does this mean in terms of global terrorism.  Since 9-11 we have lived under the threat of terrorist attacks.  Around the world, al-Qaida has coordinated attacks in London, Madrid and Indonesia.  With Osama gone, will the threat die out with him or will it continue?
               Osama has clearly had some communication with the outside world while in hiding in Pakistan.  He used couriers to relay messages, but apparently did not have a phone or even Internet access.  It is hard to imagine that he has been heavily involved in any planning of future attacks, at least not directly.
               What legacy will he leave behind and will anyone take up the leadership of al-Qaida and continue in his footsteps?  According to some of the information being released, Osama did spend a great deal of time and effort on succession planning.  If that is accurate, then it is almost certain that someone will be taking his spot, at least in the short term.  If he really did put that much effort into succession planning then we should assume that part of that would be giving the new leader some immediate successes.  He could have prepared a number of attacks to be carried out upon his death with the credit going to the new leader to build his reputation and standing amongst radical Muslims. 
               Some intelligence sources have indicated that there are 600-800 cells in the United States alone.  Any one of these could see the death of Osama as a trigger to attack.  However, I imagine that a large percentage of those cells have become comfortable in the new lives and may be reluctant to follow through.  Still, a number of recent arrests prove that there are those terrorists in this country ready and willing to follow through.  The attempted car bombing in Times Square is a glaring example.
               On the other hand, without a clear leader, al-Qaida could disintegrate in a wave of internal strife and fighting over the reins.  Perhaps, the information on the succession planning may be greatly exaggerated as part of a way for Osama to keep the Western world in fear.  Even if al-Qaida were to fall apart, it is no time to let down our guard or relax our vigilance.  Events in Egypt, Syria and even Libya, as well as Iran, clearly show the ongoing risk and anti-western thought by many radicals in the Middle East. 
               Whether or not al-Qaida survives or is replaced by another group, the answer is clearly that we cannot let down our guard.  Terrorism will survive and continue to be a real threat.  We cannot go back to the innocence or naivety of the 1980’s where terrorists were a somewhat comical character.
               Experts and analysts will make many predictions and some may be right.  The bottom line, though, is that the threats are very real and still with us.  We must continue to protect our infrastructures and our lives.
               The threat may not be over, but the death of Osama is certainly worthy of commendation.  Without doubt, Osama bin Laden was evil and responsible for the deaths of thousands, not just on 9-11.  Anytime the world is ridden of someone so evil, it is always a plus.  No matter what comes next, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden.

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