The May 1, 2011, raid that killed fugitive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has the potential to reshape world events across a range of relationships and countries, including our complicated ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the internal political upheaval taking place in the Arab world, in which Al Qaeda has largely been bypassed.
Within the United States the Obama administration now has an opportunity to lead a serious reassessment of the past 10 years of American security policy, particularly the degree to which it has become distorted around Al Qaeda and the person of bin Laden himself. This is a distortion most powerful in our discussion of U.S. interests and activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death does not mean the United States should declare “mission accomplished” in Afghanistan or end our targeted counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan. But it does offer the Obama administration an opportunity to reassess the challenges in Afghanistan beyond the specter of Al Qaeda, to reduce our military and financial investments, and to realign our approach around a political track in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.
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