Correspondingly, will the fact that US Special Forces were operating deep in Pakistan’s territory hurt ties with the Pakistani government?
For three years, a small contingent of US Special Forces have been working closely with the Pakistan military and have been located close to the Tarbela air base. So I think the Navy Seals involved flew from Tarbela airbase to kill Osama. The Pakistani military invited Special Forces trainers to train Frontier Corps and Pakistani Special Forces (SSG Commandoes), training that was instrumental in the success of the Pakistan surge.
But most ordinary Pakistanis are unaware of the Pakistani-military-permitted-presence or the mission of US Special Forces. Anti-American media outlets, meanwhile, stoke the narrative that US Special Forces are in Pakistan to foment the insurgency and take over Pakistani nukes. Unfortunately, most Pakistanis believe this narrative. So Washington and Islamabad must make their partnership transparent to American tax-payers and Pakistani aid recipients.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
So what is broad Pakistani public opinion toward the US likely to be?
Negative, negative, negative. For years, and for many reasons, anti-Americanism has kept going up. Unfortunately, the number one cause is the lack of transparency in the degree and effect of US security and development aid. Equally troubling is the sheer denial of Pakistani civilian and military leaders of US support; rather they continue to stoke hatred toward US to score political points. Like leaders before them, current Pakistani democrats have convinced Washington that if they make the US-Pakistan partnership transparent they’ll lose power and the Islamists will take over. The Islamist bogeyman is just that – no Islamist party has ever received more than 10 popular votes since the creation of Pakistan (1947). Washington must push Islamabad to share more with the Pakistani street.
On the question of bin Laden, how much of a blow is this to al-Qaeda, and how do you think the organization will respond?
Symbolically it’s big. After 9/11, Osama bin Laden directed few attacks, but inspired thousands, especially young suicide bombers. His successors will try to consolidate what remains, but more importantly, al-Qaeda will remain relevant and expand through proxies, especially Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for Mumbai attacks of 2008. Since 9/11, al-Qaeda developed a very lucrative syndicate in nuclear-armed Pakistan exporting and importing trainers, advisers, explosive experts, propagandists, etc to groups like Haqqanis, Jaish-e-Mohmmad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and drug lords.
Any indication about who might step up to lead the group now?
It’s hard to say for sure, but I’ll be watching two guys very carefully: Adnan ul Shukerejumah and Matee ur Rehman. These young al-Qaeda commanders are very adept at propaganda, outreach and recruitment operations targeting young Muslims who are South Asian-origin US and European citizens. Al-Qaeda is cornered and needs a dramatic terrorists attack to remain relevant, and we may see it this year. Of course, I hope I’m wrong, and if there is an attempt, I hope we can stop it.
Haider Mullick is a fellow at Joint Special Operation University and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He has written for Foreign Affairs, Yale Global, World Politics Review, Washington Post, Newsweek and Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, among other publications. His website is at: www.haidermullick.com.