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The bin Laden Aftermath

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
May 2, 2011
Foreign Policy

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In Afghanistan Western officials expressed relief at word of Osama bin Laden's death -- and concern that Sunday night's news would turn up the considerable pressure they already feel to convince the American public to stay the course in Afghanistan now that the man who led America to invade the country is dead. The most pressing question is, how does bin Laden's death matter for the war in Afghanistan and the ‘war on terror'? And will it change the way Americans view the country's longest-ever war?

On Monday morning Gen. David Petraeus and his staff at NATO's headquarters delayed their morning meeting to watch the news stream in on BBC and Al Jazeera while the press operation at the U.S. Embassy translated the President's statements into Dari and Pashto. Afghan President Hamid Karzai went on Afghan TV to urge the Taliban to learn from the bin Laden killing, a development he called "important news," and lay down their arms.

While Americans poured into the street in jubilation in Washington and New York, those prosecuting the war in Afghanistan say that they do not want to take their focus off the difficult spring fighting season ahead of them. They are waiting to see whether Congress will see bin Laden's death as vindication that the current strategy is working -- or reason to declare victory and send American troops home as quickly as possible.

The American public is increasingly ready to reverse direction when it comes to Afghanistan policy. In the most recent ABC News/Washington Post polling nearly two-thirds of the public said the war was no longer worth fighting.

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