Commentary by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar: A world without Osama bin Laden
The killing of Osama bin Laden is a victory on many levels.
First, it brings a measure of justice to the families of the thousands lost to his senseless terrorism.
In Minnesota, that includes the family of Tom Burnett, one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who courageously fought back against bin Laden's hijackers and prevented that plane from reaching its intended target, presumably the White House or the U.S. Capitol building.
It also includes the family of Max Beilke from Alexandria. He served as a combat soldier in the Korean and Vietnam wars, only to die when bin Laden's hijackers rammed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, where he was working as a civilian employee.
Bin Laden's death is also a victory for our military forces and intelligence agencies. They persevered and succeeded in taking out bin Laden with a carefully planned and executed operation.
Finally, this is a victory not just for the United States, but for the entire world. While 9/11 was by far his most dramatic and deadly terrorist act, bin Laden was a global menace with blood on his hands from terrorist attacks in many other countries, including Great Britain and Spain.
For nine years, as he evaded one of the largest manhunts ever in history, bin Laden taunted the U.S. with mocking video statements. Now, at last, he's been silenced.
But, even as we celebrate this victory, we must also reflect on some serious questions.
First, to what extent and in what way will al Qaeda survive the death of bin Laden?
Will Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's longtime No. 2 man and presumed successor, show the same charisma and organizational savvy to fill bin Laden's shoes and command the allegiance of a very disparate multinational group of zealots?
Bin Laden's death is clearly a devastating blow, but we must be careful not to confuse his death with the death of al Qaeda.
In fact, the terrorist threat may actually increase in the short term, as bin Laden's fellow jihadists and various al Qaeda "franchises" seek revenge and try to demonstrate al Qaeda's continued relevance.
We cannot afford to let down our guard. Our counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere must continue, and we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves from terrorist threats around the world.
A second question concerns what bin Laden's death means for U.S. relations with our ally Pakistan, which has long been suspected of providing sanctuary to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
To what extent were any officials in Pakistan's government complicit in supporting and protecting bin Laden during the past nine years?
After all, bin Laden was found hiding a short distance from Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, living in a million-dollar mansion in a suburb favored by Pakistani military officers and close to that country's version of West Point.
By all rights, Pakistani officials should be chastened by the fact that bin Laden was found living so comfortably within their own borders. In any case, the U.S. has every right to use this as leverage to secure better cooperation from Pakistan in the continuing battle against terrorism.
Finally, what does bin Laden's death mean for our war in Afghanistan? Will it be a turning point in our military engagement there?
From the start, our mission in Afghanistan was directed against bin Laden, the terrorists of al Qaeda and the Taliban government that sheltered them.
When I was in Afghanistan last year, I met with Minnesota troops as well as with U.S. military commanders and members of the Afghan government, including President Karzai.
I was impressed by the spirit of our soldiers. But I also returned convinced more than ever that our military commitment there must not be open-ended.
We are spending $2 billion dollars a week in Afghanistan at a time when we are also grappling with other major challenges, including how to address our nation's deficits and long-term debt.
We must ensure that Afghanistan cannot serve as a safe haven for terrorists who could threaten the United States again, but we also need to clearly demonstrate to the Afghan government and the Afghan people that they must take responsibility for the future of their country.
With bin Laden now clearly out of the way, we hope for a new momentum that will empower the Afghan government to stand on its own and allow our troops to come home.