Osama dead but terrorism far from over, say US experts (Lead)

May 1st, 2012 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 1 (IANS) Amid a political row over the alleged politicisation of the dramatic raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden a year ago, American analysts agree that terrorism was not dead and Pakistan remains its hotbed.

While President Barack Obama and his Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney traded barbs Monday over his handling of the first anniversary of the May 2 raid on bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, analysts also highlighted the terrorist group’s growth in North Africa and the Middle East.

Rejecting criticism that he was politicising the anniversary, Obama referred to a difference between what Romney said about going after bin Laden during his 2008 presidential campaign as opposed to now.

Asked about Romney’s comments earlier in the day that the decision to go after bin Laden was a clear one and that “even Jimmy Carter would” have made the call, he said at the White House: “I assume that people meant what they said when they said it.”

“That’s been at least my practice. I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, I’d go ahead and let them explain.”

Romney’s spokesperson, Andrea Saul, responded in a statement that Obama was using the anniversary of bin Laden’s death as “a cheap political ploy” that she said distorted Romney’s policies on fighting terrorism.

The war of words around the bin Laden death anniversary started last week when Obama’s campaign made it an issue in a Web ad that questioned whether Romney would make the same call in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Richard N. Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations said the killing of Osama bin Laden constitutes a significant victory over global terrorism, but any celebration needs to be tempered by two realities.

First, terrorism is a decentralised phenomenon - in its funding, planning, and execution. Second, Pakistan, home of some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, is decidedly less than a full partner in the war against terror, he said

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now at the Brookings Institution, agreed that bin Laden’s death “was a setback to Al Qaeda, but the Islamic terror organization remains a potent threat around the world”.

“It’s on the defensive, but it’s far from defeated,” he said.

Another former CIA official, Reuel Marc Gerecht, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said, “I don’t think his death fundamentally affects the future of jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Author Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal titled, “Al Qaeda Is Far From Defeated”, made a similar case, highlighting the terrorist group’s growth in North Africa and the Mideast.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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