USF's Milani Offers Insight on al Qaeda's Future

TAMPA, Fla. (May 2, 2011) – An expert on the Middle East, Mohsen Milani, chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs  at the University of South Florida, discusses the death of Osama bin Laden. (Read Milani commentary below.)

 

 

The following is a commentary from Mohsen M. Milani is Professor of Politics and Chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

When I first heard about the killing of Osama bin Laden late last night, my immediate reaction was, “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.“ The death of Osama bin Laden was a momentous victory for the United States, for the Special Operations forces who carried out the mission inside Pakistan, and for President Obama. It also brought much-needed closure to the innocent victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The killing was also a morale-booster for the U.S. military and Special Operations, and was a manifestation of power projection by the U.S.

The death of Osama bin Laden, however, does not mean the end of the struggle against extremism and those who advocate terrorism. In the past few years, al-Qaeda was forced by the U.S. to somewhat decentralize its operations, and, therefore, we witnessed the rise of different al-Qaeda affiliates in different parts of the Islamic world. These affiliates all pledged allegiance to bin Laden. It is unlikely for anyone to emerge as an effective replacement for bin Laden because he was the financier and the charismatic, cult-like leader of that network. It is likely that we will see an intense power struggle within al-Qaeda to capture the leadership. At the same time, we are likely to see greater autonomy by the affiliates of al-Qaeda, who could engage in acts of terrorism at local levels in order to gain international attention. That said, bin Laden’s death is a huge defeat for the entire al-Qaeda network.

Nothing has shown the bankruptcy of bin Laden’s ideology of hatred and reliance on terrorism more vividly and more powerfully than the rise of the so-called Arab Spring. The uprisings in the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain to Yemen and to Syria, have created a new political paradigm that relies on non-violent means and demands basic human rights and freedom. It is my hope that these momentous events will create a more tolerant, transparent, and representative Middle East.