Ramifications of Bin Laden Death Not Yet Clear, U.S. General Says

The lasting effects of the May killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos is not yet clear, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Wednesday (see GSN, May 26).

The Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden's compound in Pakistan seized a trove of data that U.S. intelligence analysts continue to investigate for clues on potential ongoing terrorist plots or the locations of other senior al-Qaeda commanders.

Dempsey, who was nominated this week by the White House to replace retiring Adm. Michael Mullen as the United States' top military officer, said in London the defense community has "yet to come to understand what [bin Laden's] particular demise might mean, and might mean for the future," the Associated Press reported (see GSN, May 24).

Terrorism experts have cautioned that in the short-term the United States is at a higher risk of revenge attacks by foreign al-Qaeda cells or from radicalized "lone wolfs" living in the country. In the long-term, the diverse terrorist network will have to contend with internal power struggles and a less cohesive idealogical framework in the absence of bin Laden's unifying leadership, specialists have said.

Dempsey's selection caps a series of recent planned changes to the Obama administration's defense team that saw CIA Director Leon Panetta selected to replace retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, chosen to lead the intelligence agency (David Stringer, Associated Press I/Yahoo!News, June 1).

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has directed that an autonomous commission be established to probe the U.S. assault on the bin Laden compound in the town of Abbottabad. Lawmakers in the nation have called for an examination of how bin Laden found refuge in the nation for years and how the Navy SEALs were able to secretly enter and leave Pakistan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Tuesday (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 31).

Elsewhere, five individuals again face U.S. military murder and terrorism charges in connection with the September 11 attacks, AP reported.

Under a revised military trial process, alleged mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men are accused of plotting the coordinated 2001 strikes that left close to 3,000 people dead when hijacked passenger aircraft crashed into the World Trace Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia and a Pennsylvania clearing. The men had previously faced charges for their alleged roles in the attacks but that case was abandoned in 2009.

The suspected al-Qaeda operatives are imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Military prosecutors filed charges including murder in violation of the law of war, targeting civilians, deliberately causing significant physical harm, stealing airplanes and terrorism. The suspects could be sentenced to death if convicted (Associated Press II/New York Times, May 31).

June 1, 2011
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The lasting effects of the May killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos is not yet clear, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Wednesday (see GSN, May 26).