Comment: Some early remarks on bin Laden’s assassination
May 2, 2011 6 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
It is tempting to consider the impact of Osama bin Laden’s assassination on al-Qaeda-inspired groups and, more broadly, on America’s “global war on terrorism”. Yet any such endeavor at this point would be inevitably speculative. The truth is, nobody has the slightest idea of the possible strategic spillover of bin Laden’s killing, and this includes the White House, the CIA and NATO. There are, however, some general remarks, mostly of operational nature, that can safely be made on the basis of the limited factual information that has been made available. To begin with, it appears that the assassination of al-Qaeda’s senior figurehead was conducted by ground forces, and not remotely, as has been the case with the vast majority of US assassination operations carried out in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the past several years. This potentially strengthens the argument, made frequently by Western and Pakistani officials, that significant achievements in the field of counterterrorism can only be conducted by surgical-type ground operations, based on accurate and actionable intelligence.
Putting aside the question of actionable intelligence, intelligence observers will be interested to know whether the primary mission of the operation was to capture, rather than kill, bin Laden. From a strictly intelligence-gathering point of view, it may be argued that bin Laden’s death at the hands of the Americans was far from an ideal outcome. On the other hand, collection is simply one element in intelligence operations, another one being psychological. From a psychological point of view, therefore, this operation is still ongoing, and must include the release of authoritative details on the assassination, including audiovisual proof, in order to convince skeptics in the Muslim world, the United States, and beyond.
From a strictly organizational point of view, it would also be important to know whether the assassination operation was a collaborative effort, whether it was US-led, and whether it can be clearly credited to a particular US government agency. Indeed, it would be naïve to assume that the aftermath of this major development will escape the relentless bureaucratic struggle between the numerous components of America’s intelligence community. One thinks in particular of ongoing antagonisms between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon. In light of this, it would be insightful to clarify whether the assassination operation was primarily coordinated by the CIA or the Pentagon, which commands Special Forces groups. These are some first remarks on the assassination of Osama bin Laden. More relevant news and remarks will follow in due course.
* Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis holds a PhD in the politics of intelligence. He teaches and authors widely on subjects relating to intelligence practice and reform. He is Senior Editor at intelNews.org. More of his articles can be found here.