Osama bin Laden's death: What it means for Taliban fight
The Taliban say Osama bin Laden's death won't affect them. But assessments are mixed.
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Additionally, Al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan has decreased markedly since NATO forces invaded the country in 2001 at the beginning of the US war on terror. Some estimates now place the number of Al Qaeda operatives here below 100 fighters. And the group has come to increasingly rely on the Afghan Taliban organization for its survival here, rather than the other way around.Skip to next paragraph
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“I don’t think it’s going to have any impact on the Taliban. I don’t think Osama’s death is going to either demoralize them, or persuade, or provoke them to take their revenge. Their fight is different,” says Rahimullah Yusufzai, an independent analyst and editor of Pakistan’s The News International.
Ties between Al Qaeda and the Taliban
While the groups differed ideologically, Bin Laden had a close relationship with Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s top leader. Without a personal connection among the top leaders, the Taliban may feel less obligated to support Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, the real battle is now between the foreign forces and Taliban, and to a small extent other groups. It’s no longer a fight between Al Qaeda and NATO forces. That was very obvious from the beginning,” says Mr. Yusufzai.
Still, security officials in Afghanistan say that Al Qaeda provided military and strategic aid to the Taliban, so the death of Bin Laden could hurt the group’s capabilities over time.
Bin Laden’s ability to avoid death or capture for well over a decade, made him a symbol of inspiration for many of those who took up arms against the US and other Western militaries. His targeted assassination, which comes amid a deadly campaign against Taliban leadership, will likely bolster the credibility of Western forces as a lethal adversary among insurgent forces here.
“As a whole, it is a very big blow to the Taliban and Al Qaeda especially. Taliban leaders will also believe that their number will come very soon and they will be targeted, killed, or arrested,” says Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service. “Most of the insurgent-related activities in Afghanistan were supported, managed, or led by Al Qaeda.”
There is much speculation that Bin Laden’s No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, will replace Al Qaeda’s fallen leader. Taliban members say the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri, who has long acted as the group's chief ideologue, has a reputation for preferring more violent methods than his predecessor.
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