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After Bin Laden's Demise

Some of the questions to ponder now that Osama bin Laden has been located and killed:

1) Does Al-Qaeda disintegrate, having lost its effective founder and guide? Or does Al-Qaeda now devolve into smaller, nationally-based franchises (in Yemen, North Africa, Palestine)--with no central command or control? The tradeoff being less ability to mount complicated transnational operations, but harder to destroy?

2) Does this clear a path for renewed talks with the Taliban to craft a political settlement for Afghanistan? As long as bin Laden was at large, the U.S. would want to have definitive proof of a substantial "break" between Taliban elements and Al-Qaeda, and at best to have "bin Laden's head delivered on a plate" as a price for a settlement in Afghanistan. Now that he is dead, is the "causus belli" with the Taliban in 2001--their refusal to turn over bin Laden to the United States after 9/11--also over?

Related to these questions is whether the death of bin Laden allows for an acceleration of the drawdown from the Afghan surge, beginning in July. If Al-Qaeda begins a process of disintegration (or its national franchises elsewhere in the world, such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, become more problematic), and if a combination of military pressure in Afghanistan combined with bin Laden's death creates conditions for a settlement, it is unlikely that the U.S. will continue to devote large amounts of time and resources to changing Afghanistan, especially in the wake of the Arab spring. Getting Egypt right--the country at the center of the Arab world--is going to be much more critical than trying to nation-build and culture-bulld in Afghanistan.

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