Beyond the Bubble

By Middlebury Campus

On Sunday, May 1 America’s most wanted fugitive was killed in Pakistan under the cover of darkness. Following a direct order given by President Obama, mission “Geronimo” was given the go-ahead, beginning a chain of events that would end the nearly decade-long search for Osama bin Laden.

Following the directive from the president, American helicopters covertly crossed the Pakistani border Sunday night with the intention of capturing or killing the symbolic head of the Al Qaeda network.

After a 40-minute firefight, the mission was deemed a success as commandoes verified with 95 percent accuracy that the man they killed was indeed bin Laden.

According to the New York Times, mission Geronimo began taking shape last July when CIA officials spotted a white Suzuki driving near Peshawar, Pakistan. Suspecting that the driver might be bin Laden’s most trusted courier, the officials began to track the vehicle.

Over the next few months, CIA officials waited for the car to travel to some remote cave or distant village in the hopes that would lead them to the hideout of the Al Qaeda leader. While their wish eventually came true, they were shocked to find bin Laden hiding “in plain sight,” just 35 miles from the Pakistani capital.

Upon hearing the news, the White House security team began heavy surveillance of the compound and began to devise potential strategies for the elimination of the leader. The plan eventually came to fruition on Sunday night, following an incredibly tense few days within the Situation Room.

Responses to the actions undertaken by the United States have been mixed. While many took to the streets in celebration, officials suggested composed reflection, reminding citizens that bin Laden’s death should not serve to be a rallying point for anti-American sentiment.

International officials have also begun to question the implications of the strike on American-Pakistani relations. Both the White House and the Pakistani government have confirmed that mission “Geronimo” was not a join initiative, but rather that the American government actively attempted to conceal its mission from the Pakistani forces.

In the aftermath, American officials have also openly questioned the efficacy and diligence of the Pakistani counter-terrorist forces, noting that bin Laden was stationed in a three-story mansion within 40 miles of their nation’s capital.

Finally, observers have also wondered what affect the death of such a symbolic figure of the fundamentalist Muslim community will have on supporters and on the efforts of NATO forces in the “War on Terror.” Will Al Qaeda implement the nuclear bomb detonation that was threatened against the West in the event of the death of their leader? Do they in fact have the resources in place to commit such a violent act? Will the United States and NATO allies speed their withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq now that bin Laden is dead?

While none of these questions yet have definitive answers, most agree that the world is a safer place without bin Laden. While the figurehead retained minimal — if any — control over the actions of his network of terrorist cells, he enjoyed the aura of a symbolic leader.

Whether this will foster greater animosity from the forces that long to see the demise of the West or whether it could lead to a relaxing of the tension between the opposed camps remains to be seen. What is evident, however, is that for a brief time at least, the popularity of the President has surged as a result of a successful international security initiative.



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