On the US side, the demise of Al Qaeda’s figurehead has purged some fears among Americans of the group and exposed its current weakness. And having burnished his anti-terror credentials, President Obama would have wider domestic latitude to cut a peace deal that involved insurgents who are willing to swear off any ties to Al Qaeda.
Some American officials are already downgrading the threat of Al Qaeda.
“We are going to try to take advantage of this to demonstrate to people in the area that Al Qaeda is a thing of the past, and we are hoping to bury the rest of Al Qaeda along with Osama bin Laden,” said US Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan on Monday.
But it’s unclear whether this narrative will further the push for a peace process or for declaring “mission accomplished.”
The antiwar group Rethink Afghanistan put out a petition on the heels of bin Laden’s death, saying the rationale for the war has “evaporated.” The most recent Pew polling from early April found half of Americans wanted to pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, with 44 percent preferring to stay until the situation is stabilized.
Some Americans express concern about mission creep, doubts that a vital national security interest remains, and skepticism that the US can stabilize the situation.
Within the region, those who view the American presence as only fueling the conflict are urging a US withdrawal as well. But others contend a lasting settlement requires ongoing American engagement.
“It all depends on what America does next – are they going to put more pressure on Pakistan [or] will they look at this opportunity as an opportunity to withdraw from Afghanistan?” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani security analyst.