The killing of bin Laden did not end the Afghan war. But it did highlight for the US the usefulness of using military bases there for striking jihadi leaders in Pakistan.
But it did highlight the usefulness of US military bases in Afghanistan for launching strikes against leading militants in Pakistan – especially important as the US and Afghanistan prepare to finalize a strategic partnership agreement in the coming days.
If the US didn’t have access to a base in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border ahead of its raid last year on the bin Laden compound, the US operatives would have faced markedly more risk. Now that militants seen as a threat to the US are believed to be based mostly in Pakistan, US officials will likely want the option to use the military bases it has in Afghanistan to conduct antiterrorism efforts in Pakistan after 2014.
This may prove a point of contention among Afghans. Many have expressed reluctance to the US having access to long-term bases that could be used to attack neighbors or other regional powers.
“Still a lot of time is needed to make the Afghan security forces self-sufficient and the Afghan government able to deal with the neighboring countries,” says Noor-ul-haq Ulumi, a former Afghan Army general.
But even if Afghanistan insisted on the US not using bases for attacking neighbors, he says, the US would likely find a way to go around it.