The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘bin Laden’ tag

From #2 to #1: Ayman al-Zawahiri and the question of al-Qaeda’s Leadership Succession

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The new WTC tower reflected in window of the Brooks Brothers store against backdrop of an American flag during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- So bin Laden is dead, sunk to the bottom of the Arabian Sea in a weighted body bag. What comes next for al-Qaeda? A lot of assumptions come into play, the foremost of which is that the angry Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri will assume the top position. Analysts seem to think that al-Zawahiri is combative ideologically and lacks any of the charisma of bin Laden. Many would probably like to believe al-Qaeda is a spent force..highly unlikely. Some wonder if it can survive without its leader. Therein lies the debate about whether AQ is a leaderless ideology or a leader-driven cult-esque movement akin to the LTTE. When Prabhakaran was killed on the edge of that lagoon in May of 2009, that was the effective end of the LTTE as a leader-led, mass movement. But it was certainly not the end of Tamil nationalism/separatism (assuredly not in the Tamil diaspora or doubtfully in South India). Al-Qaeda will obviously not fade away overnight but I find it hard to imagine crowds of henna-bearded Islamist protestors in the sweltering streets of Karachi marching around with al-Zawahiri posters. He’s just simply not iconic or photogenic like OBL nor are there loads of great images of him. I remember when I first traveled across Pakistan way back in 1999, people (well men since I don’t recall socializing with women there then) informed me that almost no Pakistanis had ever heard of OBL prior to Bill Clinton’s cruise missile strikes in Khost the summer before. The American attempt against him, in the wake of the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, is what really propelled him to fame in Pakistan, not any kind of indigenous love for him as I would venture to guess most Americans/Westerners would believe.

President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero/the new World Trade Center site today to quietly lay a wreath on the grounds of the new memorial. I never caught site of the guy but got a few nice snaps. The NYPD officers assigned to the event were fairly relaxed and it ended up being a low key affair compared to the 9/11 anniversaries I’ve covered.

Crowds gather around the new WTC tower during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A young woman donning a 2008 Shepard Fairey Obama t-shirt captures me on her iPhone in the crowds. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

May 5th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Pakistani TV Coverage of Abbottabad

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Pakistan's Geo TV shows what appears to be the wreckage of an American helicopter from the Abbottbad raid. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- There is some interesting coverage on a few of the global Pakistani satellite channels (if you comprehend Urdu to a degree) of the Abbottabad raid. Highlights include what appears to be the tail of the downed Navy SEAL chopper and former President Pervez ‘Mush’ Musharraf talking about how the raid was a clear violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

Pakistan's Geo TV shows bin Laden's Abbottabad compound going down in flames. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

One of the more interesting things about it was the mood of the Pakistani public across a spectrum of their news sites. I did not see a single comment of anyone appearing overjoyed about this. Most seemed to find the notion of a foreign military power making a deadly raid deep inside their territory utterly humiliating. Many comments I came across, not untypical for that part of the world, seemed to say the raid was wrong not only for violating Pakistan, but because they believed the jury on bin Laden to still be out. Many in Pakistan seriously believe that the United States did not have a clear-cut enough case to kill bin Laden. Having personally been on all sides of the War on Terror short of spending the night in the dark prison at Bagram, I can kind of understand where this view comes from but I am sure no one else in America will.

The insecurity I see playing on in the comments on some of these news site forums stems directly from Pakistan’s defeats over the decades at the hands of its Indian nemesis and/or brothers. It is almost as if the United States stood in for the hated Indian military in this scenario.  Some in Pakistan may not want to condemn bin Laden simply as a residual emotional kneejerk held over from eight years of awful neoconservative unilateralist policy in South and Central Asia. On the other side of the Radcliffe Line/Line of Control, many in the Indian media and defense establishment are already no doubt gloating that Pakistan is the nexus of terror that they have been insisting it was all along. On the other side of the Durand Line, Afghans will no doubt be interpreting what all of this means for them as many fear the Karzai regime would simply crumble without Western support. There will be those in the West, particularly anti-militarists in the oh-so-subtly anti-American European left, who will now suggest even more forcefully that their self serving politicians can no longer in any way justify their respective participation in the American-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan, following the Dutch model. Let’s see what, if any, palpable immediate changes take place.

Written by derekhenryflood

May 2nd, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Buh Bye

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Pan Arab satellite channel al-Arabiya announces the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Special Forces in Abottobad, Pakistan at an Egyptian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- A-B-C-ya!

Written by derekhenryflood

May 2nd, 2011 at 1:17 am