Task Force Assesses Likely Aftermath of bin Laden’s Death

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, May 2, 2011 — News of Osama bin Laden’s death raced through the tents and ply­wood build­ings that make up the head­quar­ters of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team here this morn­ing.
With­in min­utes of the president’s tele­vised announce­ment brigade lead­ers met this morn­ing in their dai­ly bat­tle update brief­ing, and sol­diers checked in by cell phone with bud­dies on oth­er parts of the base: “OK, just want­ed to be sure you heard.”

Task Force Cur­ra­hee is on its sec­ond deploy­ment to Afghanistan, respon­si­ble for coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions in Pak­ti­ka province. Sol­diers here smiled as they dis­cussed the death of the ter­ror­ist respon­si­ble for mur­der­ing near­ly 3,000 Amer­i­cans and oth­er nations’ cit­i­zens in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the Unit­ed States. Army Maj. Rob Born, brigade oper­a­tions offi­cer, said bin Laden’s death won’t require the task force to change its oper­a­tions sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

“The assess­ment was in many ways, he was more of a sym­bol­ic, moral and fig­u­ra­tive leader than he was involved in the com­mand and con­trol of day-to-day oper­a­tions,” Born said. “I think we will find out whether or not that hypoth­e­sis was true, and what the impact is.”

He said the task force will ana­lyze the effects of the al-Qai­da leader’s death with­in its area of oper­a­tion over the com­ing days and weeks. “We def­i­nite­ly expect and antic­i­pate retal­ia­to­ry attacks,” he said. “[But] if they’re hasty and not well planned, it’s not going to work out well for the insur­gents.” Born said bin Laden’s death is a val­i­da­tion of the nation’s efforts to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

“I think it’s a tremen­dous achieve­ment,” he said. “It shows that per­sis­tence and atten­tion to detail, agili­ty, flex­i­bil­i­ty, work­ing togeth­er with spe­cial oper­a­tions forces and the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty – it pays off.”

The pos­i­tive demon­stra­tions out­side the White House and in New York City dur­ing Obama’s announce­ment were encour­ag­ing, Born said. “It just shows that the Amer­i­can pub­lic is real­ly engaged in what’s going on, and they take pride in the achieve­ments of their armed forces,” he said. “That real­ly was the best thing that I saw.”

Army Capt. David McKim, the brigade’s assis­tant intel­li­gence offi­cer, termed bin Laden’s death an exam­ple of how his pro­fes­sion oper­ates. “That’s tru­ly how it does work for us,” he said. “Things don’t hap­pen instant­ly, some­times. A lot of our suc­cess­es take time to build.” He said for his shop, the mis­sion in Region­al Com­mand East remains find­ing the ene­my in Pak­ti­ka and pro­tect­ing the sol­diers and pop­u­la­tion. Ene­my forces the task force faces in Pak­ti­ka are not nec­es­sar­i­ly close­ly linked to al-Qai­da, McKim said, though many in Region­al Com­mand South are. Insur­gents in Pak­ti­ka are like­ly to respond to bin Laden’s death in one of two ways, McKim said: their morale could suf­fer, or their activ­i­ties could increase in retal­i­a­tion. The al-Qai­da leader’s death comes at a time when I think every­body had giv­en up,” he said. “They thought, ‘He’s either dead, or we’re not going to find him.’ But that’s how things work in our busi­ness – you don’t know when.”

The fact that the mil­i­tary did find bin Laden “gives you that jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that yes, we are doing the right things,” McKim said. In the over­all coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign, McKim said, bin Laden’s death is a pow­er­ful counter to ene­my pro­pa­gan­da, which claimed Amer­i­ca would nev­er cap­ture him. There is no like­ly suc­ces­sor to bin Laden who will have the same stature, McKim said. “He was tall, he spoke very elo­quent­ly, … [he had] pow­er, influ­ence, mon­ey,” the intel­li­gence offi­cer said. “Grant­ed, there are lots of oth­er bad guys out there that will try to take his place.”

Oth­er insur­gents may now think twice about attack­ing U.S. and coali­tion forces, he said. “I think this is def­i­nite­ly a good thing,” McKim said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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