New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) A year after Osama bin Laden was hunted down and killed at his safehouse in Pakistan's military town of Abbottabad by elite American forces, an event that made splashing headlines the world over, strategic analysts across the spectrum are agreed that little has changed and the Al Qaeda may be weakened but is still dangerous.
While the American establishment is of the view that top leaders of the Al Qaeda, including Osama's deputy and current chief Ayman al-Zawahri, are still active in Pakistan's tribal areas, Pakistani analyst Hamid Mir says that a dead Osama is as dangerous as a living one.
Security experts in India also echo the view and say that New Delhi has 'to remain very alert'.
Clearly, a year after the Al Qaeda was gunned down May 2 last year by US commandos who mounted a daring operation, danger still lurks. The commandos had flown in on stealth helicopters, without tipping off Pakistan's military, and flew out with Osama's body and a huge cache of documents.
Commodore (retd) C. Uday Bhaskar said in New Delhi there was a constituency in the Af-Pak region that was now more anti-US.
'The man has been physically eliminated...Al Qaeda was weakened as Osama was killed under pressure of the state. But one must remember that the advantage is always with the non-state entity,' Bhaskar told IANS.
'India has to be very alert since after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, there was a backlash in Jammu and Kashmir,' he said, referring to the withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan by 2014.
Ajai Sahni, founding member and executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, said that Osama's killing was a 'symbolic loss' but did not mean much operationally.
'The world is in extreme flux and it is an age of very great uncertainty,' Sahni told IANS.
He said Pakistan, the country whose ties with US became strained after Osama's killing, will have to contain its 'own Islamist turmoil' as the 'monster will turn inwards'.
He gave a blunt warning: 'Watch out for Al Qaeda even though Osama is dead'.
Pakistani talk show host Hamid Mir, who had met Osama, wrote in Geo News that a 'dead Osama bin Laden is as dangerous as a living one'.
'US officials have rightly claimed many times that Al Qaeda has become weaker after the death of Osama bin Laden but they cannot deny the fact that bin Ladenism is still a source of inspiration for the militants fighting from Afghanistan to Yemen and from Iraq to Palestine,' Mir wrote.
He said 'Pakistan never gave CIA full access to interrogate Osama bin Laden's family. The big family was handed over to the Saudi authorities a few days back. Pakistanis were careful because they feared a serious backlash from Al Qaeda'.
'They knew many Al Qaeda leaders were hiding quietly in big cities like Karachi and they can become a big danger anytime. Why Pakistanis are not ready to underestimate Al Qaeda? They know that Al Qaeda operators started moving from Karachi to Afghanistan....'
Former CIA official Reuel Marc Gerecht, now a senior fellow at the US' Foundation for Defence of Democracies, agreed: 'I don't think his death fundamentally affects the future of jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.'
Even US Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan has said that Al Qaeda's top leaders, including its Ayman al-Zawahri, continue to 'burrow' in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The US, Brennan said, was continuing to work with its regional partners, Pakistanis, Afghans, and others to get al-Zawahri, who has 'absolutely' become the number one US target after the killing of bin Laden.
'We demonstrated the ability to do that with bin Laden. And we are in constant consultation with our Pakistani counterterrorism partners on a regular basis about how we can do this as soon as possible,' he said.
(Rahul Dass can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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