As Nicholas Kristof notes in the New York Times, the nation's paper of record, writes in his op-ed this morning, "despite the foreign policy triumph for the United States, it isn’t the end of terrorism." Already Taliban leaders are vowing to avenge Osama bin Laden and no doubt his death does not change the fundamental situation on the ground in Afghanistan though for Pakistan hard questions must be asked.
How did the world's most wanted man live in a luxury compound in the hill resort town of Abbottabad just a 62 mile drive (35 miles as the crow flies) from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad? Moreover, the compound built in 2005 was just a stone's throw from the major Pakistani military training school. Most tellingly, the Pakistani government was not informed beforehand of the US special forces' raid. This inability to trust even the highest echelons of Pakistan's civilian-military-intelligence establishment is, in my view, the single most disturbing takeaway from this incident. It portends hard choices.
Still, it is clear that from the start President Obama and his national security team took a focused, hands-on pursuit of Osama bin Laden and a measured, cautious approach with our erstwhile ally Pakistan. US-Pakistani relations have been rocky, perhaps not yet even at a nadir, for most of the Obama Administration. The fault may not entirely lie with the Pakistanis but it is evident as the Wikileaks cables suggest that Pakistan's ISI is a rogue filled cancerous organization not to be trusted. The realists in the Obama Administration fully understand this and act accordingly. The Administration, from the President on down, may deliberate incessantly as seen from the outside but their approach is diligent, measured, effective if painstakingly time consuming. This is a results oriented Administration.
John Dickerson over at Slate points to the not so obvious but increasingly evident:
Obama's critics have said that he is a weak leader in general and in particular does not understand what must be done to combat terrorism. " They are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required," said former Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2009, in a typical remark. Yet what emerges from the details of Bin Laden's killing (offered, like the heroic accounts of the Bush years, entirely by officials who work for the sitting president) is that from early in his administration Obama was focused on killing Osama Bin Laden and that he was involved in the process throughout.
In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to "provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice" Osama Bin Laden. By August 2010 intelligence officials had identified the suspicious compound where Osama lived. Thirty-five miles outside Islamabad, the walls were up to 18 feet high and topped with barbed wire. The largest structure, a three-story building, had very few windows. Though the house was valued at $1 million, it had no Internet or phone service. Its residents, unlike their neighbors, burned their trash.
As he has so often been in the past, Dick "they will welcome us as liberators" and "last throes" Cheney was wrong. We may not see what's going on in the battle against terrorism but this success suggests a diligence and a laser-like focus by the Administration. It again speaks to the competence of the President himself. It is a moment to savor for Barack Obama, and for the nation, though I am sure that for him and his national security team, their focus remains on what is yet to be done, not what has been accomplished.