We have always been skeptical that Osama Bin Laden maintained operational control over much of Al Qaeda while he was on the run, dodging US forces.
When US Special Operations forces caught up with Bin Laden and killed him in a compound in Pakistan, it was initially assumed, or at least reported, that he had been laid up there for almost the entire time he was on the run.
It was also widely reported that because Bin Laden was in a secure location for so long, he likely maintained operational control over Al Qaeda globally. That simply did not ring true to us then and it doesn’t now that it has been revealed that Bin Laden in fact lived a vagabond life, moving to five safe houses in widely separated parts of Afghanistan and then Pakistan.
The meme that Bin Laden maintained operational control over Al Qaeda while he was evading US forces was touted to essentially turn the killing of the terrorist leader into an “end-game” event in the so-called “war on terror.”
The Left in particular has promoted that narrative, but some neo-isolationists on the right have subscribed to it as well.
We buy into that rubbish at our peril. Assuming that the Jihadists will end their war against the West in general, and the US in particular, because the SEALs killed Bin Laden is irresponsible.
It defies belief that Bin Laden could possibly have maintained operational control over Al Qaeda given the conditions which he was forced to endure post 9/11.
Al Qaeda has become decentralized and its followers and admirers around the world, such as Mohammed Merah in France, will continue to act with brutal violence. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda “affiliates” continue to be active in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Mali and Niger to name a few.
The death of Bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALs was a great thing. But to assign “victory” to that single act would in fact be to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.