The U.S. and Taliban have struggled against domestic political opposition in forging the peace deal both groups know is necessary. With the al-Qaeda leader gone, peace may become much easier to justify
Diners at a Kabul restaurant watch an Afghan local television channel news telecast about Osama Bin Laden's death. Ahmad Masood/Reuters
After nearly ten years and the deployment of over a hundred thousand U.S. troops, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan may have seen its biggest break yet in a different country altogether, with the death of a man who was the purpose of the war's start in 2001 but has come to play at best a marginal role in the fighting between NATO and the Taliban. Osama bin Laden did little to organize al-Qaeda operations in the years before his death on Sunday, and neither he nor his group were especially important to the war over Taliban control of Afghanistan. But all war is politics, and bin Laden's death will have political implications in the U.S. and in Afghanistan that may hasten, perhaps dramatically, the draw-down of a war that has claimed many thousands more lives than al-Qaeda's attacks on August 7, 1998, against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; on September 11, 2001, against the U.S.; and all its other terrorist acts, small and large, since.
President Obama has been looking for a way to peacefully end the war in Afghanistan, to little success, since his December 2009 speech announcing he would send an additional 30,000 troops. His pledge to begin reducing troop levels this summer has already slipped, and the planned 2014 drawdown will likely do the same. U.S.-supervised peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government hit a major setback when the man we believed was high-ranking Taliban official Mullah Mansour turned out to be a fake. Previous Taliban leaders who attempted to negotiate peace have been captured, killed, or intimidated by Pakistani intelligence services, which show every indication of wanting the war to continue indefinitely.