Here’s a very important point from my colleagues Caroline Wadhams and Colin Cookman about the lessons we ought to draw from the killing of Osama bin Laden:
Osama bin Laden’s death clarifies that the United States has the ability to protect U.S. interests independent of Afghan and Pakistani cooperation. Afghan political leaders and commanders have extracted substantial support from the United States over the past decade predicated on the idea that their cooperation against Al Qaeda is so invaluable that America cannot risk alienating them. To a lesser degree, so too have their counterparts in Pakistan. The costs of these rentier relationships (both financially and in terms of the distortionary effect it has on the internal political dynamics in both countries) and the question of who depends on whom the most in the partnership needs to be seriously reevaluated after bin Laden’s removal.
If Afghan and Pakistani leaders do not move on some of the essential political reforms required for long-term peace, then the United States should exercise the option to reduce its financial and military support and presence at a faster rate than the current 2014 timeline indicates. We do not have to be held captive by Afghan and Pakistani leaders because of our fears surrounding Al Qaeda. The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden may allow us to put this threat into perspective.
That’s right on. And in a larger sense, recognizing it can help us refocus our priorities. The big foreign policy issues of our time are the rise of China and India, and our relationship with Pakistan has implications for that. Our bilateral dealings with the Pakistani government should probably be seen more through that lens than through our fears of al-Qaeda.