Does anyone care about bin Laden any more?

October 2, 2008

May file photo of Pakistani TalibanThere have been many contradictory reports this week about whether Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, had died. Pakistan’s Geo television channel said that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban had died of kidney failure after a long illness, while a Taliban spokesman dismissed the report.

I’m not going to add to that speculation here. What does strike me, though, is that the attention paid to talk of Mehsud’s death was greater than that given to reports that frequently do the rounds about the fate of Osama bin Laden.

In a detailed profile in the Long War Journal, the author writes that Mehsud is now considered to be  “a threat as big as, or bigger than, even Osama bin Laden”. A guerrilla leader credited with uniting many of Pakistan’s often disparate militants under the banner of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan late last year, Mehsud gained worldwide notoriety when he was accused of involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto — an accusation he has denied.

So does Osama bin Laden matter any more?

File photo of Pakistani tribesmenAs the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, it is Mehsud, rather than bin Laden, who is seen as the leader of a movement that has fuelled a series of bomb attacks inside Pakistan, and challenged any attempt by the Pakistan Army to tame the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border which are home to both Pakistani and Afghan insurgents.

Then when people talk about the insurgents attacking U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, again rarely does bin Laden’s name crop up.  The Los Angeles Times writes of a “trio of warlords” with bases in Pakistan, blamed for a surge in violence in Afghanistan. The three, also mentioned in this piece in the U.S. Army Times,  are Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, both veterans of the campaign against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, believed to be hiding somewhere around the Pakistani city of Quetta in Balochistan.

All are said to have links with al Qaeda, while retaining their own separate motivations, identities and loyalties. Where does that leave bin Laden? Has he become just a name? An idea?

And did he ever have the reach and power that was ascribed to him? Or has he always been what one commenter on an earlier blog described as just “a guy living in a cave”?



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bin Laden was a bogey man who served his purpose but is now irrelevant. He went belly up at Spin Ghar in December 2001.
A news agency should know that.

Posted by Lobito | Report as abusive

Well, I read that bin Laden died of kidney failure in Pakistan in 2003. I think that Benzanir Bhutto said that. In any case, bin Laden has apparently passed and any use of his name in attempts to create urgency of some kind in the West, has been bogus. As has been stated, the press should know that. I have wondered if al quaeda is actually a creation of the CIA anyhow. In any event, our tomato plants are doing great, and we had a good corn and bean harvest. If you believe the main stream press at all, good luck. Just stay on your feet and out of the way, folks. Liars abound !!

Long life, good health, and peace to all.


Posted by Grandpa | Report as abusive

I think your assumptions behind the question are wrong. Bin Laden was an international figure whose goals and activities were international. Best I know, Mehsud is a Pakistani whose focus is Pakistan. He hasn’t been blamed, at least outright, for any attacks in Afghanistan or against U.S. troops (a virtue the Pakistani army cannot lay claim to). He is Pakistan’s problem—a major one, to be sure, but certainly not on the scale of OBL.

Posted by Joshua FOust | Report as abusive

just like OBL, people in pakistan believe that Baitullah Mehsud is under the payroll of C-I-A and RAW. Helping them destablize pakistan

Posted by K Khan | Report as abusive

Everybody knows the truth about Bin Laden! He was NOT responsible for 911, was never wanted for 911, and he is dead as dead gets. Question is, do they care, and the answer is so IN YOUR FACE!
We must stop the military complex and the DOGS OF WAR. Not for the lazy people who say “it doesn’t matter till
its in my back yard”, it WILL then be to late. Do it for yourself and your children. Let those blind who will be led by the blind, fall in the ditch.

The United States military complex supplies the WORLD with WAR.
Why do we fight for oil yet not to save the blood of man?

“Cowardice ask the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politics?
Vanity ask the question, is it popular?
But conscience ask the question, is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that it is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is RIGHT! ” MLK.

Posted by Dawn | Report as abusive

Joshua, in answer to your comment, I’m not trying to compare Mehsud and OBL directly, but rather to highlight the attention given to Mehsud compared to the remarkably little attention paid these days to bin Laden.

Perhaps I should rephrase the question. When people, including U.S. politicians, talk about going after al Qaeda in Pakistan, what exactly does that mean? Who exactly are they going after?

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive

I think THAT is a much more appropriate, and difficult, question to ask.

Posted by Joshua FOust | Report as abusive

al Qaeda is militant terrorist cells.

Posted by TC Kirk | Report as abusive

Who’s going after Whom???
Pakistan after Mehsud
Media(alongwith their armchair intelligentsia) on a wild goose chase for OBL
NATO after Pakistani Nukes

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive