Conflict & Justice

NATO quickly returns to business after Osama bin Laden's death


A woman looks at newspaper front pages announcing the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in front of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.


Karen Bleier

BRUSSELS, Belgium — At the Kabul headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, normal operations were put on hold this morning. Lt. Col. John Dorrian said work stopped so staff could watch U.S. President Barack Obama announce that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

But then it was quickly back to business — or, as Dorrian called it, “normal battle rhythm” — to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Even without the prospect of retaliation for the killing, NATO was expecting even bloodier spring fighting than usual this year because of the coalition’s encroachment on insurgent-held areas. In fact, the Taliban announced over the weekend its plans to step up strikes specifically on the coalition’s military installations and personnel as well as on Afghan officials and other partners.

Dorrian said the alliance is prepared. “ISAF was already at a heightened force protection posture given the start of our spring offensive and in anticipation of Taliban operations,” he said, “and we will remain at that heightened level, taking additional measures where appropriate.”

Back in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated Obama and the U.S. forces that carried out the mission. “This is a significant success for the security of NATO Allies and all the nations which have joined us in our efforts to combat the scourge of global terrorism to make the world a safer place for all of us,” he said.

Rasmussen reminded that the events of Sept 11, 2001, masterminded by bin Laden, precipitated the first time NATO invoked its “Article Five,” which stipulates that an attack against one member state is an attack against all. Almost 10 years later, the alliance commands the war that began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001; there are almost as many non-NATO countries participating as the 28 members.

Even after the Al Qaeda leader's death, Rasmussen said, the threat from terrorism threatens international security. He said the alliance would persevere in its efforts to prevent Afghanistan from again being a haven for extremism and “continue to stand for the values of freedom, democracy and humanity that Osama bin Laden wanted to defeat.”