- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2011

Official reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death has been “muted” in Afghanistan’s capital, but ordinary Afghans are “celebrating this because this is the one who put Afghanistan into difficult days earlier and continued to inspire terrorism,” the country’s opposition leader told The Washington Times.

“For Afghanistan, this has many many meanings,” said former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, speaking on the phone from New Delhi, India. “First of all, he was the murderer of thousands of Afghans before he did anything outside the region.

“You might remember on the ninth of September [2001], [anti-Soviet commander] Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated. It was under [bin Laden’s] direct order, there’s no doubt about that. … Now, he’s dead, he’s out. That makes a lot of difference.”

Mr. Abdullah, who ran against Hamid Karzai in the 2009 presidential elections, said bin Laden’s death does not end the need for a long-term, international presence in his country.

He said “there is no doubt that there will be domestic pressure on the U.S. administration” to bring U.S. troops home.

“It’s like ‘Mission Accomplished,’ yes?” Mr. Abdullah said. “But international terrorism, being entrenched in that part of the world for many many years, to deal with it, I will still say that actions will be needed beyond 2014 [the target year for NATO troop withdrawal].

“In what sense, that’s a different issue, but there is no doubt that parts of the networks will still be around,” he said. “The U.S. might not want to leave an environment behind that can develop to more imminent threats to its security.”

Bin Laden’s death “will have implications far beyond what is being talked about at this stage in a symbolic manner as well as in an actual manner, but at the same time the fight will continue,” he said.

Mr. Abdullah said the news of bin Laden’s death also would “put an end” to the “conspiracy theories” that had taken root in Afghanistan.

He added that the news was a symbolic blow to the Taliban: “They compromised the country for the sake of bin Laden, and now he is dead.”