- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The world needs to remain “vigilant” about potential terrorist reprisals in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, Australia’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Kevin Rudd touched on the al Qaeda leader’s demise Tuesday during a question-and-answer session at the Brookings Institution in Washington, saying that “we as civilized nation states have a legal and moral responsibility” to deal with mass murderers.

“People can run, they can hide, but ultimately our resolve is to track them down,” Mr. Rudd said. “It’s exactly the right thing to do. We don’t have any alternative to that.

“At the same time, we are realistic about the fact that this action by itself also might create the possibility of other responses by terrorist organizations all over the world,” he said. “We’ve seen various statements from various groups already that criticized the demise of Osama bin Laden, including Hamas.”

Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza-based leader of the militant Palestinian group, praised bin Laden as a “holy warrior” Monday, calling his killing by Navy SEALs “a continuation of the U.S. policy based upon oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood also condemned the killing, calling on the U.S. “to cease its intelligence operations against and to desist from interfering in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country.”

“We simply need to be vigilant,” said Mr. Rudd.

A former prime minister, Mr. Rudd assumed his post as foreign minister in September.

He stressed that bin Laden’s death did not lessen Australia’s military commitment to Afghanistan: “Our position is absolutely clear: Australia will stay the course.”

Mr. Rudd reiterated Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s pledge to remain in the war-torn country at least through the 2014 target date set by NATO and Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the transfer of full security control.

“We will also be engaged in one form or another post-2014,” he said.

With about 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the mission. It has responsibility for Uruzgan province, “where progress is real,” Mr. Rudd said.

Australia also has deployed as special forces throughout the country.

Miss Gillard, who replaced Mr. Rudd in the top job after winning a Labor Party leadership challenge in June, addressed a joint session of Congress in March. She said that while “we must be very realistic about Afghanistan’s future,” she was “cautiously encouraged” by what she had seen.

“We know transition will take some years,” Miss Gillard said. “We must not transition out only to transition back in.”