Osama in Pakistan no surprise, say US experts

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Washington, May 2: US strategic experts today said terror outfit al-Qaeda's boss Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan where he was killed today in an American operation was no "surprise".

The experts also believed that the dreaded group's second-in-command Al Zawahiri, an Egyptian national and a surgeon by profession, will almost certainly take over as its new chief.

"No surprise there we always believed he was in Pakistan," Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank, told PTI hours after the world's msot wanted man was eliminated.

"While we are awaiting details on this cooperation, initial reports suggest Pakistan's role in the operation was important and thus will be deeply appreciated by US officials," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank.

"This could be a turning point in the US-Pakistan counter-terrorism partnership. Many in Washington had begun to doubt Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism.But this historic development is likely to foster a tremendous amount of goodwill from Washington toward Islamabad and bolster the relationship," Curtis said.

Curtis said Al Zawahiri almost certainly will take over as al-Qaeda's new chief.

"We are likely to hear a statement from him soon urging al-Qaeda followers and its affiliates to remain committed to the cause," she said.

"However, bin Laden was the founder and spiritual head of al-Qaeda and his death will demoralize the ranks of the organization and thus be a major setback for the movement," Curtis said.

Curtis said the death of bin Laden could help with efforts to split the Taliban from al-Qaeda.

"It could diminish the importance of al-Qaeda for the Taliban and thus make it easier for the Taliban to renounce its ties to the organization.

At the least, bin Laden's death will cause soul-searching among the Taliban leadership as they weigh the utility of remaining allied to an organization that has lost its founding leader," she said.

The killing of Osama bin Laden vindicates US strategy in the region, particularly focus on targeting terrorists in Pakistan through persistent drone missile strikes, which likely contributed to CIA's ability to close in on bin Laden, she said.

"This will be seen across the globe as a major success for the US in its fight against terrorism and show the world that America will remain committed to hunting down its enemies for as long it takes," Curtis said.


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