Bin Laden's Death Alters Debate Over Afghanistan Different schools of thought can be found all over Washington — whether U.S. forces should press harder than before, leave immediately or try to reconcile with Taliban leaders. In any case the U.S. will need Pakistan's help, analysts say, but its commitment to tackling terrorism is being debated.
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Bin Laden's Death Alters Debate Over Afghanistan

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Bin Laden's Death Alters Debate Over Afghanistan

Bin Laden's Death Alters Debate Over Afghanistan

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says bin Laden's death provides a new opportunity to re-examine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

LOUISE KELLY: When you kill the leader of al-Qaida, I think this raises questions about well, what sort of strategic shifts do we need to make as a result of this, particularly in light of the fact that our intelligence agencies are telling us that the most imminent terrorist threat comes from Yemen - and not those militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

NORTHAM: Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says there are essentially three schools of thought. One is that the U.S. should press the military advantage, going in harder and faster and more effectively than before.

LOUISE KELLY: Another is that this killing of bin Laden might open the door to greater opportunities for reconciliation with members of the Afghan Taliban, who might now be feeling more vulnerable and perhaps less connected to the remaining parts of al-Qaida, open to negotiations in a way that they weren't before.

NORTHAM: The third school of thought is that in the wake of bin Laden's death, the U.S. should declare victory in Afghanistan and pull out, saving American blood and treasure. Retired Army Lieutenant General David Barno, with the Center for a New American Security, says that would be dangerous, short-term thinking.

LOUISE KELLY: I think we're conscience that, you know, a precipitous withdrawal would be very destabilizing, and we'd probably undercut a lot of the gains we've made in recent years.

NORTHAM: Barno says there are very robust discussions going on between all sides of the administration about what's next - not only for Afghanistan but also Pakistan. The fact that bin Laden had lived for several years, and was killed, near a key military installation not far from Pakistan's capital will help shape the debate, says Markey with the Council on Foreign Relations, because the end-game in Afghanistan will require the help and cooperation of Pakistan.

LOUISE KELLY: The United States, I think, woke up very dramatically after bin Laden's killing to a sense that Pakistan may be in even worse straits than we thought it was.

NORTHAM: In what way?

LOUISE KELLY: Because there was always a question as to whether Pakistan lacked the capacity, or the will, to tackle some of the terrorist groups on its soil.

NORTHAM: President Obama has a couple of months to mull over his options. In July, he's due to announce the size of the initial drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. During an earlier strategy debate soon after he took office, the president agreed to Pentagon demands to increase the number of troops. Katulis, with the Center for American Progress, says this time, it'll be different.

LOUISE KELLY: The fact that he made this bold move and went after bin Laden and got him, I think this allows him to set the table in terms of what he wants to do next on Afghanistan. And despite the questions, quibbles and concerns that are being raised, I think the president here really has enhanced maneuverability to do what he wants to do.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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