Some of the best reporting on Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the US struggles against them have appeared on the pages of The New Yorker. Staff writer Lawrence Wright has written articles for the magazine, as well as the essential book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Here’s some of his reaction to bin Laden’s death:
Democracy and civil society are the cure for the chronic misery of Muslim countries that has fed the rise of Islamic extremism. The death of the most notorious terrorist the world has ever seen, whose mission was to create a clash of civilizations, will allow the door to open more widely to the tolerance, modernism, and pragmatism that is so badly needed and so long awaited in a part of the world where despair, corruption, brutality, and fanaticism have laid waste to so many generations.
Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War, wonders whether Pakistani intelligence helped hide bin Laden, and what shape of future US-Pakistani relations will be:
Could Pakistani officials have helped hide Osama? The most obvious fact of Osama’s hideaway is that it was in a densely populated area, many miles from the Afghan border region that for years had been the focus of the hunt. This, by itself, is not remarkable: Since 2001, most of the senior leaders of Al Qaeda captured in Pakistan have been nabbed in cities: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Ramsi bin Al-Shib in Karachi, Abu Zubaida in Faisalabad.
There is no evidence that any of the above men were sheltered by Pakistani officials. Indeed, since 2001, the double-game has usually worked like this: While Pakistani officials may covertly support the Taliban, they have bought cover for themselves by coöperating with the United States against Al Qaeda.
But the fact that Osama was hiding in an urban area raises many obvious questions, like who was taking care of him, and how. Abbottabad is only thirty miles from the Pakistani capital, and it is home to a Pakistani military base, a military academy, and many retired Pakistani officers. Conspiracy theories abound in Pakistan; since 9/11, the most common has been that Bin Laden was being sheltered by the I.S.I.
There is a great bit of early analysis of the Osama bin Laden hunt and kill by Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Coll doubts bin Laden could have nestled himself so securely in Abbottabad without the knowledge of Pakistani officials.