KABUL, Afghanistan // After a decade-long hunt for the world’s most famous terrorist ended Sunday, Afghan officials who have lived most intimately with the fight against terrorism expressed relief that the long wait for Osama bin Laden’s killing was over at last.
“We thought this would never end, but finally there is a result,” said Mohammad Umer Daudzai, the former chief of staff to President Hamid Karzai who is Afghanistan’s incoming ambassador to Pakistan.
President Obama gave a late-night address on Sunday at the White House about the operation that killed the al Qa'eda leader, whose mere existence provided a rallying point for Islamic fighters across the region.
“It’s wonderful. It’s great news,” said Mahmoud Karzai, the Afghan president’s brother. “He’s been one of the key enemies of humanity, civilisation, and it’s really been a major problem for the human race.”
But two other reactions followed quickly in Afghanistan: shock about reports that bin Laden had been living in a mansion in Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, and resignation that violence was likely to continue.
“I was thinking he died of natural causes or he was killed somewhere in a remote area,” said Mahmoud Karzai, who was watching news reports of the death from his Kabul home.
For years, the prevailing wisdom was that bin Laden was probably hiding in the tribal regions of Pakistan, the remote and inhospitable swath of borderland with Afghanistan, surrounded by fiercely loyal guards. But the revelation of his comfortable hideout raised immediate questions about the role the Pakistani government may have played in protecting him.
Despite the huge symbolic victory of bin Laden’s killing, in this war-weary region no one expected any immediate cessation of violence. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has long carried the mantle of the war against western armies, vastly outnumbering the al Qa'eda fighters in either Pakistan or Afghanistan.
“This may not put an end to violence,” Daudzai said from Islamabad. “Al Qa'eda has many splinter groups. He was the founder but not the manager.”