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What Happens Now that Osama is Gone?

The immediate consequence of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden could very well be terrorist retaliation. In the longer term, it's just too soon to say whether the world really is a safer place from the likes of al Qaeda and its allied and metastasized organizations, security experts say. The market seems confused; after an early surge, stocks were down slightly as the trading day ended.

Stratfor, which provides global security intelligence, says confirmation of bin Laden's death "is an emotional victory for the United States and could have wider effects on the geopolitics of the region." But unfortunately and ultimately, bin Laden's death is "irrelevant for al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement from an operational perspective," Stratfor analysts say.

That's because the distressing facts on the ground are that Osama's band of al Qaeda wasn't nearly as critical to the "cause" of global jihad as it once was, Stratfor reports:

The reality of the situation is that the al Qaeda core -- the central group including leaders like bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri -- has been eclipsed by other jihadist actors on the physical battlefield, and over the past two years it has even been losing its role as an ideological leader of the jihadist struggle. The primary threat is now posed by al Qaeda franchise groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the latter of which may have carried out the recent attack in Marrakech, Morocco.

Just as worrisome is that the death of bin Laden may only fortify the resolve of other jihadist movements dedicated to senseless destruction, as The Economist puts it:

The cautious reply of security experts is that in the short-term the danger of terrorist attacks may go up as al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups look for ways to avenge the death of their symbolic leader, but that in the long-term bin Laden's demise may erode the al-Qaeda brand and thus its ability to influence the global Jihadist movement. Even that may be too optimistic. Osama bin Laden dead is a great deal better than Osama bin Laden alive, but the truth is that his death may mean rather more to his enemies than to his followers.

After all, Osama bin Laden may be dead, but an amorphous, global, anti-Western movement remains very much alive and spread out around the globe, as Foreign Policy says:

The terrorist organization and the movement it leads now face a potential leadership void and internal divisions. But the battle is far from over...As any expert will tell you, one of bin Laden's biggest successes is creating an organization that will survive him. So al Qaeda will not collapse overnight.

True, there's no doubt that from an economic -- and investing -- perspective, the death of bin Laden looks like good news, indeed, emails Jeffrey Kleintop, Chief Market Strategist at LPL Financial:

It is unclear what this means for al Qaeda's ability to continue to be a threat. However, this opens the door for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. From a U.S. spending perspective this comes at a good time. First, it allows the defense spending to be debated in the context of a withdrawal of troops from both Iraq and now Afghanistan. Second, it may -- if only briefly -- give Congress a reason to unite in a sense of national pride and address issues such as the debt ceiling.

But let us not forget, in the shortest of short terms, Pakistani Taliban are "promising to take revenge for the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden," report ABC News and Reuters.

So strategically speaking it remains to be seen whether we really are safer with bin Laden out of the way. As for tactical, or short-term objectives, we well may be at greater risk of attack right now. But of one thing there is no doubt: The death of bin Laden was justice served.

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