Because al-Afghanistan is now more valuable than al-Faida
According to television reports, Osama bin Laden has been killed by US forces at a mansion outside
Islamabad Abbottabad. If this is true, it supports the long-held contention that Mr bin Laden was not hiding in a cave in the Hindu Kush, but rather, living it up in a safe house in a Pakistani city.
His death also means that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex gave him up. This will allow Barack Obama to declare victory and pull US troops out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani army can then orchestrate an post-US dispensation wherein its proxies first share power with the Karzai regime. And then, sometime in the near future, take over power.
That’s how the Pakistani military-jihadi complex would like it to play out. They’ve played the Osama card rather well. They got their al-Faida. Now they want their al-Afghanistan.
In the world of realpolitik, the United States is unlikely punish Pakistan for the decade of duplicity, subterfuge and violence that consumed innumerable lives and astounding amounts of money. Rather, it is more likely to want to leave with a dispensation in Afghanistan that provides plausible reassurances of not playing host to terrorists targeting the United States. It will try to make these reassurances credible by ensuring anti-Taliban anti-Pakistan elements remain powerful within the Afghan establishment. It will perhaps retain covert action capability to back this up with direct action. That said, it will accede to Pakistani demands for a role for its proxies and pro-Pakistan elements to acquire some power.
Indian strategists and analysts would do well to dust-off their memories, records and papers from the early 1990s. It is not question of if, but when, the Pakistani military-jihadi complex will redirect its attention towards India. The singular challenge for India is to prevent a relapse of the 1990s.
Update [2 May, 1724 IST]: According to a subsequent briefing by senior US government officials, the operation to kill Osama bin Laden was carried out without the knowledge and support of Pakistani agencies. If this is true, the Osama card was not played by the Pakistani military establishment, but rather, snatched from their hand by the United States. Even so, the implications, in terms of US withdrawal plans and the future of Afghanistan, remain the same.