Bin Laden’s Legacy

By Scott Stewart

May 2 marked the five-year anniversary of the U.S. raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the wake of that operation, we noted that while bin Laden’s death fulfilled a sense of vengeance and closure for the 9/11 attacks, in the big picture, it was going to have little effect on the trajectory of the wider jihadist movement. A man was dead, but the ideology of jihadism was going to continue to pose a threat.

The jihadist movement has progressed closer to bin Laden’s vision for the world in the past five years than it had in the almost 10 years between 9/11 and his death. An arc of jihad now spreads from West Africa through the Middle East and into Southeast Asia. Reflecting on bin Laden’s demise provides a reminder not to lose sight of the forest — the wider jihadist movement — by focusing on the trees — individuals and groups.

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