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Media Contacts

Jamsheed Choksy
Department of Central Eurasian Studies

Sumit Ganguly
IU Center on American and Global Security

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011

Media advisory: IU experts discuss effects of Osama Bin Laden's death

Editors: In response to news late Sunday (May 1) that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks had died in a firefight with U.S. forces at his hideout in Pakistan, here is information from experts at Indiana University Bloomington who can offer additional perspective.

Jamsheed Choksy

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Jamsheed Choksy

Print-Quality Photo

Jamsheed Choksy, professor of Iranian studies and former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, said the timing of bin Laden's death should work to the advantage of pro-democracy movements throughout the Middle East.

"This actually comes at a very opportune and valuable time, because they have been able to decapitate Medusa's head. This is particularly important in the context of the Arab Spring. What we have seen over the last few months in places like Egypt, Yemen and Libya is that all these Arab movements for freedom and political reform have been secular movements, largely untainted by religious fundamentalism or pro-al Qaeda and pro-Islamist leanings," said Choksy, who also is a member of the National Council on the Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"What this shows the people in these countries is that the U.S. does follow through on what it says it will do, that the U.S. is fighting against terrorism, and that the U.S. has common cause with Arabs who are seeking democratic, secular nation-states," he said. "This is an important step, but just one step. We will still have to work very hard to continue dismantling both al Qaeda central and its regional offshoots. It is very important that we have taken out the figurehead.

"This is a point where we need to ramp up the pressure, when al Qaeda is reeling, and also on the Pakistani government and the Pakistani intelligence services to follow through."

Choksy can be reached today after 3 p.m (EDT) at 317-294-5232 (m) and also at 812-855-8643 (o) or

Sumit Ganguly, director of research of the Center on American and Global Security at IU Bloomington, said the situation raises serious questions about the reliability and capability of Pakistan's much-vaunted Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI-D).

"The U.S., in an attempt to elicit its cooperation, has showered considerable largesse on Pakistan since the tragedy of 9/11. The bulk of this assistance, thus far, has gone to the Pakistani security apparatus. Yet the results from this generosity have been fitful at best," said Ganguly, also the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. "The security forces and the intelligence apparatus has delivered some key individuals connected with al Qaeda and has carried out some operations against terrorist hideouts. However, they had consistently denied any knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts. More importantly, they have refused to act with any alacrity against Taliban operatives who have consistently sought and found refuge and sanctuaries in Pakistan's western borderlands.

"Bin Laden's successful assassination carried out without Pakistani knowledge or cooperation casts serious doubts about the commitment of the Pakistani security and intelligence networks about bringing him to book," Ganguly added. "His hideout -- if it can be so called -- was a mere mile away from a Pakistani military garrison. Given the organic ties that exist between the Pakistani military establishment and the ISI-D, one is forced to wonder if both organizations were so oblivious or so innocent about bin Laden's whereabouts.

"American policymakers, regardless of administration, have periodically stated that Pakistan is an invaluable ally in the war on terror. Yet, on occasion, they have also expressed frustration about Pakistan's failure to fully deliver on its professed commitments. Given that Pakistan was deliberately kept in the dark about this covert operation, it is perhaps an apt moment to address the matter of Pakistan's trustworthiness on the questions of both counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation."

Ganguly can be reached at 812-340-3148 (m), 812-855-2048 and