Wright State experts offer insights on death of bin Laden

The death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is a major victory in the war on terrorism, but doesn’t eliminate the threat, says a Wright State terrorism expert.

Bin Laden was killed May 1 at a compound in Pakistan during a firefight with U.S. Special Operations Forces. It capped a nearly 10-year search for the elusive bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“We’re not a whole lot safer today, but it really is a big accomplishment,” said terrorism expert Donna Schlagheck, Ph.D., a Wright State political science professor. “He was the first cancer cell, and it has metastasized. Our problems don’t go away. There are numerous contenders for leadership of this movement.”

Schlagheck said bin Laden’s death might even make the United States a bit more vulnerable to attacks in the short term because competing groups will be vying for recognition, recruits and money.

Vaughn Shannon, Ph.D., an expert on the Middle East and terrorism, expects al-Qaida to continue to plan and conduct operations.

“They may try some quick retaliatory response to get back,” said Shannon, assistant professor of political science.

However, he said that whoever takes charge of al-
Qaida will lack the reach and appeal Bin Laden had with a small section of the Islamic world.

And Schlagheck suggested that al-Qaida may have already lost influence as Muslims around the world have taken control of their lives and made political changes in a non-violent way, for the most part.

Schlagheck credited unrelenting intelligence work with leading U.S. forces to the elusive bin Laden.

“I think we tried every day since 9/11 to get intel,” she said. “This was just a long-term persistent intelligence effort.”

Schlagheck said bin Laden’s death could create sentiment among the American public to begin withdrawing U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

“I think it may fuel the public’s desire to conclude our Afghanistan operations as soon as possible,” she said.

White House officials say DNA evidence confirmed the identification of bin Laden.

“DNA tests are the gold standard of forensic science these days,” said Wright State DNA expert Dan Krane. “The tests and the underlying biology lend themselves very well to answer this kind of question.”

Krane, a biology professor, in recent years has testified as a DNA expert in 90 court cases around the globe. He is president and CEO of Forensic Bioinformatics, which reviews DNA test results.

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