President Barack Obama swooped down on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death and to sign an historic pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It includes a promise to pursue a negotiated peace with the Taliban; a legal framework for transitioning all security to Afghan forces; and a commitment to building democratic institutions.
Staged as a dramatic primetime televised address from Bagram, the president said, "In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al-Qaida, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws." This comes just two weeks after coordinated deadly attacks in Kabul and three other Afghan cities – attacks that showed the sustained power of the insurgency.
But President Obama harkened back further – to one year ago, when Navy SEALs ended the long hunt for terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. The raid on his Pakistan compound was heralded as a daring operation. The world was shocked to learn bin Laden had been living in a bucolic countryside town. Only one non-governmental official was granted access to the Abbottabad compound before it was demolished.
Peter Bergen, CNN Security Analyst, toured the bin Laden house. Bergen is also one of just two journalists granted access by the White House to pour over documents from the compound. Bergen's new book, "Manhunt," is the most exhaustive and authoritative account of the search for the world's most wanted man. Bergen interviewed all the heavyweights in intelligence and military circles to piece it together. His book is part thriller and part history.
What does the "Manhunt" story tell us about how U.S. interests will fare in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the years ahead? How will this new pact play out on the ground in the region? What can be learned from the long search for bin Laden? What will come of negotiations between the Taliban and the United States? What’s the future of Al-Qaida?
Eric Jensen, Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School; An adviser to the Stanford-based Afghanistan Legal Education Project and recently returned from Afghanistan.
Peter Bergen, Author, “Man Hunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad” (Crown Publishers); CNN national security analyst