The crowds at ground zero and in Times Square celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American troops have died down by this morning, and the headlines are beginning to fill with questions about what comes next. In Egypt, bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been keeping the loosely affiliated network of Al Qaeda groups in rough coordination since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and bin Laden went into hiding. According to ABC News, he's the top candidate to assume the symbolic leadership role left empty by bin Laden's death. And if his influence does expand, it may be that the group will become even further radicalized, starting with attempts to avenge the death by targeting U.S. troops in Pakistan. al-Zawahiri wrote a treatise in 2001 titled Knights Under the Prophet's Banner, indicating that a goal was to inflict "as many causalities as possible" on Americans and take over an entire nation to "to launch the battle to restore the holy caliphate."
According to the Times, Western leaders have been expressing gratitude for America's actions in killing the Al Qaeda boss but have tempered their joy with warnings. "Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism," British prime minister David Cameron said. "Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead." Reprisals against American allies are feared as the news spreads through Muslim terror networks.
Indeed, the head of one such terror group, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, has already declared that bin Laden is "now a martyr and he will be a role model to Muslim youth. His death will be new inspiration to the Muslim youth." U.S. embassies across the world have been warning travelers to remain on alert.
Meanwhile, there are fears in political circles in Afghanistan that bin Laden's death will appear as a symbolic sort of end to American engagement there and a victory over the Taliban. Still, with bin Laden gone, the Taliban does seem to be weakened, at least optically, as Al Qaeda worked in concert with them. Some even hope this will cause them to abandon fighting and continue to move in a more political direction.