Reports are very preliminary, but it would appear that the death of OBL may already be helping us:
Alleged Al-Qaeda operative Khaled Hadal Al-Qahtani, who figured high on a list of 47 most-wanted terrorists, has surrendered to Saudi security authorities, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki announced on Wednesday.
“Al-Qahtani contacted security agencies expressing his desire to return to the Kingdom and surrender himself to authorities,” Al-Turki told the Saudi Press Agency.
“Consequently, we made arrangements for his return and reunite him with his family.”
Al-Qahtani would be dealt with according to the procedures followed in similar cases, Turki said, adding that his initiative to surrender would be taken into consideration while looking into his case.
Many AQ members swore personal loyalty to Osama. Now that he has fallen, the rats may flee the sinking ship.
Or maybe not. One man isn’t a wave. We’ll see how this unfolds over the next few months. But it’s encouraging.
While I’m on the subject, I’ll put out some thoughts on two bin Laden-related issues:
First, on the refusal to release the pictures. I’m OK with this. I realize the Arab street, in particular, will claim that this means Osama isn’t really dead. But they’ll claim that anyway. My non-objection to keeping the photos classified has nothing to do with Arab sensitivity or anything so silly. I just don’t think it would accomplish anything.
Second, on the changing story of the raid: this is normal (the current iteration, where Osama was unarmed and in bed, is here). In the aftermath of a conflict, contradictory information trickles out. And in our hyper-media culture, it instantly flares across the internets. But a changing combat story is not unprecedented. I remember how the Bush I people kept the performance of the F-117’s quiet when we invaded Panama. During the Gulf War, we didn’t exactly shout from the hilltops that we were using GPS to navigate the desert and take Saddam’s divisions by surprise. There were exaggerated reports of looting after the fall of Baghdad. Sometimes stories are exaggerated on purpose (Jessica Lynch comes to mind). But the truth comes out eventually. As I said the night of the raid — it will be a while before we know exactly what happened.
Those who are in the military are very familiar with the fog of war. This fog spreads when you have a war that is partially classified, fought in the far corners of the world and fed to an insatiable media machine. The Obama Administration needs to get a little more disciplined about message control. But this is not some shady conspiracy. It’s normal.