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Peter Bergen Envisions the World After Osama

In New York on May 5, 2011, Peter Bergen reflects on his meeting with Osama bin Laden and discusses the future of Al Qaeda with Joe Klein. (13 min., 52 sec.)

In New York on May 5, 2011, Peter Bergen reflects on his meeting with Osama bin Laden and discusses the future of Al Qaeda with Joe Klein. (13 min., 52 sec.)

NEW YORK, May 5, 2011 – In a timely conversation at Asia Society, journalist and national security analyst Peter Bergen spoke about the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan after Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals only five days earlier.

One of the only Western journalists to ever interview bin Laden, Bergen said Al-Qaeda is substantially undercut by bin Laden's death.

"When you join Al Qaeda, you don't swear an oath of allegiance to Al Qaeda, you swear a personal oath of allegiance to bin Laden," he told listeners. "I'm not saying Al-Qaedaism is going to die with the death of bin Laden, but there is no one who can replace that charismatic, religious role that bin Laden plays."

Bergen also argued that the 2011 "Arab spring" had already rendered Al Qaeda irrelevant to nearly the same extent bin Laden's death did.  

In contrast to the despairing tone that marked much of the week's coverage of US relations with Pakistan, Bergen emphasized that for all its problems Pakistan is an indispensable partner to the US at this time. Drawing on personal experience, he also noted that Pakistan is a notably freer environment than during the 1980s, when it was a full-fledged military dictatorship.

Overall, Bergen seemed to view the death of bin Laden as a wholly positive event. He was joined in conversation by Time columnist Joe Klein.

Related link:
After Osama bin Laden (Asia Society coverage)