Colorado Rep. Coffman: Bin Laden death a symbolic victory

DENVER — Osama bin Laden’s death is more of a symbolic victory than a military triumph because the aggressive American pursuit effectively neutralized him as a terrorist threat years ago, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman said today.

“To the American people, I think it does bring closure to that chapter of the attack on 9/11,” said Coffman, a Republican who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps in 2005 and 2006. “I wish it was of greater importance in the whole context of the global war on terror.”

Coffman told The Associated Press in an interview that the long and intensive hunt for bin Laden forced him to keep such a low profile that he became less of a hands-on commander and more of a spiritual leader. Bin Laden’s al-Qaida also became decentralized, Coffman said.

“I think that the reality is that there have been tons of what are often called al-Qaida-like organizations that have sprung up spontaneously as part of a movement, and they will still be at war with the U.S. and the West,” he said.

Coffman said he doubted bin Laden’s death would have much impact on the U.S.-lead coalition’s war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban were sympathetic to al-Qaida but had more regional aspirations, while al-Qaida’s goals were international, Coffman said.

He said tribal divisions in Afghanistan are probably a bigger factor in the war than allegiance to al-Qaida.

One potential benefit of bin Laden’s death is that it could open a path toward U.S. talks with the Taliban, Coffman said.

The U.S. wanted the Taliban to separate themselves from al-Qaida and hand over bin Laden when he was believed to be in Afghanistan, but they refused, he said. With bin Laden out of the way, those obstacles could disappear, Coffman said.

Coffman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should be willing to make the first move to open such talks.


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