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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: University of Missouri Experts Say Death of Osama bin Laden Does Not Change Terror Threat

May 2nd, 2011

Story Contact: MU News Bureau, 573-882-6211,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

The death of Osama bin Laden signals the end of a decade-long manhunt. Two University of Missouri professors from the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Science say that while the Al-Qaeda leader’s death is symbolically important, the war on terrorism may not change much.

Paul Wallace, professor emeritus of political science, says it is unlikely that the bin Laden safe house was inconspicuous.

“Osama bin Laden, the major icon, is gone, but he remains a martyr,” said Paul Wallace, professor emeritus of political science. “The big questions center on the effects within the Taliban’s franchise operations. Will there be further loss of radical legitimacy within the region? Al Qaeda already has been decentralized.”

Wallace has traveled to Abbottabad, the Pakistan city where bin Laden was killed. He teaches, “Terrorism and Conflict Resolution” at MU and is the author of Counterterrorism in India: Khalistan & Kashmir; a chapter in the U.S. Institute for Peace book on Democracy and Counterterrorism, as well as entries in the World Encyclopedia of Terrorism.

“In a city of more than one million people, it is absolutely unlikely that a 3,000 foot compound, many times the size of neighboring houses, could be inconspicuous,” Wallace said. “There are similar safe houses in Karachi and Quetta, where the Afghanistan Taliban is headquartered. I think reprisals for the killing will primarily take place in Pakistan as the Taliban’s resources are centered there.”

Katharine Floros, an associate professor of political science says that the safety of Americans is still unclear.

Katharine Floros, an assisstant professor of political science, says that the safety of Americans is still unclear.

“As far as the day-to-day operations, I think the threat levels will be similar to what they were before bin Laden was killed,” Floros said. “Symbolically, bin Laden’s death is important, but I don’t think the terrorism threat is lessened. In the short term, the threat level may be raised.”

Floros believes the intelligence community scored a major victory with bin Laden’s death.

“What was good to see is how effective the intelligence turned out to be, especially given how much flak the intelligence community caught over bad pre-9/11 intel and Iraq intel,” Floros said.

While the future is uncertain, Floros said the decision to bury bin Laden at sea was a wise one.

“The decision not to keep his body around was a very good one,” Floros said. “Funerals tend to be to be really dangerous in these types of situations.”