Bin Laden killing may spur push for de­fense cuts

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY PA­TRICE HILL

The death of Osama bin Laden im­proved Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion prospects and strength­ened his hand in ne­go­ti­a­tions with con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, rais­ing hopes in fi­nan­cial mar­kets that it will be eas­ier to cut de­fense spend­ing and make progress tack­ling the bud­get deficit in com­ing weeks.

“Po­lit­i­cally, it’s clearly a huge boost for the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion,” said Chris Krueger, an­a­lyst at MF Global’s Wash­ing­ton Re­search Group.

“Pun­dits are al­ready call­ing for an end to the global war on ter­ror” and wind­ing down the war in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, he said. Mem­bers of Congress are even ques­tion­ing the $1.3 bil­lion in an­nual aid pro­vided to Pak­istan, where bin Laden was found hid­ing in a gar­ri­son town un­der the nose of Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary.

The death of the world’s most wanted ter­ror­ist raises the pos­si­bil­ity of a “peace div­i­dend” from wind­ing down wars and se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions that by some es­ti­mates have cost as much as $3 tril­lion in the past 10 years. At a min­i­mum, it strength­ens Mr. Obama’s call for sig­nif­i­cant cuts in de­fense spend­ing as part of a bi­par­ti­san deficit re­duc­tion deal, an­a­lysts said.

“This opens the door for a with­drawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” said Jef­frey Klein­top, chief mar­ket strate- time,” he said. “It al­lows de­fense spend­ing to be de­bated in the con­text of a with­drawal of troops from both Iraq and now Afghanistan.”

Mr. Klein­top said he also hoped it will “give Congress — if only briefly — a rea­son to unite in a sense of na­tional pride and ad­dress do­mes­tic is-

The death of the world’s most wanted ter­ror­ist raises the pos­si­bil­ity of a “peace div­i­dend” from wind­ing down wars and se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions that by some es­ti­mates have cost as much as $3 tril­lion in the past 10 years. At a min­i­mum, it strength­ens Pres­i­dent Obama’s call for sig­nif­i­cant cuts in de­fense spend­ing as part of a bi­par­ti­san deficit re­duc­tion deal, an­a­lysts said.

gist at LPL Fi­nan­cial. “With bin Laden dead, the mis­sion in Afghanistan to de­feat al Qaeda could be con­sid­ered com­plete.”

The war on terrorism in the past 10 years has con­sumed a “tremen­dous amount” of money and ef­fort, he noted.

“From a U.S. spend­ing per­spec­tive, this comes at a good sues such as the debt ceil­ing,” which is ex­pected to be the ve­hi­cle for pass­ing an agree­ment un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion by the White House and con­gres­sional lead­ers to slash bud­get deficits.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials stressed that they are not plan­ning any pre­cip­i­tous pullout of Afghanistan or dis­en­gage- ment from Pak­istan but rather are stick­ing to their sched­ule of grad­ual with­drawal of troops and aid. Still, many mar­ket watch­ers said the longer-term im­pact could be more pro­found.

“Bin Laden’s death is highly sig­nif­i­cant within the con­text of do­mes­tic U.S. pol­i­tics,” said James Bra­zier, an­a­lyst at IHS Global In­sight.

“The op­er­a­tion will boost Obama’s droop­ing pop­u­lar­ity and give him a spring­board from which to launch his 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign,” he said. The suc­cess of the mis­sion is “an en­dorse­ment of Obama’s ap­proach to ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity” and “al­lows Obama to por­tray his wider mil­i­tary ‘surge’ in Afghanistan as a suc­cess.”

With the pres­i­dent en­joy­ing a bounce in pub­lic opin­ion polls, “it also gives Obama more strate­gic lee­way in Afghanistan, min­i­miz­ing any po­lit­i­cal dam­age from his plans to with­draw some troops from Afghanistan in July,” Mr. Bra­zier said.

But Max Boot, a se­nior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, cau­tioned against as­sum­ing the demise of bin Laden will mean sig­nif­i­cantly lower war spend­ing.

“With Bin Laden dead, many Amer­i­cans may de­cide that the threat from al Qaeda is also gone and that we can af­ford to draw down in Afghanistan. Not so,” he said.

“A com­pre­hen­sive coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign in Afghanistan is still vi­tal to pre­vent that coun­try from fall­ing to Osama bin Laden’s fel­low trav­el­ers,” in­clud­ing the rad­i­cal Is­lamist group the Tal­iban, he said.

“Given how un­sta­ble Pak­istan re­mains, it is im­per­a­tive that we have bases nearby, and no lo­ca­tion is as con­ve­nient or se­cure as Afghanistan.”

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