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After bin Laden, business as usual

A top general in Afghanistan says he's seen no effect in his sector since the death of Osama bin Laden. A top Pentagon spokesman says bin Laden's death doesn't change America's strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wants Congress to vote to "affirm" the continuation of the post-9/11 "war on terror" in the post-bin Laden world. Despite Washington's temporary euphoria after the elimination of the world's top bad guy, things are settling back into the routine as though bin Laden were still hidden away watching himself on TV.

Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of Afghanistan's Regional Command-East, told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that bin Laden's death hasn't caused any noticeable change in his tactical situation there, although he said it could have a long-term benefit for the war: As Taliban foot-soldiers realize their top leaders are living in comparative luxury, far removed from the daily pressures of war against ISAF, more of them will come in and agree to rejoin Afghan society, Campbell hopes. But that won't happen quickly, and in the meantime a diminished but steady stream of attacks continue to menace Afghans and international troops in the east, he said.

One area in which Bin Laden's death will definitely not help the coalition is with the hated Haqqani Network, the criminal and terrorist band that has shown a stubborn ability to "regenerate itself" after defeats in its big set piece attacks and also raids by special operators. Campbell said the Haqqani fighters will probably never reconcile with any government, which means they'll probably continue to be a nuisance for the coalition even as American troops begin to come home over the next few years.

Which leads to the next problem: Marine Col. Dave Lapan, one of DoD's top spokesmen, told reporters on Tuesday that one of the basic goals of the Afghan war is still in effect: To deny terrorists the ability to use the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan and Afghanistan to plan attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Given that there are still terrorists who could use Afghanistan and Pakistan as their base, the war there must continue for now, the Pentagon says, with no stepped-up timetable for bringing troops home.

Which leads to Monday's announcement by California Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the HASC: He wants Congress to reaffirm that it and the president will continue the war on terror despite bin Laden's death, as the WSJ's Evan Perez and Nathan Hodge wrote here. That would make clear the U.S. will keep its troops abroad and keep its "war footing," McKeon argues. Critics say if Congress passed such an authorization it could keep the U.S. at war indefinitely, and potentially  leave the president and Congress with unprecedented new powers.

So  although bin Laden's death closed one chapter in American history, as we wrote last week, it's getting ever clearer that the grim realities of the 21st century will long outlast him.

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