Washington, May 03: The costliest and bloodiest manhunt in human history came to an end when Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in a nighttime shootout in Abbotabad, Pakistan. With a bounty of $50 million on his head, Osama had played hide and seek with the US for nearly a decade since former president Bush declared him the arch terrorist and the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
The US launched a Global War on Terror after the attacks. Initially focused on Afghanistan, where bin Laden was supposed to be hiding, this war soon spread to Iraq, and distant places like the Horn of Africa and Philippines. Dozens of countries got involved. But the centerpiece remained the elusive bin Laden.
The US has spent $1.28 trillion till now on this war, according to a recently released study of the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the US Congress. The bulk of this $806 billion or 63% of the total has been spent in Iraq while Afghanistan sucked up $444 billion or 35%. Strengthening of US military bases all over the world has taken up about $29 billion. The researchers could not account for the balance $6 billion.
The US Congressional Budget Office has projected that the total cost of war would reach a mind-boggling $1.8 trillion by 2021. This includes the declared troops reduction schedules.
Even with bin Laden dead, expenditure on the war effort is unlikely to reduce any further since in both Iraq and Afghanistan, bin Laden or his organization al-Qaida are not the main opposition to US.
The Osama manhunt easily qualifies as the bloodiest ever. US itself has lost nearly 6000 of its troops and another 55,000 have sustained injuries. But the price paid by civilians has been very high. Over 1.2 million people are estimated to have died in Iraq in direct armed conflict although other studies put the figure much higher. In Afghanistan, over 20,000 people have been killed and nearly 50,000 injured in the war. In Somalia and neighbouring countries at least 6500 people died in the course of the past decade. All figures are at best approximate and likely to be under-estimates as there are no official body counts.
There have been at least 13 major terrorist attacks since 9/11, killing over 1000 persons. Besides these, there have been at least 10 planned attacks that were busted. Not all of these attacks can be directly linked to bin Laden or al-Qaida.
The war on terror has had widespread political fallout as governments in several allies of the US lost elections due to public discontent against participation in the war. In other countries, governments faced protests and criticism. President Obama himself won the presidency promising draw down of the war.
Experts are unsure whether the elimination of Osama bin Laden will lead to lessening of the terror threat.
In his life, he first served as a cash rich rallying force for the Afghan Mujahedin in their jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan — an avatar that got him the support of the US. Later when he turned against the US, he became the reason for the global war. Now, in his death, he ironically serves the political interest of the US again. Agencies