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May 6, 2011

The Death of Bin Laden – Implications for UK foreign policy and homeland security

George Grant
Houriya Ahmed
Julia Pettengill

Executive Summary


  • The death of Osama Bin Laden presents an opportunity for the UK to re-emphasize its commitment to winning the GWOT – both at home and abroad.
  • In the short term, his death changes little about the threat of militant Islamism. In the long run, however, it is difficult to predict how his demise will affect Al Qaeda‘s global capabilities.


  • Bin Laden‘s death will have no discernable impact on insurgent activity in Afghanistan at an operational level.
  • The population-centric counterinsurgency strategy currently being pursued is the correct one, and should continue.


  • The location of Bin Laden‘s compound suggests collusion within the ranks of the Pakistani security services.
  • Pressing questions about the future of the Coalition‘s alliance with Pakistan need to be asked.


  • The 2011 pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) demonstrate that support there for militant Islamism is extremely limited.
  • Britain should use the death of Bin Laden as an opportunity to place greater emphasis on promoting democracy and human rights in the MENA region.


  • There is an immediate threat of retaliatory attacks against the UK. Bin Laden‘s death should propel the government to consider the effectiveness of the UK‘s current homeland security architecture.


  • Bin Laden‘s death shatters the illusion of the invincibility of the Islamist cause and refocuses minds on what this conflict is about and why it matters.
  • Recognising that the fight against militant Islamism is as much a battle of ideas as a conventional conflict, Britain and its allies should support Muslim voices challenging the Islamist narrative.
George Grant

About George Grant

George Grant was a non-resident Associate Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society. Between 2009-2012 George was a full-time Research Fellow at HJS, before moving to Libya to become Deputy Editor of the Libya Herald, the first post-Gaddafi English-language daily, and Libya Correspondent for The Times. He returned to the UK at the start of 2013 owing to an abduction threat received following an investigation he was conducting into a death list in Benghazi. His most recent report, In Scotland's Defence? An Assessment of SNP Defence Strategy, provides a comprehensive analysis of the Scottish National Party's proposals for how they would defend an independent Scotland. A frequent contributor to mainstream newspapers and broadcasters, including the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, Al Jazeera and the BBC, George has also given briefings and evidence to Parliamentary Select Committees, UK Government departments and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the fields of foreign policy, strategy and defence. George holds Masters degrees in History from the University of Edinburgh and Investigative Journalism from City University, London. He is a keen squash player and runner, and an active member of his local Church in Wimbledon.

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Houriya Ahmed

About Houriya Ahmed

Houriya Ahmed is a Non-Resident Associate Fellow at the HJS.

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Julia Pettengill

About Julia Pettengill

Julia Pettengill is author of "A Guilt Beyond Crime: The Future of Genocide Prevention in the Anglo-American Sphere", published by the Henry Jackson Society in 2009, and cited in the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission's 2010 report “Those Who Bear the Greatest Responsibility.” Pettengill holds an MA in Modern History from the University of St Andrews, and worked as a writer and researcher prior to joining HJS as a Research Fellow in May 2011.

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