Bin Laden's Death Ends A Key Chapter In Terror War



Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers says the death of Osama bin Laden, quote, "closes a key chapter in the war on terror." But in a statement released yesterday, he also said the fight will go on until al-Qaida has been eliminated. Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He's on the line with us now.

Good morning, sir.

Representative MIKE ROGERS (Republican, Alabama): Good morning. Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Do you agree with Senator Levin that Pakistan had to know or at least has to answer some very serious questions about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts?

Rep. ROGERS: Well, I do think that they have to answer some hard questions. But I will tell you as of today we have no information that would indicate that they knew he was there or were protecting him there.

Remember, there is some cultural differences. I mean, it's a town of 120,000 people. Yes, the compound was out of size for the rest of the community, but it was fairly isolated in the town. There was no electronic communication to this place. They didn't interact very much with other people. So, I mean, yes, there are some questions they should answer. I don't know if I'd condemn them before we get the answers.

WERTHEIMER: You know, some members of Congress have suggested that this controversy might mean that funding for Pakistan should be questioned. What do you think?

Rep. ROGERS: Well, listen, they have been on-again/off-again partners in the fight on counterterrorism and that's something we absolutely have to remember. They've lost thousands of people, at our request in the tribal areas of Pakistan, going after safe havens for terrorism. So yes, they are frustrating and they are - it's irritating sometimes. And you do wonder if they're completely cooperative. But at the same time, they have done things that have been helpful to our efforts against counterterrorism.

So it is an absolute balance. And I would be careful before we run down that road and lose someone that has been at least as sometimes partner in a pretty tough fight.

WERTHEIMER: Youve called on Congress has recently as March of this year not to prematurely withdraw troops from Afghanistan. I wonder if your view of a drawdown has changed in light of what's happened.

Rep. ROGERS: Well, this is the difference. The fight that we're in today in Afghanistan is not directly against al-Qaida. We are doing components that are targeted there. But it is primarily the Taliban that is seeking to come back to power in Afghanistan. And that's the place where women were not allowed to read, where they didn't have modern conveniences. I mean very oppressive Sharia law-style government and that's what allowed safe haven for al-Qaida.

This is the spring offensive. This is when the Taliban thinks that they're going to win the hearts and minds of Americans, by beating enough of our troops to have them come home. And I argue this spring offensive is incredibly important. We have to win it. We have to beat them back. We have to I think take away their will to fight. And we can do that if we stay the course and win the fight. And this shouldn't dictate it; this, being the killing of Osama bin Laden. Nor should the fact that we were tired of it, we want to come home yet. They're not. We need to, I think, see the course through this so that we can leave an Afghanistan that can protect itself, cause you're always going to have some elements of al-Qaida, some elements of the Taliban there. They need to be able to defend against that. And when they do, we can come home.

WERTHEIMER: We're talking to Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

What about the sort of region-wide impact of the death of Osama bin Laden and this so-called Arab spring?

Rep. ROGERS: Well, I think it's the psychological impact is good and it's good for us. It's bad for the bad guy. He was not only an operational leader, and one of the things that I think we've learned through the process of getting him there in the raid and all of that, is that he still was issuing operational orders. He was just very, very security-conscious how he did that. So he was still had an operational role and he clearly had an inspirational role.

And when you take out somebody who is their inspirational leader, as well as an operational leader - and an organization like that has a tremendous impact - it doesn't mean that there isn't an infrastructure left to continue the operations. No, unfortunately not.

So I think the real test here is this was great. I think it will have a significant impact. It may in fact impact recruiting negatively. But the next step is Zawahiri Awlaki, all the other ones that we have to go after.

WERTHEIMER: Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

Rep. ROGERS: Hey, thank you for your time.

WERTHEIMER: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.