You Got Bin Laden, Now Get Out of the Region, Islamists Tell U.S.

By Patrick Goodenough | May 3, 2011 | 4:48am EDT

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hasan, center, addresses a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan, to react to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. (Photo: Jamaat-e-Islami)

( – Now that it has achieved its goal of killing Osama bin Laden, the United States should withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan and the broader region. That’s the message being sent by Islamists from Pakistan, Egypt, and the Iranian government.

“If according to U.S. President Obama, America has achieved its target and killed its enemy number one, the U.S. has no justification to stay here any more,” Munawar Hasan, leader of the Pakistani Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, told a press conference called in Lahore on Monday to respond to the news that the al-Qaeda terrorist leader was dead.

Hasan expressed doubt that the U.S. would withdraw from the region, however, accusing it of only being interested in its “rich natural resources.”

He also slammed the Pakistani government for welcoming news of bin Laden’s death, saying the government’s reaction was at odds with the mood of the nation, which was “in a state of shock.”

Hasan complained about U.S. forces operating inside Pakistan, saying U.S. interference in the country had become intolerable. The nation should rise against the “U.S. puppets” in power, he said, in order to protect Pakistan’s independence.

Jamaat Islami is a veteran party that was part of the now defunct Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamist political parties that sympathized with the Afghan Taliban and ruled North-West Frontier Province (now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) until 2008.

Its supporters regularly hold protests against U.S. policy in the region as well as Islamabad’s security cooperation.

Although no Jamaat Islami demonstrations have yet been held since bin Laden’s death, supporters of another Islamist faction did gather in Quetta on Monday to pay homage to the dead terrorist.

The Dawn daily said the demonstration by several hundred people was led by a federal lawmaker, Maulawi Asmatullah, and featured the burning of an American flag. It quoted Asmatullah as calling bin Laden “the hero of the Muslim world” and saying that “after his martyrdom he has won the title of great mujahed [Muslim warrior].”

Imran Khan, another Pakistani politician who, while not an Islamist is known for his populist rhetoric and criticism of Washington’s policies in the region, also urged the U.S. to leave.

“Now that the US has accomplished its primary mission of invading Afghanistan, it deprives it of any further rationale for its continued presence in Afghanistan and the region,” Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party quoted him as saying.

“A U.S. pullout from the region would contribute to re-establishing peace in the region in general and Pakistan in particular.”

Khan said Pakistan should also now “distance itself” from the “U.S.-led war-on-terror.”

Like Hasan, he also raised questions about the “breach of sovereignty” entailed in the U.S. raid Sunday that resulted in bin Laden’s death in a compound north-east of Islamabad.

‘Leave now’

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that with the death of bin Laden, countries that had used terrorism as a “pretext” to wage military campaigns in the region no longer have that “excuse.”

A section of the Tehran Times front page on Tuesday, May 03, 2011 (Image: Tehran Times)

The Tehran Times led its Tuesday edition with a report headlined, “Bin Laden is dead, leave Afghanistan now.”

Further afield, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood also took the opportunity to call for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Islamic lands.

“The U.S. must end its occupation of Afghanistan, and withdraw its forces from Iraq now that main goal of its campaigns to capture bin Laden ‘dead or alive’ and dismantle al-Qaeda network of terror seemed to have been accomplished,” wrote Khaled Hamza, chief editor of the Egyptian MB’s Web site.

The MB, which has begun to organize as a fully legal political party since the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in February, has long taken pain to distance itself from al-Qaeda, to the extent of maintaining a section on its Web site entitled “MB vs. Qaeda.”

Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who in the 1990s merged his own terrorist faction, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, into bin Laden’s network, over the years has frequently criticized the MB, particularly for its willingness to contest elections.

Hamza responded to a recent Zawahiri statement reacting to the popular uprisings in several Arab countries by urging him to “learn from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, and give up terrorism to seek political change.”

Despite their long and public rift, the Muslim Brotherhood in a statement Monday criticized the U.S. for killing bin Laden, saying the group was “against assassination and support[s] a fair trial for any criminal, regardless of the crimes he committed.”

It also sought to draw a distinction between “terrorism” as practiced by al-Qaeda and what it called “legitimate resistance” against occupation. The MB said the U.S. and Western countries should therefore end the “occupation” of Iraq and Afghanistan and support the Palestinian cause.

In the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Egyptian MB – also condemned the “assassination” and called bin Laden “an Arab holy warrior.”

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