Slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was shot dead in his hideout by Special US forces in Pakistan, was a mass killer of Muslims and not a martyr as a few people are trying to portray, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.
In her remarks to the National Conference of Editorial Writers, Clinton said the State Department is now working on a narrative "that will convince people he was a murderer, not a martyr," and that bin Laden murdered more Muslims than anyone else.
"He was a mass killer of Muslims," she said.
Noting that bin Laden had tremendous sway with so many impressionable people in many parts of the world, Clinton said the US is already seeing something of an effort by the al Qaeda remnants to decide who comes next.
"Any succession crisis provides an opportunity. A lot of people say al Zawahiri will step into it. But that's not so clear. He doesn't have the same sense of loyalty or inspiration or track record," Clinton said.
"So I think his death, his removal from the leadership, along with two very important points that need to be remembered is that Taliban did not give up al Qaeda when President (George) Bush asked them to after 9/11, because of Mullah Omar's personal relationship with bin Laden. That's gone, so I think it opens up possibilities for dealing with the Taliban that did not exist before," she hoped.
Clinton said the effort to stop al Qaeda and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of bin Laden.
"In Afghanistan, we have to continue to take the fight to al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. Perhaps now they will take seriously the work that we are doing on trying to have some reconciliation process that resolves the insurgency," she said.
Responding to questions, Clinton said there's no doubt that al Qaeda is somewhat decentralized, but that bin Laden remained the brains behind the operation and the inspiration.
"He was the person who people pledged loyalty to when they joined al Qaeda. It wasn't to an organization; it was to an individual," she said.
"So our message to the Taliban hasn't changed; it just has even greater resonance today. They can't wait us out, they can't defeat us; they need to come into the political process and denounce al Qaeda and renounce violence and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan," Clinton said.
"We have a very close relationship with Pakistan, and it was crucial in finally leading us to bin Laden. So the work that was done over many years had many contributors, including our partners in Pakistan," Clinton said in her remarks on Monday, according to the transcripts provided by the State Department on Thursday.
"We're going to be working to bolster our partnerships even now, particularly as people are digesting this news. We're going to look for ways to put this into the context of the larger debate we're having here at home about what it takes to stay engaged in the world," she said.