Almost exactly three years ago I predicted the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And a month later he was dead. Sometimes you can see the handwriting on the wall. Zarqawi had gotten careless and had also turned the local population against him, which I figured would eventually catch up with him. And it did. Now, I see similar handwriting on the wall for Osama bin Laden.
Here are the clues that Osama's days are numbered:
1. In one of his latest tapes, he was asking for donations to his cause. This is not something that was part of the regular fare before. If they're desperate enough to attach that to a threat that was otherwise bragging about how they're going to rip us apart, then they might be running low on cash. It doesn't sound very menacing to beg for a handout. If they're running low on funds, then they could be in a world of trouble.
2. The Pakistani army is moving into South Waziristan as we speak. They've already cleared out the Swat valley. Bin Laden was so nervous about that, that he did a tape on the intricacies of Pakistani politics, railing against specific politicians and their strategic goals. Gee, I wonder why he knows so much about Pakistan and cares so much about the army's movement into these tribal areas. He hears footsteps.
3. The Taliban who have traditionally protected Al Qaeda leadership have alienated the local population in Pakistan by carrying out a series of terrorist attacks against respected tribal leaders and innocent civilians. When you lose the local population, you're living on borrowed time.
4. We have a smart president. In the seven years after 9/11, the Bush administration could not for the life of them get the Pakistani government to move against the Taliban or Al Qaeda, who had taken shelter in northern Pakistan. They got almost no results in rooting out those forces from the Swat and Waziristan areas. I don't know if it's because they didn't know what they were doing or it was because they didn't really care to try.
But now we have a president who actually cares to get the job done and apparently knows how to do it. I say that because of the facts on the ground. A Pakistani government that was considered weak and ineffectual in the five months since Obama's inauguration has somehow been able to muster up a massive campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the north. I don't know what the Obama administration did behind the scenes to get this done, but they did it. They got results.
So, now Al Qaeda is being squeezed from the north in Afghanistan and from the south in Pakistan. They might be running out of money and out of options. They have lost the good will of their hosts and might be in some serious trouble here. So, given these circumstances, I'm willing to go out on a limb again and say I think Osama bin Laden will be killed or captured within the year (killed is far more likely; he might even die of natural causes as he attempts to flee the area in deteriorating health). If the Pakistani army blazes through South Waziristan the way they did in Swat, it might be quicker than that.
One final prediction -- if this does come to fruition, the right-wing in America will fervently claim that Barack Obama had nothing to do with it and that any Republican president could have done the same, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.