Xenia Wickett
Head, US and the Americas Programme; Dean, The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs

Almost ten years after the events of September 11, 2001, the mastermind of those attacks on US soil has been killed in a special forces operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Regardless of political leanings, Americans across the country are coming together to celebrate what many will see as the end of an era. Not quite 'an eye for an eye', but in the opinion of many in the US, fair retribution.

Last night saw spontaneous celebrations in front of the White House and elsewhere across America. But President Obama was his usual calm - in the words of some, unemotional - self in his 9 minute speech. In part this is his style, in part also perhaps a consequence of understanding what could happen next.

Osama bin Laden's death provides a marker in the 'war on terror', but it is not the end. He represented the head of al Qaeda, but cutting it off could result in a hydra, a replacement of two new heads, something of which President Obama and his national security team will be well aware. There are fears that this could galvanize al Qaeda and its supporters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The US government has announced overseas Americans should be particularly vigilant.

There are also repercussions for Pakistan itself and for the bilateral relationship. Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani was only told of the operation on Pakistani soil after it took place. The loss of national sovereignty will not go down well amongst Pakistanis who already see America as an enemy. Despite President Obama's efforts, commenting that, 'It is important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,' this too will be another obstacle in the bilateral relationship. And, while bin Laden might be now out of the picture, this relationship is still vital for the war on terror.

We are told that bin Laden was buried at sea. This will no doubt lead to doubts among many of his supporters that his death is really true. But the US logic - to prevent there being a shrine created to him - is probably sound.

What does this change for America and the war on terror? It is too early to say. But few men are irreplaceable. Unlike President Bush towards the end of the invasion of Iraq, President Obama did not say 'The war is over'. The timetable for troops in Afghanistan will stay the same. The threat to the US and the Western world has not changed. That will take a longer, generational, effort to change attitudes, values, and ideology, on the part of all sides. America, particularly Congress, needs to be careful not to roll back its attention and resources in this time of austerity, on continuing to meet this challenge.