London: The head of Britain`s military said Wednesday the death of Osama bin Laden had left some insurgents in Afghanistan panicked over funding, but he offered few details and warned that it was too early to judge the impact of the terror chief`s killing on the conflict.
In testimony to Parliament`s defense committee, Gen. David Richards said he now believed that bin Laden had exerted more influence than previously thought from his hideout in Pakistan`s Abbottabad. He said that bin Laden`s death "breaks the linkages between al Qaeda and the Taliban — which we now know were greater than we thought," but did not elaborate on why his view on bin Laden`s role had changed. Richards did not disclose, for example, the extent to which the U.S. has shared intelligence gleaned from materials captured in the raid on bin Laden`s compound.
Defense officials said the military chief`s belief that links between al Qaeda and the Taliban were greater than previously known was based on a variety of sources, but declined to say whether or not the U.S. had shared material seized from Abbottabad.
Richards said he agreed with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the true impact of bin Laden`s death likely won`t be known for at least six months, when military analysts can assess any influence on the intensity of Afghanistan`s summer fighting season.
But Richards said he already believed that some al Qaeda-linked insurgents have been left jittery about the future.
"He had a psychological effect on some of them, and they are a bit worried that their ability to raise money may be affected," he told the committee.
Richards did not elaborate on any specific knowledge of financial ties between al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents, but officials said he was referring in his testimony to the leader`s unique ability to attract money and recruits, because of his global notoriety.
The U.K. believes bin Laden`s death means it will inevitably be harder for al Qaeda or other extremists to collect funding, and could also limit the numbers of recruits attracted by join the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Britain`s defense secretary Liam Fox will visit the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command later this month to discuss the implications of bin Laden`s death on strategy in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East.
Richards told lawmakers that the fact countries like Yemen were now a key battleground in efforts to combat terrorism showed that al Qaeda `s ideology was far more important than bin Laden`s personal involvement.
"Yemem, Somalia, other places in the Middle East are today more important in a counterterrorism context than what was going on — which appears to be a bit more than we might have thought — in Osama`s compound," Richards told legislators.