The death of Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, could help with efforts to split the Taliban from al-Qaeda, according to Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a think tank based in Washington.

In comments to The Hindu, Ms. Curtis, formerly with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department's South Asia Bureau, said: “It could diminish the importance of al-Qaeda for the Taliban and thus make it easier for the Taliban to renounce its ties to the organisation.”

She added that at the very least, bin Laden's death may cause “soul-searching among the Taliban leadership” as they weighed the utility of remaining allied to an organisation that has lost its founding leader.

While on the upside this historic development would create goodwill in the U.S. toward Pakistan and “likely help to shore up a relationship that had become deeply troubled in the last several months,” Ms. Curtis said Pakistanis needed to accept the fact that the world's most wanted terrorist was captured in a major city near the nation's capital and not in the unruly tribal border areas and out of reach of the Pakistani state authorities.

“This will be somewhat embarrassing for Pakistanis who had often rejected the idea of Osama bin Laden being in Pakistan as a western conspiracy,” according to Ms. Curtis.

Yet Ms. Curtis, a specialist in terrorism in the South Asia region, said that Ayman al-Zawahiri almost certainly would take over as al-Qaeda's new chief, and the world could expect a statement from him soon urging al-Qaeda followers and its affiliates to remain committed to the cause.

From an operational standpoint, however, Ms. Curtis opined that al-Qaeda would still likely be able to continue to plot and carry out attacks as al-Zawahiri is the operational brains behind al-Qaeda, “and he will likely continue with attack planning.” There may yet be questions regarding his legitimacy to lead the movement which could cause some disarray in the ranks, she added.