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What the Death of Bin Laden Means for the U.S. In Pakistan and Afghanistan

Remember in "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy throws water on the witch and she shrivels up and dies, and then everything changes?

Killing Bin Laden isn’t quite the same thing as killing the Wicked Witch of the West, but it could be the pivotal event that winds up changing everything, especially in Afghanistan.

I traveled to Afghanistan in April and spent 90 minutes in a one-on-one interview with Gen. David Petraeus. He explained to me how the "surge" strategy was working.

But I left the meeting scratching my head. Even if we were successful in defeating the Taliban on the Afghan battlefield, would it matter if the Taliban retained safe havens in Pakistan? Or if the Karzai government remained too incompetent and corrupt to hold Afghanistan together after we left?

What I didn’t know, and Gen. Petraeus did, was that we had located Usama Bin Laden and were about to take him out. And, if the operation proved successful, the United States would force Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban to reassess their positions.

The deal between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was between Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden, not the organizations; they apparently didn’t see eye-to-eye on much beyond that top level. With Bin Laden gone, that personal connection is severed. With Al Qaeda weakened and in disarray, it's the perfect opportunity for the Taliban to sever its ties with the terrorist group.

And while the Taliban may have been unwilling to negotiate in the past, they might be willing to reconsider now that their momentum has been reversed, especially in the South.

The Pakistanis need to recalculate, too, especially now that they’ve been caught red handed double dealing over Bin Laden. 

If the United States can seize the moment, and tell the Pakistanis that they need to either help us with the Taliban or kiss U.S. aid money goodbye, they might be amenable, especially if we remind them we could always start a closer strategic relationship with their arch-enemy India.

Bin Laden’s death, in and of itself, was significant. But, if we handle this opportunity correctly, his demise could also be crucial to ending the war in Afghanistan.

Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com Live's DEFCON3. She served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger's November 1984 "Principles of War Speech", which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com's "DEFCON3 already one of the Web's most watched national security programs. For more, visit ktmcfarland.com.

Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's "DefCon 3." She served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She was an aide to Dr. Henry Kissinger at the White House, and in 1984 Ms. McFarland wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger's groundbreaking  "Principles of War " speech.  She received the Defense Department's highest civilian award for her work in the Reagan administration.