We have wondered for some time how significant was the killing of Osama bin Laden in the long run. It was an efficient operation to track him down and the raid in which he was killed went off like clockwork with a few minor complications that were quickly dealt with — our military and support forces did a great job.

In any military operation, regardless of how well planned it is, action rarely goes completely as planned. There always is the human element and other factors that can cause problems. How the troops react to the unexpected spells success or failure. In the bin Laden raid, our well-trained troops dealt with the problems in an excellent fashion.

The elimination of bin Laden was a revenge act for 9/11 since he reportedly was the mastermind of it. The killing met with approval of most Americans, it is believed, and it did convey to the world that the United States has powerful forces to deal with terrorists.

It was a setback for al Qaeda and its supporters, no one doubts that. But it has not been lasting. Reports from the Middle East and South Asia tell us that al Qaeda is well and making inroads in a number of countries. Our intelligence agencies and the Obama administration surely knew the taking out of bin Laden would not end the threat of terrorist acts. Afghanistan is the heartland of al Qaeda and with the scheduled withdrawal of our troops in 2014, what lies ahead in that country?

According to news reports, and a commentary by a former general, Jack Keane, writing in The Wall Street Journal, al Qaeda is making a comeback, especially in Iraq. Al Qaeda also has a greater presence today in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sinai and Syria. According to Keane, al Qaeda has doubled in size in Iraq since our troops left. We all know what happened in Libya. Al Qaeda is taking advantage of the unrest in the Middle East, where there has been one uprising after another, to make gains.

We hear little news about our successes in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Communication is difficult. The question is, how sustainable is the security we have established? “The fight is hard and the Afghans aren’t easy partners, but we’re not in this for the Afghans. We’re in this for ourselves, and for our nation’s security,” Keane wrote.

Our country has prevented several would-be terrorist attacks. That’s a credit to our agencies that deal with threats to America. The guard we have is working. However, there is no way to field 100 percent protection. We probably will have other terrorist attacks, but they probably won’t be the magnitude of 9/11. Some will not be tied directly to al Qaeda, but they will be acts by sympathizers.

Keane, who is chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, wrote that al Qaeda knows very well that we will be leaving Afghanistan in 2014 and that’s when it will make a move to control the country. He added that al Qaeda also understands that the U.S. policy “is to disengage, and that momentum is on their side.”

The fact is the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was one “too far” to achieve in a lasting form. Perhaps our best strategy is to let the Middle East countries fend for themselves and do the best job possible to defend our shores. Mitt Romney seems to be looking more to the future when it comes to defense. He wants to up defense preparations while President Obama says downsizing our military is possible without endangerment to our safety.

Because of the nature of the beast and conditions in those countries, al Qaeda is not going away.