WASHINGTON – U.S. forces in Pakistan dealt a “significant blow” to Al Qaeda by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden – and he may have slowed the terrorist group’s efforts to recover by failing to groom a successor.

Bill Richardson – a former governor of New Mexico, a former Energy secretary and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton — talked about bin Laden here today during the opening general session of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting’s (AALU’s) 2011 annual meeting, which started Sunday and is set to end Wednesday.

Many members of AALU, Reston, Va., are experts in succession planning and other forms of business planning.

President Obama announced bin Laden’s death late Sunday.

“My sense is that bin Laden–who was only 53, hadn’t groomed anyone to take over” the leadership of Al Qaeda, Richardson said.

“People like bin Laden don’t want to talk about succession,” Richardson said. “They don’t want to groom someone to take over because they think they’re eternal…. This is a significant loss. While his killing won’t eradicate al Qaeda, it will take quite a bit of time for them to recover.”

At the time of the firefight with U.S. forces, bin Laden was in a prominent location — a compound near a military academy in a mid-sized Pakistani city.

The nature of the location suggests that there might have been collusion between Al Qaeda and elements within the Pakistani leadership, Richardson said.

Richardson added that the successful effort to kill bin Laden is a clear case of American military prowess and intelligence capabilities.

“Some people question why and how we spend so much money on gathering intelligence and covert action,” Richardson said. “It’s worth it. The years we’ve spent tracking this man has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks.”

Without the formidable resources of America’s armed forces and intelligence capabilities, the killing of bin Laden probably would not have happened, Richardson said.

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