Sunday 6 May 2012

Osama Bin Ladin’s Life of Seclusion; The letters from Abbottabad

On May 2, 2011 United States Special Operations Forces killed bin Laden during a covert raid, "Operation Neptune Spear," in the garrison Pakistani town of Abbottabad. Members of the raiding party were trained to identify documents and media of intelligence value. The assault team confiscated a wealth of material, including video and personal correspondence.

A selection of the captured documents was given by the Director of National Intelligence to the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for analysis and future release.

Osama bin Ladin
The documents consist of electronic letters or draft letters, totaling 175 pages in the original Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation. The earliest is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011, a week before bin Ladin's death. These internal al-Qa`ida communications were authored by several leaders, including Usama bin Ladin, `Atiyya `Abd al-Rahman, Abu Yahya al-Libi and the American Adam Gadahn, as well as several unknown individuals who were either affiliated with the group or wrote to offer it advice.

Other recognizable personalities who are featured in the letters either as authors, recipients or points of conversation include Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, leader of the Somali militant group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin; Nasir al-Wuhayshi (Abu Basir), leader of the Yemen-based al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); Anwar al-`Awlaqi; and Hakimullah Mahsud, leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

A study of the declassified documents recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan reveals a terrorist leader frustrated with regional jihadi groups and his own inability to exercise control over them. The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point says the late al-Qaida leader's frustration is the "most compelling story to be told" by the declassified documents. The privately-funded research institution released the documents and its analysis of them on May 3, 2011.

The Center says contrary to what many people thought, bin Laden was not "the puppet master pulling the strings that set in motion jihadi groups around the world."

The Combating Terrorism Center says the focus of bin Laden's private letters is Muslims' suffering at the hands of his jihadi "brothers." The Center's report says bin Laden was "burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence" of the al-Qaida affiliates, including their "poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims."

The al-Qaida leader was reportedly "at pains" advising the groups to stop domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties. Instead, he wanted them to focus on the United States, which he described as "our desired goal."

Bin Laden wanted especially to target airplanes carrying then-commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and U.S. President Barack Obama. The Combating Terrorism Center says he explained that President Obama's death would see the "utterly unprepared" Vice President Joe Biden assume the presidency and send the U.S. into crisis.

The documents provide evidence for the first time of al-Qa`ida's covert campaign against Iran.

One letter was authored by "Abu `Abdallah" (Usama bin Ladin), addressed to "Shaykh Mahmud" (`Atiyya) and dated 26 April 2011 - a week before bin Ladin's death. In it, bin Ladin outlines his response to the "Arab Spring," proposing two different strategies. The first strategy pertains to the Arab World and entails "inciting people who have not yet revolted and exhort[ing] them to rebel against the rulers (khuruj 'ala al-hukkam)"; the second strategy concerns Afghanistan and it entails continuing to evoke the obligation of jihad there. The letter also makes reference to a wide variety of topics including: the scarcity of communications from Iraq, "the brothers coming from Iran," and hostages held by "our brothers in the Islamic Maghreb" and in Somalia. The document also briefly discusses Bin Ladin's sons, his courier, Shaykh Abu Muhammad (Ayman al-Zawahiri), and other individuals of interest.

In one document al-Qa`ida spokesman Adam Gadahn critiques news outlets at ABC, Al Jazeera, CBS, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. It even mentions the "firing" of MSNBC's Keith Olberman.


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