Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was not the “puppet master” of jihadi groups around the world and complained of what he called their “incompetence,” according to an analysis of documents seized from his hideout in Pakistan.
The Combating Terrorism Center, a privately funded research center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, posted on its website on Thursday 17 declassified documents taken in the raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad in which he was killed by U.S. forces a year ago.
“On the basis of the 17 declassified documents, Bin Ladin was not, as many thought, the puppet master pulling the strings that set in motion jihadi groups around the world,” a report on the documents by the Combating Terrorism Center said. “Bin Ladin was burdened by what he saw as their incompetence.”
The center spells bin Laden’s name as Bin Ladin.
The report said the al Qaeda leader, who was behind the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York, “was unimpressed by the recent trend of American populist jihad.”
He appeared to have little regard for Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen accused of instigating a number of violent al Qaeda attacks from Yemenand who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year.
Awlaki is mentioned in one letter, assessed to be from bin Laden who writes, as translated: “I hope that he be informed of us still needing more information from the battlefield in Yemen, so that it is feasible for us, with the help of God, to make the most appropriate decision to either escalate or calm down.”
The 17 documents are electronic letters or draft letters totaling 175 pages in the original Arabic, dating from September 2006 to April 2011, and they do not all state who wrote or received them.
U.S. intelligence officials have said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, has emerged as the most dangerous affiliate.
But according to the West Point study, bin Laden himself regarded many of al Qaeda’s affiliated groups, including the ones feared by the West, with disdain.
The letters show that bin Laden worried about AQAP, the Yemeni affiliate, and urged its leadership to focus efforts on attacking the United States rather than the Yemeni government or security forces, the report said.
It said the confiscated material showed that the actions of another affiliate, Al Qaeda in Iraq was of particular concern to bin Laden, especially its killing of Shi’ite civilians following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
One of al Qaeda’s main English-language spokesmen, American-born Adam Gadahn, even suggested that the main al Qaeda group should disassociate itself from Al Qaeda in Iraq. At one point Gadahn compared the activities of the Iraqi group to the policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who had launched the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Bin Laden also apparently wanted to keep al Qaeda’s Somalia-based affiliate, Al Shabaab, at arm’s length, the study says, because he was concerned about its poor organization, management and brutality.
The report said that bin Laden’s relationship with the TTP, one of the main Pakistan-based Taliban groups, was so strained that the group almost came into “direct and public confrontation” with al Qaeda’s central leadership over its indiscriminate attacks on Muslim civilians.
Videotapes and audiotapes from bin Laden were broadcast sporadically during the decade that he was in hiding. In a letter dated August 27, 2010, the al Qaeda leader gave detailed instructions about how to get the message out and shows he wanted it timed for the upcoming September 11 anniversary.
“Attached with this message is a visual statement to the American people that I hope a copy of it be given to the International Al Jazeera and the Arab Al Jazeera. I also hope for it to be translated (voice over) to English and to be delivered to the Al Jazeera channel prior to the anniversary of 9/11, to be broadcasted during it. Also, two copies of it are attached, one of which is recorded and the other written.”
“We sent you, along with the messages that preceded this, a statement regarding the floods of Pakistan. Its broadcasting to media was delayed, thus perhaps it’s for a good reason. However, in any case, I had attached the content of this card to this message.”
“Note: Please broadcast the flood statement before the American People statement, as the American People statement to be during the anniversary of 9/11.”