Osama bin Laden showed disdain for al-Qaeda affiliates, fretted about his organization’s image and was deeply worried about its security, according to documents seized from his hideout in Pakistan and released publicly on Thursday.
The Combating Terrorism Center, a privately funded research center at the US Military Academy at West Point, posted on its Web site 17 declassified documents seized during the raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad in which he was killed by US commandos a year ago.
“Bin Laden was bothered by the incompetence of al-Qaeda’s affiliates, such as their failure to win public support, their ill-advised media campaigns, and their poorly planned operations that led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims,” said Lieutenant Colonel Liam Collins, director of the center and one of the report’s authors.
“He appeared to struggle to exercise control over the actions of the affiliates, as well as their public statements,” Collins said.
The seized correspondence shows that bin Laden worried about affiliate group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and urged its leadership to focus on attacking the US, rather than the Yemeni government or security forces.
The material also shows that the actions of another affiliate, al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially its ruthless attacks on Shiite civilians following the US invasion of Iraq, greatly distressed him.
Bin Laden also wanted to keep al-Qaeda’s Somalia-based affiliate, al-Shabaab, at arm’s length, because he was concerned about its poor organization, management and brutality, the study said.
The analysis also revealed 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.
The letters also show the al-Qaeda leader worried about the operational security of militants and about Muslims being killed in al-Qaeda operations, saying that he wanted women and children kept away from danger.
The report found that bin Laden thought children of militants who lived in cities were “one of the most important security issues” and advocated not taking them out of their homes, except for medical care. Parents were also urged to teach their children the local language so they would blend in.
In a letter dated Oct. 20, 2010, bin Laden was worrying about militants’ cars being targeted.
“A warning to the brothers: They should not meet on the road and move in their cars because many of them got targeted while they were meeting on the road. They also should not enter the market in their cars,” he wrote.
In an undated letter in 2010, bin Laden asked that two teams tasked with targeting the aircraft of US President Barack Obama should not target US Vice President Joe Biden because if Obama were gone, Biden would be “totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the US into a crisis.”
The findings led the center to conclude that bin Laden “was not, as many thought, the puppet master pulling the strings that set in motion jihadi groups around the world.”