Seized Letters Reveal a Frustrated Bin Laden

Posted May 3rd, 2012 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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A study of newly declassified documents recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan after his death last year highlights what was, at times, an apparently difficult relationship between al-Qaida's core group and its affiliates.

The documents in the form of letters, analyzed and released by the U.S. Military Academy Thursday, show the late al-Qaida leader as frustrated with the strategy and tactics of regional jihadi groups in the Middle East and North Africa and his own inability to exercise control over them.

One of the authors of the study, Nelly Lahoud, said bin Laden comes across as outmoded by the new generation of regional jihadi groups. Lahoud said bin Laden wanted the affiliates to concentrate their efforts on the United States and showed his displeasure with attacks that killed fellow Muslims.

Bin Laden also appeared sharply critical of fellow jihadists like U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen last year, as well as the Pakistani Taliban. And he was dismissive of “lone-wolf” attackers in general.

One key question that remains unanswered is how bin Laden managed to evade detection while living for years in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad, not far from a military academy. Report co-author Stuart Caudill said the documents contain no references to institutional Pakistani support by members of the government or the security services. He said the only references to Pakistani intelligence are in regards to avoiding monitoring.

Caudill said there is no evidence of any alliance between Iran and al-Qaida, but that the relations between the two sides were sometimes antagonistic because of Iran's detention of al-Qaida operatives and some members of bin Laden's family.

U.S. special commandos killed bin Laden in a covert raid on his compound on May 2, 2011. The assault team confiscated a wealth of material, including video clips and personal correspondence.