WASHINGTON: In letters from his last hideout, Osama bin Laden fretted about dysfunction in his terrorist network and crumbling trust from Muslims he wished to incite against their government and the West.
The documents show dark days for Al-Qaeda and its hunkered-down leader after years of attacks by the United States and what bin Laden saw as bumbling within his own organisation and its terrorist allies.
“I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made,” bin Laden wrote in 2010. “In doing so, we shall reclaim, God willing, the trust of a large segment of those who lost their trust in the jihadis.”
Until the end, bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots, however improbable, to kill US leaders. He wished especially to target airplanes carrying General David Petraeus and even President Barack Obama, reasoning that an assassination would elevate an “utterly unprepared” Vice President Joe Biden into the presidency and plunge the US into crisis.
But a US analysts’ report released along with bin Laden’s correspondence describes him as upset over the inability of spin-off terrorist groups to win public support for their cause, their unsuccessful media campaigns and poorly planned plots that, in bin Laden’s view, killed too many innocent Muslims.
Bin Laden’s adviser Adam Gadahn urged him to disassociate their organisation from the acts of Al-Qaeda’s spin-off operation in Iraq, known as AQI, and bin Laden told other terrorist groups not to repeat AQI’s mistakes.
The correspondence includes letters by then-second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi, taking Pakistani offshoot Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to task over its indiscriminate attacks on Muslims. The Al-Qaeda leadership “threatened to take public measures unless we see from you serious and immediate practical and clear steps towards reforming (your ways) and dissociating yourself from these vile mistakes that violate Islamic Law,” al-Libi wrote.
And bin Laden warned the leader of Yemeni AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, against attempting a takeover of Yemen to establish an Islamic state, instead saying he should “refocus his efforts on attacking the United States.”
Bin Laden also seemed uninterested in recognising Somali-based al-Shabab when the group pledged loyalty to him because he thought its leaders were poor governors of the areas they controlled and were too strict with their administration of Islamic penalties, like cutting off the hands of thieves.