POLITICS

Bin Laden revealed as sidelined, frustrated in letters from hideout

05/03/2012 02:44 EDT | Updated 07/03/2012 05:12 EDT
WASHINGTON - In dispatches from his final lair, Osama bin Laden expressed disappointment in his al-Qaida affiliates, miffed that their jihadi operations in the Middle East were costing innocent Muslim lives and urging them to redirect their murderous aim at the United States.

The revelations, coming in the wake of the anniversary of bin Laden's death at the hands of Navy SEALs in that very Pakistani hideout, are contained in a trove of documents penned by bin Laden and other top al-Qaida officials. They were made public Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

"I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made," bin Laden, hunkered down in his Pakistani compound, 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."

In a 45-page letter to a top al-Qaida official, bin Laden asks that the terrorist organization develop hit squads to kill U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus during visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but says Vice-President Joe Biden should be spared given the longtime legislator is "totally unprepared for the presidency."

Having Biden ascend to the Oval Office would "lead the U.S. into a crisis," added the faded terrorist mastermind.

"The reason for concentrating on them is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency for the remainder of the term, as it is the norm over there," he wrote.

"As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour in this last year of the war, and killing him would alter the war's path."

The remainder of the letter, one of 17 documents released Thursday, shows bin Laden expressing regret that al-Qaida has lost the support of much of the Muslim world since so many Muslims had died in attacks launched in the Middle East.

America's post-9-11 invasion of Afghanistan had "filled Muslims with sympathy toward their fellow Mujahidin," he wrote.

But "after the war expanded and the Mujahidin spread out into many regions, some of the brothers became totally absorbed in fighting out local enemies, and more mistakes have been made."

"Clear boundaries need to be established so that no Muslims fall victim except when it is absolutely necessary," wrote bin Laden.

Instead, he said, the United States and its citizens should be the No. 1 al-Qaida target.

"At this stage of our war with our enemies, America poses a greater threat to the Ummah than any other enemy. America is the head of the infidels," he wrote.

"If God wills it, America's head can be cut off. Once the head has been removed, then it would be easier to cut off America's wings."

In a report accompanying the release of the letters, analysts at the Combating Terrorism Center concluded that "bin Laden was not, as many thought, the puppet master pulling the strings that set in motion jihadi groups around the world.

"Bin Laden enjoyed little control over either groups affiliated with al-Qaida in name. Bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the 'affiliates.'"

Bin Laden, indeed, wasn't made aware of plans by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an al-Qaida offshoot, to bomb Manhattan's Times Square in May 2010. He expressed disappointment in the letters that Faisal Shahzad, later convicted and sentence to life for the plot, failed to pull off the attack.

The documents include letters from Abu Yahya al-Libi, then al-Qaida's No. 2 man, excoriating Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan over its attacks on Muslims.

He warned al-Qaida leadership would "take public measures unless we see from you serious and immediate practical and clear steps towards reforming (your ways) and disassociating yourself from these vile mistakes that violate Islamic law."

The earliest bin Laden letter released Thursday is dated September 2006 and the latest just shortly before his death, the terrorism centre said. It wasn't clear if the letters ever reached their destination given they were lifted from thumb drives, memory cards and hard drives off Obama's computer seized in the Navy SEALs raid.

Nor was it clear how many more letters could be released in the days and weeks to come, as a presidential election campaign moves into full swing, but they apparently represent only a small fraction of documents obtained following last spring's raid.

In another letter, bin Laden vows to avenge the war in Afghanistan as he assures one of his deputies that America lacks the financial might to continue fighting.

"They struck us and we will strike them back," he wrote.

"This year has been the worst year for them in Afghanistan since they invaded it. The number of their dead has never been this high according to their own reports. Their financial crisis continues. Britain has lowered its defense budget and America is reducing the budget of the Pentagon. Anyone who knows the world and knows politics, knows that it is impossible for them to continue with the war."

Another letter, from al Qaida's U.S. lieutenant, Adam Gadahn, to an unknown recipient, expresses dismay that the terrorist group was not getting any credit for America's financial woes.

"All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy," he wrote in January 2011.

Gadahn also offers up a media analysis in advance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, taking a swipe at Fox News.

"From the professional point of view, they are all on one level — except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too," Gadahn wrote.

"In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages. (They) may ignore them, and even the channel that broadcast them, probably it would distort them somehow .... As for Fox News, let her die in her anger."