When the U.S. Navy Seals stormed Osama bin Laden’s den on May 2011 that finally led to the downfall and death of the al Qaeda leader, the team recovered a total of 175 letters and around 6,000 documents stored in 100 or more storage devices and dozens of computer hard drives. These letters and most of the correspondences were presumed to have been written by Osama himself, sometime from September 2006 up to the time of his death.
The documents tell a lot about what bin Laden had in mind, his plans, some strategies, disappointments, and even a bit about himself as a person. It is like a chest of treasures for the U.S. intelligence, battling the worldwide terrorist groups especially the ones responsible in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack that left thousands of American lives lost.
The recovered documents were carefully studied, and after some deliberation with senior U.S. officials, finally made available to the public by the Combating Terrorism Center of West Point. The letters seem to describe bin Laden as a tough leader with exceptional military intelligence. While he had many wives, he was particularly concerned of a certain woman, including the well-being of his elder sons. He has passion for making himself look younger by regularly dyeing his hair using Just for Men hair dye products. He was taking Viagra as well.
In general perspective, the letters suggest that al Qaeda leadership is quite confused on their strategies. The group has no definite and solid plans and future tactics. In the wake of protests for freer North America and Middle East societies by the Arab Spring, bin Laden made a major revamp of the media strategy of the terrorist group, citing interest on inspiring the people who did not participate in the revolt.
He was relatively disappointed on the global affiliates of the group that have become uncontrollable. This resulted to some mistakes like the May 1, 2010 failed attempt to detonate a bomb in New York Time Square that led to the capture of the suspect two days after, while attempting to slip from U.S. and headed to Pakistan.
He further expressed interest in making a major campaign in the Arab world, to gain more sympathy to the cause of the group against the rulers of the world. He also emphasized that the so-called enemies of al Qaeda have already launched massive media campaign against the Arab world and its culture.
The fallen documents seem to suggest that bin Laden was slowly losing grip of the entire al Qaeda franchise as a result of lack of coordination among different terrorist groups, which was his growing concern at that time. At one point, he even demanded detailed self reviews from four top officials of al Qaeda due to lack of control in the areas of their responsibilities.
Bin Laden also stressed his desire to have another major attack in the U.S., this time killing President Barrack Obama, including the commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus. But he warned to keep the Vice-President Joseph Biden safe from the attacks, citing that if the weaker and unprepared Vice President Biden assumes the Presidency in the wake of Obama’s death, the mighty U.S. would be in crisis, eventually weakening the enemy.
There were also some instructions he gave to his follows through these letters, such as staying out of U.S. drones’ coverage areas of intelligence, avoiding outdoors and open grounds that are easily visible from the satellites’ views, and going to the mountains, instead, under the cover of trees and mountains. He discouraged communication via internet and phone, advising to use letters when getting in touch with concerned channels.
The death of Osama bin Laden should’ve also buried the strategies and instructions of the former al Qaeda leader, and left most of his senior officials blind about what Osama was thinking and his mandate to the global followers of the terrorist group. And yet, West Point officials released the supposedly confidential documents to the public anyway. The move only strengthens the terrorists as more followers are better informed on what were on the minds of their former leader before his demise.
While there were no specific details given when it comes to tactics and strategies to pursue by the group, the messages of the once formidable leader where effectively and extensively distributed among his followers when the recovered documents were made available to the public.
The availability of the released documents gives the public more insights about the former leader of al Qaeda, but what is quite confusing is what were in the minds of the U.S. officials who decided to make this confidential information public; which only ignite the enthusiasm of the terrorists to pursue further their former leader’s dreams and conviction.