The United States on Thursday released 17 documents found at Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound in the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief a year ago.
The White House allowed the declassified documents to be published online by the Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point military academy.
The papers include letters or draft letters dated from September 2006 to April 2011, a total of 175 pages in the original Arabic.
The documents reveal internal correspondence inside the al-Qaeda network, including letters authored by bin Laden and leaders of the group’s affiliate in Yemen and fellow militants in Somalia and Pakistan, in addition to bin Laden’s hand-written diary.
They shed light on bin Laden’s concerns that Muslims were being alienated by the ideology of jihad.
He advised against attacks within the Islamic world, and instead urged focus on the U.S., reported the BBC.
A U.S. analysts’ report released along with bin Laden’s correspondence describes him as upset over the inability of spinoff 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 adviser Adam Gadahn urged him to disassociate their organization from the acts of al-Qaida’s spinoff 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-e-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 recognizing 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.
The U.S. said the letters reflect al-Qaida’s relationship with Iran - a point of deep interest to the U.S. government - as “not one of alliance, but of indirect and unpleasant negotiations” over some al-Qaida terrorists and their families who were imprisoned in Iran.
Nothing in the papers that were released points directly to al-Qaida sympathizers in Pakistan’s government, although presumably such references would have remained classified. Bin Laden described “trusted Pakistani brothers” but didn’t identify any Pakistani government or military officials who might have been aware or complicit in his hiding in Abbottabad.
Bin Laden was proud of the security measures that kept his family safe for many years, the report said. It said bin Laden boasted that his family “adhered to such strict measures, precluding his children from playing outdoors without the supervision of an adult who could keep their voices down.”
Until the end, bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots, however improbable, to kill U.S. leaders.
He wished especially to target airplanes carrying Gen. 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 U.S. into crisis.
And in a letter from April 2011, bin Laden discusses the Arab Spring, calling it a “formidable event,” added the BBC.
The personal files showed that, during one of the most significant manhunts in history, bin Laden was out of touch with the day-to-day operations of various terrorist groups inspired by al-Qaeda.
He was “not in sync on the operational level with its so-called affiliates,” researchers wrote. “Bin Laden enjoyed little control over either groups affiliated with al Qaida in name or so-called fellow travelers.”
The release of the documents were part of a nearly week-long commemoration of the anniversary of the bin Laden's killing, with President Barack Obama and his deputies recounting in interviews the secret nighttime raid by US Navy SEALS that killed the al-Qaeda mastermind.