The U.S. Army has released a trove of letters and documents captured in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago. The documents — numbering roughly 200 pages and dating from September 2006 to April 2011 — offer a revealing glimpse into the terrorist mastermind's worldview, his plans for al Qaeda, and his reactions to pivotal developments in the Arab world. Here, seven highlights from the cache:
1. He wanted to kill Obama and Petraeus
Bin Laden exhorted his followers to take out airplanes carrying President Obama and General David Petraeus on their visits to the region. He said Obama was the "head of infidelity," while Petraeus was "the man of the hour" in the U.S.'s fight against insurgents in Afghanistan. Bin Laden said Obama's death would make Vice President Joe Biden president, a boon to al Qaeda's cause because Biden was "totally unprepared for that post."
2. He had little control over al Qaeda affiliates
Bin Laden was wary of al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere, and was frustrated that he had little control over their terrorist attacks, saying they killed civilians and thus hurt al Qaeda's image in the Muslim world. He frequently referred to the example of al Qaeda in Iraq, whose public support fell after it targeted Iraqi civilians.
3. He wanted to change al Qaeda's name
Concerned that al Qaeda's brand as a defender of Muslims had been tarnished, bin Laden and his associates brainstormed new names that would tie the group more closely to Islam. The names included Monotheism and Jihad Group, Muslim Unity Group, Islamic Nation Unification Party, and Al Asqa Liberation Group.
4. He supported the Arab Spring protests
Bin Laden was an avid supporter of the pro-democracy protests that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. He said it was a "tremendous event," and wanted al Qaeda to urge people to "rebel against the rulers." He also hoped to steer the protesters toward Islamic rule, and away from "half solutions" like secular democracies.
5. The terror group had a tense relationship with Iran
Bin Laden's al Qaeda, a Sunni group, bickered with Iran's Shiite regime over the fate of al Qaeda members who escaped to Iran after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Iran put al Qaeda operatives, as well as members of bin Laden's family, under house arrest, where some remain to this day. An al Qaeda negotiator describes the Iranians as "criminals" and stubborn negotiators.
6. Bin Laden made little mention of Pakistan
The documents do not contain any overt references to the Pakistani government or its military, shedding no new light on whether Pakistan knew that bin Laden was hiding in the country. However, plenty of documents from the Abbottabad safe house remain classified, and analysts say any Pakistan-related material is probably far too sensitive to see the light of day.
7. The terrorist wasn't a Fox News fan
Bin Laden apparently watched American news channels with some enthusiasm, and while he said "no single channel" was quite to his taste, he deplored Fox News for lacking "neutrality." One al Qaeda associate wrote that the group should send videos of bin Laden's speeches to all the major U.S. networks, except Fox News. "Let her die in anger," the associate said. Bin Laden did concede that ABC was "all right."
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