Up until his death last May, Osama bin Laden was hoping to pull off his most audacious attack since Sept. 11, 2001: the assassination of President Obama. Or so says a report by David Ignatius in The Washington Post. What's unclear is how he hoped to organize such a long-shot scheme given his relative isolation in Pakistan. Soon-to-be-declassified documents seized by the U.S. commando team that killed bin Laden indicate that the al Qaeda leader was still commanding his terrorist network from his walled hideout in Abbottabad, even though it sometimes took months for him to receive replies from his subordinates. Here, a brief guide to the new revelations:
What was bin Laden doing to target Obama?
He had ordered Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri to devise a plan to bring down President Obama's plane when he visited the region. He also wanted to shoot down Gen. David Petraeus, then America's top commander in Afghanistan. "Please ask brother Ilyas to send me the steps he has taken into that work," bin Laden wrote to his top lieutenant, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, according to Ignatius.
Why focus on such a long shot instead of easier targets?
Here's how bin Laden put it to his top lieutenant: "Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make [Vice President] Biden take over the presidency. ... Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour ... and killing him would alter the war's path" in Afghanistan.
Was there any chance he could have succeeded?
No, says Ignatius. Given that al Qaeda lacked the weapons required to take down U.S. aircraft, the scheme was "probably bluster." Since bin Laden's death, a national security official tells ABC News, it's become clear "that al Qaeda's capacity to pull off those types of complex attacks has been greatly diminished, and that bin Laden himself spent much of his time brooding and providing guidance that often fell on deaf ears."
Could bin Laden's co-conspirator Kashmiri still be working on a similar plot?
No. A month after bin Laden's death, Kashmiri was killed in a drone strike.
What's the takeaway here?
This far-fetched scheme indicates just how removed from reality bin Laden had become, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "Biden might not make a good president for other reasons, but it's not due to a total lack of preparation. If that was the main aim of al Qaeda, they don't sound terribly bright." Still, this revelation is a "chilling reminder" that the war against al Qaeda isn't over, says Ignatius.