WASHINGTON – In letters from his last hideout, Osama bin Laden worried about dysfunction in his terrorist network and crumbling trust from Muslims he wished to incite against their government and the West.
A selection of documents seized in last year’s raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan house was posted online Thursday by the U.S. Army’s Combating Terrorism Center. The documents show dark days for al-Qaida and its hunkered-down leader after years of attacks by the United States and what bin Laden saw as bumbling within his own organization and its terrorist allies.
“I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made,” bin Laden 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.”
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.
But 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.
The letters are released just two days after the year anniversary of the successful raid by Navy SEAL Team 6 on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan on May 1, 2011.
The raid signaled an end to the reign of the man who masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks. It also formalized a growing transition in national security threats: The U.S. no longer faces a single enemy group in al-Qaida, but now must contend with a global network of self-sufficient terrorist cells.