The Blog

Declassify Most of Bin Laden’s Files

12:59 PM, Apr 30, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

But the same article in the Post says the files “show that through his couriers, bin Laden was in touch not only with al Qaeda’s established affiliates but also with upstarts being groomed for new alliances. Among them was Nigeria’s Boko Haram, a group that has since embraced al-Qaeda and adopted its penchant for suicide attacks.”

Until recent years, Boko Haram was a nonentity in counterterrorism circles. Now we learn that the terror master himself had been grooming it as part of al Qaeda’s planned expansion in Africa.

Previous press reports have discussed the ties between al Qaeda central in Pakistan and al Qaeda’s affiliates as well. Bin Laden was in contact with Al Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group that has long been allied with al Qaeda and “formally” merged with it earlier this year.

In addition, bin Laden was in contact with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has repeatedly targeted the U.S. and the Obama administration considers the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate. AQAP asked for bin Laden’s permission to name Anwar al Awlaki, who was subsequently killed in a U.S. drone strike, as the new emir of the organization. Bin Laden reportedly declined, preferring to keep his former aide-de-camp, Nasir al Wuhayshi, in command.

Shortly after bin Laden was killed in May 2011, CNN cited a U.S. official who described the documents. “There are strong indications there is back and forth with other terrorists,” this official said. “These are not just the writings of an elderly jihadi.”

Similarly, in May 2011, ProPublica’s Sebastian Rotella talked to intelligence officials who had knowledge of the documents. Rotella concluded that bin Laden “clearly played a role in al Qaeda's operational, tactical and strategic planning.”

“You could describe him as a micro-manager,” one U.S. official told Rotella. “The cumbersome process he had to follow for security reasons did not prevent him from playing a role...He was down in the weeds as far as best operatives, best targets, best timing.”

And then there is the issue of bin Laden’s relationships with allied Pakistani jihadist groups. The former al Qaeda CEO’s files reportedly show that he had a hand in planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks. That assault was headed by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a proxy of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

These are just some of the ways the documents have shed light on al Qaeda’s global operations.

Some in the Obama administration want to believe that the “war on terror is over.” There is no doubt that al Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan has been weakened through the combined efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations. However, there is evidence that in other ways al Qaeda has grown stronger, and also has long-term allies who will continue to wage its global campaign of terror.

Let the American people see Osama bin Laden’s files and then judge for themselves whether or not the 9/11 wars are a thing of the past.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers