A recently leaked Guantanamo file names Osama bin Laden’s “designated courier.” The file, which summarizes the available intelligence on top al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al Libbi, reads:
In July 2003, detainee received a letter from UBL’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. UBL stated detainee would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad, PK and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.
Here are several thoughts on this:
First, U.S. intelligence officials got to bin Laden by following his most trusted courier. It is certainly possible, although we need to get confirmation, that this courier was Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan – the “designated courier” named in the paragraph above.
Second, the courier’s ties to Abu Faraj al Libbi fits with what one Obama administration official had to say in a press briefing last night:
One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.
Third, the Associated Press is reporting that the courier’s nom de guerre was found out during the CIA’s interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al Libbi. The New York Times and others have reported that unnamed “detainees” at Guantanamo gave up this information. But if it came from KSM and al Libbi, then that is a bit misleading because neither KSM nor al Libbi were held at Guantanamo at the time. They were subsequently transferred out of the CIA’s black sites to Gitmo.
Fourth, note that Abu Faraj al Libbi moved his own family to Abbottabad in mid-2003. That’s where Osama bin Laden was killed. The file goes on to note that al Libbi subsequently moved his family out Abbottabad before his capture. The compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding was reportedly built in 2005 – the same year al Libbi was captured.
Fifth, al Libbi reportedly admitted that he was responsible for facilitating al Qaeda’s activities inside Pakistan’s “settled areas” prior to his capture. The file contains a footnote that reads: “…detainee stated [as] of early May 2005, he was responsible for facilitation within the settled areas of Pakistan, communication with UBL and external links.” This gives us a sense of just how long al Qaeda has been operating in Pakistan’s “settled areas” – not just the tribal areas. Of course, this isn’t surprising since both al Libbi and KSM were captured in Pakistani cities.
Sixth, al Libbi himself was captured, according to the leaked Guantanamo assessment, while waiting to meet Abd al-Khaliq – again, Osama bin Laden’s designated courier. The file reads (footnote omitted):
Detainee tried to meet with Abd al-Khaliq again in mid-April  and again in early May. In mid-April 2005, detainee began arranging for a store front to be used as a meeting place and drop point for messages he wanted to exchange with Abd al-Khaliq. On 2 May 2005, while he was waiting to meet with Abd al-Khaliq in Mardan, Pakistani Special Forces arrested detainee.
If Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan was still Osama bin Laden’s most trusted courier, then he unwittingly led to both Abu Faraj al Libbi’s capture and the death of his boss.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.