Papers portray Osama Bin Laden as struggling to manage Al Qaeda
WASHINGTON -- From his hideout in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden struggled to manage the tentacles of his terrorist organization even as he derided it as amateurish and unfocused, according to declassified documents released Thursday.
Approximately 17 letters and notes from Bin Laden were published online by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The documents add granular detail to the portrait of the Al Qaeda founder as a frustrated executive. In them, he denies requests for help from the field, seeks to raise funds, and politely but firmly chastises commanders for losing sight of his preferred mission: attacking the West.
The documents come from the massive haul of data stored on hard drives, flash drives, DVDs and other devices that were recovered after U.S. Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago this week.
The correspondence shows Bin Laden was worried that some Al Qaeda affiliates were alienating Muslims with indiscriminate attacks on mosques and other civilian targets, and that their regional operations in countries around the globe had strayed far from his central objective of attacking the United States and other Western countries.
"It is very important," Bin Laden wrote in a letter to Nasser Wuhayshi, then head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, "to remind the new generation" to concentrate on attacking the West.
Wuhayshi wanted Bin Laden to send a deputy from Pakistan to Yemen to help the affiliate plan attacks. But Bin Laden denied the request, saying it would present too great a security risk.
In a note to another deputy, Bin Laden wrote that if he sent someone to Yemen, it would be to solicit money to support Al Qaeda's central leadership in Yemen.
English translations of the documents were posted along with 175 pages of the original documents in Arabic. The letters were written between September 2006 and April 2011.
-- Brian Bennett
Photo: A journalist in Washington looks at a computer screen showing the original Bin Laden documents released Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images