The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point today released documents U.S. special operations forces recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound after having killed the Al Qaeda leader. “Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 declassified documents,” a summary of the documents states. Read the documents here (PDF).
The CTC summary says that based on the documents, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor as Al Qaeda leader, “is conspicuously distant from people in Bin Ladin’s immediate circle.” Instead, “If the documents are representative of Bin Ladin’s correspondence pattern and his immediate circle over the years, then [al-Qaeda leader Atiyyatullah] must have been his closest associate.”
Bin Laden believed that the Arab Spring presented an opportunity for al-Qaeda. In his last private letter dated April 25, 2011, just one week before his death, bin Laden thought he could sway Arabs to institute his preferred ideology after “the fall of the remaining tyrants.” Thus, he wrote, “if we double our efforts towards guiding, educating and warning Muslim people from those [who might tempt them to settle for] half solutions, by carefully presenting [our] advice, then the next phase will [witness a victory] for Islam, if God so pleases.”