By Allan Olingo
While marking the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, the US government released in part some of the internal al Qaeda communication seized in his compound.The treasure trove of bin Laden’s letters was taken during the Navy Seals raid in his hideout on May 2, last year.
These internal al Qaeda communications, released through the CTS of the US Military Academy, were authored by several al- Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, Atiyya Abd al-Rahman (strategist and adviser to bin Laden), Abu Yahya al-Libi (field commander in Afghanistan), as well as several unknown individuals.
These individuals were either authors, recipients or subjects of conversation and they included Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, the leader of the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, Abu Basir, leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); Anwar al-Awlaqi and Hakimullah Mahsud, leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The letters touch on the various issues that bin Laden was dealing with from his stand on alliances to new tactics, rebranding, the Arab revolution, Muslim casualties and even his loath for the ‘excited martyrs’ whom he wrote “were making al-Qaeda have a difficult time within the Muslim world”.
In a letter he wrote to Shaykh Mahmud on August 27, 2010, bin Laden directs Abu Basir, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to send him a detailed and lengthy version of Anwar al-Awlaqi resume. Osama wanted him to be the al-Qaeda leader in Yemen. Incidentally, al-Awlaqi was killed last Sunday in Yemen. Bin Laden also asks Basir and al-Awlaqi for their “vision in detail about the situation” in Yemen. In the letter, references are also made about bin Laden’s son media plan for the 9/11 anniversaries.
In another letter dated August 7, 2010 to Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, the leader of the Somali militant group Al Shabab, bin Laden politely declines Al Shabaab’s request for formal unity with al-Qaeda.
“I see that this obligation (formal unity) should be carried out legitimately and through unannounced secret messaging, by spreading this matter among the people of Somalia, without any official declaration by any officers on our side or your side that the unity has taken place,” reads bin Laden’s response.
In a letter that exposes discontent with other al-Qaeda affiliates operations, Mahmud al-Hasan (Atiyya) and Abu Yahya al-Libi wrote to Hakimullah Mahsud of the Pakistan Taliban on December 3, 2010. The letter is sharply critical of the ideology and tactics of the Pakistan Taliban.
“We have had serious concerns about the Pakistan Taliban operations inside Pakistan and the impact the group’s misguided operations might have on al-Qaeda and other militant groups in the region,” reads the letter in part.Atiyya and al-Libi identify several errors committed by the group, specifically Mahsud’s arrogation of privileges and positions beyond what was appropriate, the Pakistan Taliban’s use of indiscriminate violence, killing of Muslim civilians and the group’s use of kidnapping.Atiyya and al-Libi threaten that if actions are not taken to correct these mistakes, “we shall be forced to take public and firm legal steps from our side”.