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Bin Laden Letters Show No Direct Link to Pakistan Officials

Osama bin Laden
The late Osama bin Laden pictured in an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Osama bin Laden had little control over al-Qaeda affiliates or faith in their skills in the last years of his life, and there was no direct evidence of Pakistani institutional support for him or his operatives, according to a report analyzing newly declassified writings and communication involving the terrorist leader.

Bin Laden’s correspondence also showed that he saw a need to correct mistakes by regional jihadis who had killed thousands of Muslim civilians and cost al-Qaeda support among Muslims. And a year before his death, he continued plotting to kill U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, according to the correspondence.

The 17 documents were part of a trove of material seized by the U.S. Navy SEAL team that raided bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed him a year ago. Electronic or draft letters, English translations and the analysis were released today by the U.S. Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

The documents included a May 2010 letter attributed to bin Laden that said an assassination of Obama would make Vice President Joe Biden president, and that Biden “is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.”

‘Into the Abyss’

In another document, from January 2011, al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn talks about a strategy for media coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and offers his analysis of U.S. media. He concluded that Fox News “falls into the abyss,” that CNN “seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others,” and that his impression of MSNBC had become less favorable after the firing of Keith Olbermann.

“In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages,” Gadahn wrote.

Mention of Pakistan in the declassified documents is “scarce and inconclusive,” according to the CTC’s executive summary. “Although references are made about ‘trusted Pakistani brothers,’ there are no explicit references to any institutional Pakistani support for al-Qaeda or its operatives,” the summary said.

As for Iran, al-Qaeda’s relationship with the country “is not one of alliance, but of indirect and unpleasant negotiations over the release of detained jihadis and their families,” including members of bin Laden’s family, according to the CTC’s summary.

The 175 pages in Arabic -- 197 pages in English -- span September 2006 to April 2011. They “likely represent only a fraction of the materials reportedly taken from the compound,” retired Army General John Abizaid wrote in the forward to center’s report.

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