Close to a year ago, United States Military forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a highly secretive mission inside Pakistani borders. In the process, the Military came across many personal affects of Al-Qaeda’s leader. Military leaders called this a “treasure trove of more than 6,000 documents.” In those documents, Bin Laden spoke in his own voice, and thus revealed many secrets to US officials about his thoughts and wishes.
According to a recent article, the documents reveal a man who “was simultaneously an inveterate micromanager but was also someone almost delusional in his belief that his organization could still force a change in foreign policies in the Muslim world if only he could get another big attack organized in the United States.” The papers show that many of his subordinates were skeptical about Al Qaeda’s ability to accomplish this feat given their diminished capacities.
Interestingly, Bin Laden was aware that Al Qaeda’s brand was becoming unpopular due to the number of civilians they had killed. In a letter to a Shabaab leader, Bin Laden urged him not to say he was directly affiliated with Al Qaeda because it might attract many enemies, as was the case with a similar group in Iraq. Additionally, as a fundraising scheme, Bin Laden thought Shabaab would be better suited not pushing Al Qaeda’s name. The article states that Bin Laden even contemplated changing the name of his terrorist organization, to attract better attention.
In the same letter, Bin Laden urged members of Shabaab to try to avoid killing civilians, as they were then doing in battles, and to focus on African Union troops. This is rather ironic, in that Bin Laden’s orchestrated attacks often have involved civilian losses. Bin Laden also constantly urged his holy war to his followers, but when it came to his family, he advocated something quite different. Bin Laden urged his sons to stay away from Al Qaeda’s base in Pakistan, and instead go to Qatar to further their religious training.
These insights into the mind of Bin Laden are crucially important, as they revealed the structure of Al Qaeda and many of their goals. The discovery of these documents have caused many scholars to conclude that Al Qaeda may be dying out. This “treasure trove”, however, will remain invaluable as it allows us into the mind of a powerful and evil man. Much like finding the Diary of Hitler, Bin Laden’s writings will continue to be instrumental towards understanding the extremist beliefs that fuel terrorist leaders.