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InsiderOnline Blog: March 2013

What’s in the Bin Laden Files?

So far, the Obama administration has released to the public 17 of the documents captured at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on May 1, 2011. Those documents seem to show bin Laden as having little active role in coordinating al Qaeda operations in recent years. Thomas Joscelyn, writing in the Weekly Standard, says there are reasons to think the rest of the trove—the size of a small college library—tells a different story, one that undermines the administration’s foreign and counter-terrorism policies. Joscelyn writes:

Consider what the Guardian’s Jason Burke reported on April 29, 2012—just days before the [West Point Combating Terrorism Center] report was published. Burke reported that the documents recovered in bin Laden’s compound “show a close working relationship between top al Qaeda leaders and Mullah Omar, the overall commander of the Taliban, including frequent discussions of joint operations against NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and targets in Pakistan.” Both Osama bin Laden and his replacement, Ayman al Zawahiri, were involved in coordinating attacks with the Taliban.

Mysteriously, the documents Burke reported on were not among those the administration allowed the CTC to publish just four days later. Why? As Burke noted beforehand, the documents “undermine hopes of a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, where the key debate among analysts and policymakers is whether the Taliban—seen by many as following an Afghan nationalist agenda—might once again offer a safe haven to al Qaeda or like-minded militants, or whether they can be persuaded to renounce terrorism.” […]

Another, more startling example of what the administration excluded from the documents released to the public was offered by Bruce Riedel, a former adviser to President Obama. Riedel said the files show a close relationship between bin Laden and the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hafiz Saeed. The LeT is a Pakistan-based terrorist group with known ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. It was responsible for the November 2008 siege in Mumbai, India, in which 166 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. 

“The documents and files found in Abbottabad showed a close connection between bin Laden and Saeed, right up to May 2011,” Riedel told the Hindustan Times.

As Joscelyn notes, it was John Brennan, the President’s nominee to head the CIA, who announced the release of the 17 documents last April; and it has been John Brennan who has pushed the view that al Qaeda is no longer a cohesive network that requires a robust American military response. [The Weekly Standard, March 11]

Posted on 03/05/13 06:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

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