Editor’s note: Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, is a director at the New America Foundation. His book “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden; From 9/11 to Abbottabad” will be published on May 1.
Washington CNN — Tapping away at his computer in the study of the suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that he called home for the last years of his life, Osama bin Laden wrote memos urging his followers to continue to try to attack the United States, suggesting, for instance, they mount assassination attempts against President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus.
While he urged his organization on to attack America, bin Laden was also keenly aware that al Qaeda was in deep trouble because of the campaign of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and also because the brutal tactics of his followers had alienated many Muslims.
According to senior Obama administration officials who have reviewed the “treasure trove” of the thousands of documents that were picked up by the U.S. Navy SEALs from bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, the leaders of al Qaeda understood that the group they led was “beleaguered.” CNN was given a briefing this week by senior administration officials who have been analyzing the documents.
Bin Laden wrote a 48-page memo to a deputy in October 2010 that surveyed the state of his organization. He was particularly concerned that al Qaeda’s longtime sanctuary in Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal areas was now too dangerous because of the campaign of American drone strikes there that had picked off many of his key lieutenants.
According to a count by the New America Foundation, the CIA launched a record number of 118 strikes into the tribal regions during 2010, the year bin Laden wrote this memo.
Bin Laden advised his followers not to move around the tribal regions except on overcast days when America’s all-seeing satellites and drones would not have as good coverage of the area.He also urged his followers to depart the tribal regions for the remote Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Zabul and, in particular, Kunar, pointing out that the high mountains and dense forests of Kunar provided especially good protection from prying American eyes.
… For the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden wanted his media team to emphasize particularly that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were one of the main reasons for the financial crisis in the United States. Bin Laden bought his compound in Abbottabad with cash, so presumably he didn’t quite understand the dimensions of the subprime mortgage debacle.
One of his media advisers, who U.S. officials believe to be the American al Qaeda recruit Adam Gadahn, suggested bin Laden take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary in 2011 to record a ‘high definition’ videotape message that could be given to all the major American news networks, except to Fox News, which Gadahn said “lacks neutrality.” It doesn’t appear that bin Laden made such a tape.
Administration officials say it is strange that in all the documents recovered at the bin Laden compound there is no mention at all of al Qaeda’s plot to use liquid explosives to bring down as many as seven American, British and Canadian passenger planes flying from Heathrow Airport in 2006. If this plot had succeeded it might have rivaled 9/11 as a spectacular attack.
Bin Laden moved into his Abbottabad compound either at the end of 2005 or sometime in 2006 and an administration official says that, perhaps, information about the Heathrow plot “got lost in the move.”
On May 2, 2011, shortly after it was reported that Osama bin Laden had been killed, Bergen stated on CNN, “Killing bin Laden is the end of the War on Terror. We can just sort of announce that right now.”He is married to the documentary director/producer Tresha Mabile.
Things to learn: 1) Bin Laden was totally alive in October 2010. 2) Once again, thank GOD we have those drones killing people by remote control over there. 3) If you think the trillions of dollars sucked into the black holes of Iraq and Afghanistan are in any way related to the fact that you or several people you know have lost their jobs and are struggling to survive, then you are thinking… just …like …a… terrorist, … no… like … THE terrorist.