Seventeen of the thousands of documents seized from the compound of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 were released Thursday (May 3rd), one day after the first anniversary of the al-Qaeda leader's death.
The documents -- provided by the Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC) and total 175 pages in the original Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation -- describe some of the inner workings of the terrorist organisation, including internal disputes, advice to affiliate groups and the concerns of key leaders.
Many of the documents are correspondence written by bin Laden or sent to him by others, either in final electronic form or as draft letters. Some of the documents are not complete, with authorship unclear. The earliest documents released are from September 2006, while the last are dated April 2011.
Besides bin Laden, authors include al-Qaeda leaders Mahmoud Atiyya (Abu Abd al-Rahman) and Abu Yahya al-Libi (Hasan Qaid); al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn; Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, leader of the Somali militant group al-Shabab; Abu Basir (Nasir al-Wuhayshi), leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
Analysis of the documents contained in a CTC study, Letters from Abbottabad, found that:
Analysis of the released documents revealed that bin Laden felt burdened by "the incompetence" of the affiliated groups and found some of their tactics troubling. The documents contained relatively little discussion of Pakistan and no indication of Pakistani militant support for al-Qaeda.
Of all the al-Qaeda affiliates, the TTP appears to have come closest to provoking a public confrontation with al-Qaeda's leadership regarding its indiscriminate attacks against Muslims.
This led Abu Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi to write to TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud to express their displeasure with the group's "ideology, methods and behaviour".
They also threatened to take public measures "unless we see from you serious and immediate practical and clear steps towards reforming [your ways] and dissociating yourself from these vile mistakes [that violate Islamic Law]."
The war on terror waged by Pakistan, Afghanistan and the international coalition also blocked bin Laden's plans. The documents suggest bin Laden needed groups in other geographic areas to organise terrorist attacks on Western countries and to launch "new initiatives," the study reported. His plan, contained in a letter apparently written after July 2010, was to send representatives to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or other Middle Eastern countries to recruit the support of local militant leaders.
The documents will aid efforts to understand how al-Qaeda operated and to track down the remnants of the terrorist organisation, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.
Bin Laden's death was an irreversible loss for al-Qaeda, he added.
"Osama bin Laden is dead now; his game is over and so is his strategy," Iftikhar said. "We have to take care of the other terrorist leaders now who are running the al-Qaeda network, and we are committed to root them out also."