WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden was fixated on attacking U.S. targets and pressured al Qaeda groups to heal local rivalries and focus on that cause, according to documents the United States says were seized in his hideout in Pakistan and released on Wednesday.
The documents published by U.S. intelligence also contained details of purported negotiations between al Qaeda, its allies in the Pakistani Taliban and representatives of Pakistani intelligence, and what seemed to be an al Qaeda job application.
A July 2010 letter showed that bin Laden pressed al Qaeda in Yemen, one of the group’s more active affiliates, to make peace with the government and focus on America.
Bin Laden’s view was that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ought to sign a truce with Yemeni authorities or arrange an accommodation in which Yemeni authorities would leave the group alone “in exchange for focusing on America.”
“The purpose is to focus on striking inside America and its interest abroad, especially oil producing countries, to agitate public opinion and to force US to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a summary of the letter by a bin Laden associate identified as “Atiyyah.”
It said the associate recommended “extra security measures” for Anwar al Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical preacher who became one of AQAP’s principal strategists and spokesman, and also that Awlaki should be required to “change his way of life.”
Awlaki had served as an imam at a mosque in a Virginia suburb of Washington, which was attended by two militants who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He fled to Yemen after the attacks and was killed in 2011 by a CIA drone strike.
The documents released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were part of a cache seized by U.S. commandos who conducted the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan when bin Laden was killed.
A document of several pages, which the United States says was printed on stationery carrying a watermark reading “The Security Committee - al Qaeda Organization” appeared to be a blank job application form for would-be al Qaeda members.
It said applicants should “please answer the required information accurate and truthfully,” and “please write clearly and legibly.”
It asked when an applicant had arrived “in the land of Jihad,” how much of the Koran they had memorized, which sheikhs or Muslim dignitaries they knew, which countries they had visited, how many passports they possessed and whether they were interested in carrying out a “suicide operation.”
Also seized were official U.S. passport application forms, formal U.S. indictments of al Qaeda-related figures, U.S. government accounts of al Qaeda’s organization and details of the U.S. embassy in Pakistan’s “Toys for Tots” program.
English-language books seized included “A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam,” “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” “Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,” “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” and “Military Intelligence Blunders.”
There were also copies of many American media articles, including “Is al-Qaeda Just Bush’s Boogeyman?” from the Los Angeles Times in January 2005, and a piece in Newsweek magazine “on hawks and doves on Iraq within the Bush Administration.”
One document dated July 2010 addressed to “Abu Abdullah,” which is one of bin Laden’s noms de guerre, from an operative named Mahmud indicated links between al Qaeda and Pakistan’s intelligence services, which Pakistan has repeatedly denied.
It said that after al Qaeda leaked information that it was planning “large-scale destructive operations in Pakistan,” but had then “halted the operations in an attempt to calm the situation and absorb the pressure from the Americans,” Pakistani intelligence “began sending people to us.”
“They sent messages to us via some of the Pakistani Jihadist groups that they are comfortable with. ... One of their messengers came to us conveying a message for us from the intelligence leadership ... saying that they wanted to talk to us as Al Qaeda.”
Mahmud asks bin Laden whether the “Pakistanis are serious or are they just playing with us?”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the release of the documents followed a rigorous review by U.S. government agencies as required by the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act.
The documents can be read here: here
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Will Dunham; Editing by David Storey