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Bin Laden's final days -- big plans, deep fears

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, March 16, 2012

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 [....]

Also see:

New York Times' version of the same: Bin Laden Plot Against Obama Outlined in Documents, by John H. Cushman Jr., March 16/17. It does cover other items, such as:

[....] The documents include one in which Bin Laden asked his top lieutenant, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, to find out from a Pakistani terrorist named Ilyas Kashmiri “the steps he has taken” toward assassinating Mr. Obama and the top American general in the region. Mr. Kashmiri had long been one of the chief targets of American counterintelligence forces.

That account emerged in a column by David Ignaitius that was published Friday morning on the Web site of The Washington Post. Mr. Ignatius said he had been granted access to translations of the documents from the raid last year that have been declassified and will be made public soon [....]

Read the full article at

A lion in winter
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, March 18

What’s riveting about the documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound, beyond the headline items about plots to kill American leaders, is the way they allow the reader to get inside the terrorist mastermind’s head.

I’ve only seen a small sample of the thousands of items that were carried away the night of May 2, 2011. But even those few documents shown to me by a senior Obama administration official give a sense of how bin Laden looked at the world in the years before his death [....]

A sense of bereavement hovers over these pages, not simply because of the loss of bin Laden’s colleagues, whom he eulogizes every few pages, but because bin Laden sensed that the movement itself had lost its momentum. He lived in a constricted world, in which he and his associates were hunted so relentlessly by U.S. forces that they had trouble sending the simplest communications.

Bin Laden wanted to save what remained of his network by evacuating it from the free-fire zone of Pakistan’s tribal areas. He noted “the importance of the exit from Waziristan of the brother leaders. . . . Choose distant locations to which to move them, away from aircraft photography and bombardment.”

This evacuation order comes in the most revealing document I was shown, which is a voluminous 48-page directive to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who served, in effect, as bin Laden’s chief of staff. Throughout this document, bin Laden pondered the likelihood that al-Qaeda had failed in its mission of jihad.

Bin Laden begins by recalling the glory days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when his al-Qaeda mujaheddin were “the vanguard and standard-bearers of the Islamic community in fighting the Crusader-Zionist alliance.”

But the al-Qaeda leader turns immediately to a bitter reflection on mistakes made by his followers — especially their killing of Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere. The result, he said, “would lead us to winning several battles while losing the war at the end.” Bin Laden ruminated on the “extremely great damage” caused by these overzealous jihadists. Not only is the organization’s reputation being damaged, he noted, but “tens of thousands are being arrested” in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The brooding bin Laden advised his followers to back off on these self-defeating attacks in Muslim nations and instead begin “targeting American interests in non-Islamic countries first, such as South Korea.” At another point, he stressed: “The focus must be on actions that contribute to the intent of bleeding the American enemy.”

With his followers hunted and on the run, bin Laden emphasized the tradecraft for avoiding detection [....]

It's lonely at the top....

I was thinking more ironically, along the lines of the legend of the Wandering Jew.... devil

I'm thinkin' Fliegender Hollander. or more currently, the Ghost King of Antrim...

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