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Last of Declassified al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden Materials Released by US Intelligence Community

bin Laden wrote in a letter, citing “the torture of the brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib

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Al Qaeda
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has posted a tweet after the release of a 19-page Al Qaeda report in Arabic, which claimed Iran supported the extremist group before the 9/11 attacks. VOA

Right up until the end, al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden remained focused on striking the United States, its Western allies and governments seen as U.S. proxies, and he was leery of distractions that could weaken the terror group’s resolve.

“America was never as hated and detested by all the people in the world as it is now,” bin Laden wrote in a letter, citing “the torture of the brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.”

“Everyone should forget about his disagreements and focus his efforts on eliminating the bigger adversary,” he said in a separate, undated letter to a Shaikh Mahmud.

50 documents released

The letters, among almost 50 declassified documents released Thursday by the U.S. intelligence community, shed few new insights into bin Laden’s thinking as he hid in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Rather, the last of three installments of material captured during the 2011 raid that killed the terror mastermind helps complete a picture of al-Qaida at a critical juncture, as it tried to spread its influence during the early days of the so-called Arab Spring.

“The declassified documents reveal bin Laden’s strategy for upending global politics through protracted violent conflict,” according to one of the analysts who worked on the documents.

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Hoping for U.S. involvement

According to the documents, bin Laden saw the Arab Spring as a “transitional phase” and wrote of the need to “portray our vision on the revolutions in the Arab world.”

But the focus was still on pushing Arab regimes with good ties to the West toward a tipping point, hoping the U.S. would intervene and create an opening for the jihadist movement.

“What you’re seeing then is the early parts of its strategy that then got this unexpected lift,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “They’re looking at how to disperse fighters and cause chaos and suddenly the whole region is plunged into chaos.”

“Jihadists could actually get a sizeable foothold without the U.S. stepping in,” he said, allowing al-Qaida to change its trajectory following bin Laden’s death into an even more dangerous threat.

“It can operate much more openly now,” said Gartenstein-Ross. “It has much more of a presence across multiple theaters.”

Sons warned in letters

While bin Laden may not have been able to envision the threat his terror group eventually would pose, other documents show he was keenly aware of his security environment.

Throughout, he remained deeply suspicious of Iran, referring to what he called “tyrant prisons,” while noting how Tehran was hosting members of his family.

In a letter to his sons Uthman and Muhammad, bin Laden warned of the lengths to which Iran might go to track their movements.

“Remember any questionable action or observation in any hospital in Iran,” he wrote. “If they inject you with a shot, this shot might be loaded with a tiny chip.”

It was not the first time the al-Qaida leader had worried about efforts to track family members after visits to Iran.

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Worried about tracking devices

In a letter released last year as part of the second tranche of declassified materials, bin Laden worried that tracking devices may have been implanted in a filling his wife got while visiting a dentist in Iran, although he blamed the U.S.

“The size of the chip is about the length of a grain of wheat and the width of a fine piece of vermicelli,” he wrote.

Yet at other times, as revealed in this last set of documents, the al-Qaida leader’s paranoia appears to give way to optimism, pointing to U.S. failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter to his sister Um Abd-al-Rahman, bin Laden even expresses hope that he will be able to see her soon.

“The media released the speech of President Obama that he would withdraw the American forces from Afghanistan after six months,” he wrote. “Matters will be relieved and our movement will be easier.”

Still other documents reveal deliberations on matters both mundane and, perhaps, surprising.

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Image, branding a concern

In one letter to Abu Muhammad Salah, bin Laden addresses what he calls “the top secret matter” of al-Qaida militants “in their unfortunate celibacy” due to a lack of available wives.

“We have no objection to clarifying to the brothers that they may, in such conditions, masturbate,” he wrote.

Still other discussions touched on the use of hostages, the forging relationships with selected media outlets and persistent concerns about al-Qaida’s image and branding.

“It continues to show how connected bin Laden was to the overall al-Qaida network even though his Internet access was limited,” said Gartenstein-Ross. “He knew that he could direct strategy and would be listened to.”(VOA)

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ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)