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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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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
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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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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)