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‘Osama tried to end differences within jihadist movement’

Updated May 21, 2015


A journalist looks at a page on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday.—AFP
A journalist looks at a page on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday.—AFP

WASHINGTON: In a letter to Hakimullah Mehsud, Osama bin Laden advised the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader not to take measures that would further divide an already unwieldy jihadist movement.

The letter the Al Qaeda founder wrote to Mehsud on Dec 4, 2010 is included in 103 documents the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released on Wednesday.

In one of the documents, Bin Laden claims that the jihadi “work in Pakistan is almost self-sufficient”.

“There are many operating groups and local Taliban groups who have joined, and there is Tehreek-i-Taliban or those who did not join (us). Those who did not join are no less than those who have joined (us),” he writes.

But the letter he wrote to Mehsud shows that both he and the TTP leader often worried about the differences within the jihadist movement in Pakistan.

Apparently, Bin Laden was responding to a letter Mehsud had sent to him earlier, listing a set of measures that the TTP leader believed could help organise the movement.

“We looked at the movement list you sent to us, asking us for our opinion. We have previously written to brother Qari (Husayn)... and had asked him to inform you of the matter, but I do not know if he did or not.”

Bin Laden advises Mehsud not to try to “control the movement”, telling him that his experience showed that such moves have a negative impact and would produce results “different to what we need”.

“It will become a reason for the flare-up of many problems that you do not need now,” says the Al Qaeda leader to his TTP counterpart, promising to send him a detailed response later.

In a letter sent earlier, Qari Husayn informs Bin Laden that there were groups and individuals within the jihadist movement who were causing differences and infighting.

Mehsud and Qari Husayn had serious differences and their groups often attacked each other. The documents indicate that the Al Qaeda leader was playing a reconciliatory role between the two TTP leaders.

Qari Husayn was the organiser of TTP’s suicide bombing squads. He was killed on Oct 7, 2010, apparently by a US drone.

Bin Laden’s letter to Mehsud acknowledges that he had planned to send a detailed letter to Husayn but could not, because Husayn had been killed.

Hakimullah Mehsud died on Nov 1, 2013, also by a US drone.

The letters and other documents were part of what US officials called a “treasure trove” that their troops picked up when they invaded Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. The Al Qaeda founder was killed in that attack.

The declassified documents include letters written by members of Bin Laden’s immediate family, who wrote to each other, and correspondence between Al Qaeda chief and other members of his network and leaders of other militant organisations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The US intelligence directorate also released a list of Bin Laden’s digital collection of English-language books, think-tank reports and US government documents, numbering 266 in total. These include history books, war reporting by American journalists like Bob Woodward, articles on military policy analysis and Islamic theology.

The documents were released a week after a prominent US journalist, Seymour Hersh, wrote a 10,000-word piece, questioning the official version of the US raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.

While assessing the militant movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bin Laden says “the mother organisation (Al Qaeda)” had both immigrants and local supporters.

“We have Arabs, Uzbeks, Turks, Turkistanis, Balkans, Russians of all kinds, Germans, and others. Unfortunately, there is so much chaos on the ground,” he says.

“Also, there is a problem with some immigrants, especially the Arab ones... in our jihadi arenas... we suffer from unjustified divisions and alliances, which I call the fake commandants,” he writes.

“This is the case even in our arena in Khurasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan), in spite of being the mother arena and the best arena, as I mentioned before.”

He says that Arab militants “conduct jihad according to their moods... they do not abide by the rules... usually, these people are impulsive and... (when) problems arise they start saying things such as ‘we are marginalised’, if they see, for example, that we did not appoint them fast enough in the positions that they want”.

In Afghanistan, writes the Al Qaeda chief, the Taliban “almost do not need us. We are providing only moral and symbolic support, but in spite of that, our participation is good and important”.

The biggest threat the militants face in the Pak-Afghan region, “is the problem of the spying war and spying aircraft”, says Bin Laden.

“This benefited the enemy greatly and led to the killing of many jihadi cadres, leaders, and others.”

And then “there is the financial problem, which is a problem in jihad whether or not it is a time of hardship”, he adds.

In a July 2010 letter Bin Laden sent to Al Qaeda in Yemen, he urges the group to make peace with the government and focus on the United States.

“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,” he argues.

In a commentary on the situation in the Muslim world, he notes that the uprising in Tunisia had ended the myth that “there could not be a change in the ruling party, aside from one of two means: either a military coup or by the presence of foreign forces”.

He also urges Arabs to learn from the Iranian revolution, “whose leaders insisted on freeing the country of the regime completely”.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2015

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