CIA releases tens of thousands of docs captured in bin Laden raid

Tens of thousands of documents seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan hideout in 2011, which resulted in the terrorist mastermind's death, were released by the CIA yesterday.  The documents are a treasure trove of information about al-Qaeda and bin Laden's role in the terrorist group.

The agency made the documents available earlier to the Long War Journal's Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, who summarized the contents:

Al Qaeda has survived more than sixteen years of war. The group has failed to execute another 9/11-style attack inside the US, despite bin Laden's continued desire to bring mass terror to America's shores. Numerous plots have been thwarted by counterterrorism and intelligence professionals. And bin Laden's organization has suffered setbacks, including the loss of key leaders.

But al Qaeda has adapted and in some ways grown, spreading its insurgency footprint in countries where it had little to no capacity for operations in 2001. The newly-released files help to explain how al Qaeda groomed supporters everywhere from West Africa to South Asia.

Many of the talking points employed by the Obama administration about al-Qaeda proved, if not false, then certainly designed to give an inaccurate picture of the terrorist group.  Far from being dead, AQ patiently built up numerous networks across the Middle East in the years following 9/11, and at the time of bin Laden's death, it was far larger than it was on 9/11.

The Abbottabad repository confirms that bin Laden was anything but retired when U.S. forces knocked down his door.  He was not a mere figurehead.  During the final months of his life, Osama bin Laden was communicating with subordinates around the globe.  Recovered memos discuss the various committees and lieutenants who helped bin Laden manage his sprawling empire of terror.

In fact, al Qaeda's network was a great deal more cohesive than was widely suspected in May 2011. Groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Shabaab (in Somalia) regularly sought and received the al Qaeda master's direction. Other organizations, such as the Pakistani Taliban, are featured throughout the documents as well. And al Qaeda continued to maintain a significant footprint inside Afghanistan, relocating personnel to the country in 2010 and fighting alongside the Taliban.

Bin Laden wasn't always pleased with the course his subordinates pursued and his men debated a variety of matters internally. The al Qaeda master sometimes instructed his followers to hide their allegiance to him, calculating that it would cause additional problems if their fealty was acknowledged. The al Qaeda founder also viewed the world through a conspiratorial lens, often misjudging his main adversary: America.

Perhaps of most interest is AQ's relationship with Iran.

One never-before-seen 19-page document contains a senior jihadist's assessment of the group's relationship with Iran. The author explains that Iran offered some "Saudi brothers" in al Qaeda "everything they needed," including "money, arms" and "training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf." Iranian intelligence facilitated the travel of some operatives with visas, while sheltering others. Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, an influential ideologue prior to 9/11, helped negotiate a safe haven for his jihadi comrades inside Iran. But the author of the file, who is clearly well-connected, indicates that al Qaeda's men violated the terms of the agreement and Iran eventually cracked down on the Sunni jihadists' network, detaining some personnel. Still, the author explains that al Qaeda is not at war with Iran and some of their "interests intersect," especially when it comes to being an "enemy of America."

Bin Laden's files show the two sides have had heated disagreements. There has been hostility between the two. Al Qaeda even penned a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei demanding the release of family members held in Iranian custody. Other files show that al Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat to exchange for its men and women. Bin Laden himself considered plans to counter Iran's influence throughout the Middle East, which he viewed as pernicious.

However, bin Laden urged caution when it came to threatening Iran. In a previously released letter, bin Laden described Iran as al Qaeda's "main artery for funds, personnel, and communication." And despite their differences, Iran continued to provide crucial support for al Qaeda's operations.

The Obama administration knew that Iran was paying and training al-Qaeda operatives to strike "American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf" – by any definition, an act of war – and still agreed to a nuclear deal with the terrorist state. 

How many times have we been told since 9/11 that the Shiites in Iran would never work with al-Qaeda Sunnis?  These documents make those who spouted that nonsense look like idiots.

As Fox News points out, much of this information was uncovered by the 9/11 Commission:

The unsigned 19-page report is dated in the Islamic calendar year 1428 – 2007 – and offers what appears to be a history of al-Qaida's relationship with Iran. It says Iran offered al-Qaida fighters "money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia."

This coincides with an account offered by the U.S. government's 9/11 Commission, which said Iranian officials met with al-Qaida leaders in Sudan in either 1991 or early 1992. The commission said al-Qaida militants later received training in Lebanon from the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which Iran backs to this day.

U.S. prosecutors also said al-Qaida had the backing of Iran and Hezbollah in their 1998 indictment of bin Laden following the al-Qaida truck bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Al-Qaida's apparent siding with Iran may seem surprising today, given the enmity Sunni extremists like those of the Islamic State group have for Shiites.

But bin Laden had run out of options by 1991 – the one-time fighter against the Soviets in Afghanistan had fallen out with Saudi Arabia over his opposition to the ultraconservative kingdom hosting U.S. troops during the Gulf War. Meanwhile, Iran had become increasingly nervous about America's growing military expansion in the Mideast.

"Osama is dead, and GM is alive" was a campaign slogan for President Obama during the 2012 contest.  What his administration failed to mention was that Osama may have been killed, but the organization he left behind was bigger, and in many ways more deadly, than the terrorist group that struck America on 9/11.

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