Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?
May 3, 2012
This report is a study of 17 de-classified documents captured during the Abbottabad raid and released to the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). They consist of electronic letters or draft letters, totaling 175 pages in the original Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation. The earliest is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011. These internal al-Qa`ida communications were authored by several leaders, most prominently Usama bin Ladin. In contrast to his public statements that focused on the injustice of those he believed to be the “enemies” of Muslims, namely corrupt “apostate” Muslim rulers and their Western “overseers,” the focus of Bin Ladin’s private letters is Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi “brothers”. He is at pain advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and focus on the United States, “our desired goal.” Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 de-classified documents. “Letters from Abbottabad” is an initial exploration and contextualization of 17 documents that will be the grist for future academic debate and discussion.
A note on translation:
The quality of the English translation provided to the CTC is not adequate throughout. When the translation was deemed inadequate, quotations cited in this report have either been amended or translated anew by Nelly Lahoud. Furthermore, the conversion of the dating of the letters from the Hijri to the Gregorian calendar is inaccurate in some places. The Appendix provides corrected dates to some of the letters, along with some pointers on how some letters relate to others. For those wishing to conduct their own analysis of the documents, it is highly recommended to refer to the original Arabic documents, not the translations.