WASHINGTON - Dogged by American drone-strikes, slain terror mastermind Osama bin Laden had planned getting most of Al-Qaeda terrorists out of Waziristan, according to his seized letters which were made public.
According to declassified documents released by the US, it has emerged that Osama bin Laden spent his last days in the Abbottabad compound similar to how Hitler spent inside a bunker in Berlin.
The documents claim that in his final days, Osama was still ordering attack after attack on "only the Americans," but it wasn’t clear if any of his orders were being carried out.
“I'm reminded of the final days of Adolf Hitler in the bunker in Berlin, when he was giving orders for divisions and armies to be moved around and those divisions and armies didn't exist,” ABC News quoted former White House counter-terror advisor Richard Clarke, as saying.
Documents released by the Combating Terror Centre at West Point showed bin Laden asking for updates on a plot "using poison" that was being planned by one Qaeda team in Yemen, just days before he was killed in a US raid in May 2011.
It has also emerged that bin Laden sought 10 new recruits who were willing to "study aviation" and "conduct suicide operations," apparently in plans for a second 9/11-style attack.
Bin Laden wanted Qaeda to focus on the US and not waste time and resources attacking other enemies such as Britain or trying to overthrow governments in the Muslim world.
"Even though we have the chance to attack the British, we should not waste our effort to do so but concentrate on defeating America, which will lead to defeating the others, God willing," reads one letter, which scholars believe was written by bin Laden or a top deputy. "We want to cut this tree at the root. The problem is that our strength is limited, so our best way to cut the tree is to concentrate on sawing the trunk of the tree."
Like any public figures, bin Laden and his advisers were mindful of the media. Adam Gadahn, one of bin Laden's spokesmen, provided a summary of his view of US TV cable news. "From the professional point of view, they are all on one level except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too," he wrote.
CNN seemed to be closely collaborating with the US government, but its Arabic version was better, Gadahn wrote. "I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but it has lately fired two of the most famous journalists - Keith Olbermann and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese - because they released some statements that were open for argument," wrote Gadahn, an American citizen. "ABC channel is all right; actually it could be one of the best channels, as far as we are concerned. It is interested in al-Qa'ida issues, particularly the journalist Brian Ross, who is specialized in terrorism," Gadahn wrote.
Bin Laden himself mentioned CBS as a possible, unbiased network. Gadahn didn't know enough about it but wrote that the show "60 Minutes" has a good reputation. "In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages," Gadahn wrote.
Bin Laden was under pressure to reform al-Qaeda's image. One unidentified confidant wrote a letter to bin Laden saying the terrorist group was losing support in the Muslim world. The letter-writer urged that Qaeda not conduct operations in the Arabian peninsula, which includes Yemen, even when they are directed against US interests.
"We think that the best places and most effective places for attacking the head of the snake are the locations in which it explicitly got involved militarily, such as Afghanistan and Iraq," the letter reads. "Concentrating efforts in those areas is better than dispersing them and prevents the harm that could accompany them."
Attacks inside Muslim countries, the letter-writer says, have hurt many innocent Muslims. Governments have responded swiftly by locking up supporters, cracking down on jihadi finances and even hurting legitimate charities. "The jihadi stream lost many of its honest and faithful scholars and preachers who defended jihad and adopted it causes," the letter-writer wrote.
The terrorist group was apparently awash with divisive debates about tactics and strategy, as senior leadership couldn’t decide on how to move forward, according to a cache of letters. Among the documents is an April 2011 letter from bin Laden responding to the Arab Spring, he considered a "formidable event" in the modern history of Muslims. He mentioned the need for "inciting the people who have not revolted yet, and encouraging them to get against the rulers and the methods."
Laden wanted Qaeda's North Africa branch in 2011 to spare the lives of French hostages until France held elections a year later, according to a letter recovered from his compound and published Thursday.
In a note dated April 26, 2011, only a week before he was gunned down in a nighttime raid by US Navy commandos in Pakistan, Bin Laden discussed the fate of the French hostages in a letter mostly devoted to the Arab Spring.
He writes that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), known for kidnapping foreigners in the Sahel region, should keep in mind that Libyans had a favorable view of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, because of France's role in backing rebels fighting to overthrow Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
For the French hostages held by AQIM, he said he wanted to warn them against killing them "due to what will follow of negative reflections, after it became evident that most of the common people (in Libya) are supporting Sarkozy," Bin Laden wrote in one of 17 classified documents released by the US government.
"So if we need to kill them then that should be after the end of Libyan events and their developments," he writes, according to an English translation of the letter written in Arabic.
The Al-Qaeda mastermind suggests to refrain from killing the French captives "until the elections" in France in the spring of 2012.
He adds that "if that is difficult then they should exchange half of them and keep the other half which should be the higher ranking and the more important ones, and if that also is difficult then they should at a minimum keep the most important man of them till the French elections."
Bin Laden urged that any negotiations over the hostages should "not be public" and that AQIM should "place a time limit on it so that the French do not postpone the exchange."
Since September 2010, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has been holding several French nationals abducted from a uranium mine run by the French firm Areva at Arlit in northern Niger.
The group is holding a total of 19 hostages.