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CIA documents offer insight into Osama bin Laden's mind

CIA documents offer insight into Osama bin Laden's mind
From Al Jazeera - November 14, 2017

Osama bin Laden's secret personal diary, seized during the US Navy Seals raid on his house in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, that ended with his killing, offers an insight into the mind of someone who was once one of the world's most wanted men.

In the al-Qaeda documents, bin Laden comes across as an engaged commentator reacting to current events, not a strategic thinker taking part in shaping and influencing those events from his hideout.

In the tranche of documents released by the US Central Intelligence Agency on November 1, bin Laden shows no global vision or strategy.

The dominant theme of the secret journal is its dissection of the revolts of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, with bin Laden offering little more than commentaries and analyses.

On Libya, for example, he discussed the decision of the longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi of attacking the rebels who were trying to topple his government.

Bin Laden expressed apprehension that Gaddafi might be able to defeat the rebels and emerge victorious.

On a different page, he discussed the possibility of Gaddafi winning the war and of the "hypocritical" West opting to normalise their relations with him.

The Libyan uprising

In the case of Libya, bin Laden was hopeful that the rebels would eventually win.

"The difference between the revolts in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt is that Libya has opened the door for the Mujahedin [to operate in] where as it would take years to have that in Tunisia and Egypt," he wrote.

For bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the disintegration of nation states, chaos and state failure represented a fertile ground to exploit and establish their foothold on.

In the case of Yemen, however, bin Laden expressed reservation that the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country was moving too fast towards its revolution, arguing from the perspective that the Yemeni people are still not ready for such a step.

"We need to think for a long time about Yemen," he wrote.

"Yemen needs at least six months more to raise the awareness of the public.

"Keeping the country in unstable is the best environment to spread the ideas of al-Qaeda and Islam."

Bin Laden suggested that al-Qaeda could speed things up Yemen by "assassinating the Yemeni president", Ali Abdullah Saleh, who later was deposed.

In his secret journal, bin Laden does not offer deeper insights into the events he was commenting on so extensively.

People who knew bin Laden personally during his days in Afghanistan say that the man was neither a religious scholar nor an Islamic thinker.

"Bin Laden was a pious rich businessman who committed himself and his fortune to the cause of jihad as he understood it," a source, who knew bin Laden personally during the 1990s but declined to give his name, told Al Jazeera.

"Because of this background, bin Laden was more of a spiritual inspiration for hardened jihadists than a religious scholar or an ideological thinker.

Biographical question

'Degenerate and immoral'

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