Osama bin Laden often disapproved of what so-called “affiliate” organizations were doing and in fact had very little, if any, control over their actions, according to declassified documents obtained by the U.S. during the raid on his residence a year ago.
Bin Laden “was not, as many thought, the puppet master pulling the strings that set in motion jihadi groups around the world,” an analysis by the Combating Terrorism Center which posted the files on their website said. Bin Laden “was burdened by what he saw as their incompetence.”
If these affiliated militant groups kept killing Muslim civilians, bin Laden wrote in a letter shortly before the Navy SEAL raid that killed him, “they will spoil [things and] alienate the people, who could be won over by enemy after enemy…. Our brothers are making things worse by opening themselves up to evil and hostility!”
Some commentators, like Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room, have argued that the U.S. government’s declassification of these documents showing bin Laden’s disapproval of supposedly allied militant groups is an “attempt to sow discord within the ranks of al-Qaida’s remaining sympathizers.”
But the Obama administration’s primary legal justification for, by example, waging a secret drone war in Yemen against “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” or AQAP, is that the group is intimately tied at the operational level with al-Qaeda. Experts on Yemen have disputed that claim, but these documents are further evidence that al-Qaeda is loosely tied with these groups, if at all, and often fundamentally disagrees with their actions and strategy.