Bin Laden wanted to improve al-Qaida’s image

(Reuters)

As Osama bin Laden watched his terrorist organization get picked apart, he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem. His group was killing too many Muslims and that was bad for business. The West was winning the public relations fight. All his old comrades were dead and he barely knew their replacements.

Faced with these challenges, bin Laden, who hated the United States and decried capitalism, considered a most American of business strategies. Like Blackwater, ValuJet and Philip Morris, perhaps what al-Qaida really needed was a fresh start under a new name.

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group’s full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word “jihad,” bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to “claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam.” Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

The letter, which was undated, was discovered among bin Laden’s recent writings. Navy SEALs stormed his compound and killed him before any name change could be made. The letter was described by senior administration, national security and other U.S. officials only on condition of anonymity because the materials are sensitive. The documents portray bin Laden as a terrorist chief executive, struggling to sell holy war for a company in crisis.

At the White House, the documents were taken as positive reinforcement for President Barack Obama’s effort to eliminate religiously charged words from the government’s language of terrorism. Words like “jihad,” which also has a peaceful religious meaning, are out. “Islamic radical” has been nixed in favor of “terrorist” and “mass murderer.” Though former members of President George W. Bush’s administration have backed that effort, it also has drawn ridicule from critics who said the president was being too politically correct.

“The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al-Qaida under enormous strain,” Obama said Wednesday in his speech to the nation on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. “Bin Laden expressed concern that al-Qaida had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed and that al-Qaida has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam, thereby draining more widespread support.”

Bin Laden wrote his musings about renaming al-Qaida as a letter but, as with many of his writings, the recipient was not identified. Intelligence officials have determined that bin Laden only communicated with his most senior commanders, including his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and his No. 3, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, according to one U.S. official. Because of the courier system bin Laden used, it’s unclear to U.S. intelligence whether the letter ever was sent.

Al-Yazid was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year. Zawahri has replaced bin Laden as head of al-Qaida.

In one letter sent to Zawahri within the past year or so, bin Laden said al-Qaida’s image was suffering because of attacks that have killed Muslims, particularly in Iraq, officials said. In other journal entries and letters, they said, bin Laden wrote that he was frustrated that many of his trusted longtime comrades, whom he’d fought alongside in Afghanistan, had been killed or captured.

Using his courier system, bin Laden could still exercise some operational control over al-Qaida. But increasingly the men he was directing were younger and inexperienced. Frequently, the generals who had vouched for these young fighters were dead or in prison. And bin Laden, unable to leave his walled compound and with no phone or Internet access, was annoyed that he did not know so many people in his own organization.

The U.S. has essentially completed the review of documents taken from bin Laden’s compound, officials said, though intelligence analysts will continue to mine the data for a long time.

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Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

5 Responses to "Bin Laden wanted to improve al-Qaida’s image"

  1. Carl Nemo  June 24, 2011 at 6:47 am

    “he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem.” …OBL… extract from article

    How in the hell do you ‘market’ terrorism? What, start a webzine and have terrorist of the month foldouts, showing ‘sexy’ female bombers all guzzied out in burkas and fanny packs filled with C4…? This is the most wacked out thing I’ve ever read and proves that OBL’s brain must have turned to mush, if this release is believable.

    Ten years, a trillion bucks along with a trashed U.S. economy to get one man and a handful of others; ie., top level planners over the period Yep, we have the best and the brightest running our military ops…no?!

    I still have a problem with this SOCOM insertion to get the man. 23 SEALS debarked on “two choppers”. One had to be destroyed due to a malfunction. Then all ’23’ exited on the remaining chopper along with OBL’s body, making the load 24 not including the pilots, unless they too were the pilots. It seems they loaded everything but the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’ onto this obviously overloaded chopper making their way back to sea; ie. computers, software, diaries, letters, pornography and the ‘kitchen sink’ of course. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • SDR  June 24, 2011 at 9:07 am

      Carl need to pay attention to the details. If memory serves, the Seals brought in another helicopter, (a modified CH-47 or a variant?) to lift out the other Seals. My guess would be they had one or two extra in high orbit near the strike site or maybe it was flown in from Afghanistan? After all, they were on the ground for 40 minutes….

      “Ten years, a trillion bucks along with a trashed …” I don’t think this statement is presented accurately. Lets review some history, Bush come into office when a surplus was present and the CBO projected continued surpluses. Bush starts two wars, one righteous one illegal, and funds them off the books with borrowed money from foreign governments . The economy starts to turn and GW and the Republicans cut taxes, give a refund to those not needing it (myself included here). Then GW and the Republicans continue these actions the following years as the economy more steeply tanks. The late in his second term, the Mortgage market starts to go belly up and Bush and the Republicans make no attempt to stop it. All the while the economy just continued to go down the tubes. So, to sum it up GW and the Republicans took a surplus and projected surpluses for years to come and did what?

      • Carl Nemo  June 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

        Thanks SDR for your CH-47 input. Possibly I missed the article that mentioned such support, leaving me in a vacuum as to how all these bodies left the area on one of the original mission choppers.

        Your summation of the past ten years is basically accurate and I agree. At this point I loathe both parties, since they’ve merged into one in terms of their mission to scuttle the U.S. and turn us into simply a minor plantation among the greater global community of such, all serving the needs of billionaire soon to become trillionaire planetary oligarchs.

        Carl Nemo **==

  2. rick  June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may have been able to help out on that image issue.

  3. woody188  June 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Seems like he was still thinking like a CIA asset.

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