by Florian Flade
The New York Times´Mark Mazetti is reporting about new details that emerged from the documents and data seized by US Navy SEALs during the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama Bin Laden on May 2.
US intelligence sources claim the Al-Qaida leader was considering seeking a peace agreement with the Pakistani government in exchange for protection. „Messages between Bin Laden and his top operations chief over the past year, provide the first suggestion that Bin Laden considered Pakistan’s government amenable to a bargain that would ensure the safety of top Qaeda leaders“, the NYT´s article reads.
The newspaper further notes: „The officials emphasized that they had found no evidence that such a proposal, which one American official said was in the “discussion phase,” was ever raised with Pakistani military or intelligence operatives.“
The material found inside Bin Laden´s hideout also shows, the NYT claims, that the late al-Qaida leader was in direct contact with the Libyan al-Qaida commander Sheikh Atiyyatullah al-Libi with whom Bin Laden discussed the possibility of a truce with the Pakistani state. Al-Libi who is originally from the Libyan town of Misrata, took over the position of al-Qaida´s Chief of Operations after a US drone strike killed the Egyptian Mustafa Abu al-Yazid last year.
It is not surprising to hear Atiyyatullah, who was highlighted by Al-Qaida in some recent video tapes, was communicating with Osama Bin Laden via couriers. The German Jihadi Rami Makanesi – recently sentenced to 4 years in prison – told investigators he had met with Atiyyatullah whom he described as Al-Qaida´s Head of Afghanistan Operations. Attiyatullah, Makanesi claimed, was the only one in al-Qaida´s North Waziristan network who was in direct contact with Bin Laden.
Now the New York Times states Atiyyatullah was also the one in communicating with al-Qaida affiliates and branches around the world. „Last year (Attiyatullah) notified Bin Laden of a request by the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to install Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric, as the leader of the group in Yemen“, the NYT piece reads, „Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, apparently thought Mr. Awlaki’s knowledge of the United States and his status as an Internet celebrity might help the group’s operations and fund-raising efforts.“
American intelligence officials say, Bin Laden declined that request and „decided that the group’s leadership should remain unchanged“.
This information is quite interesting given the fact that numerous media outlets have labeled Awlaki „The Next Bin Laden“. It seems the al-Qaida leader himself did not like the idea of the „Internet-Bin Laden“ or „Youtube-Bin Laden“ playing a more significant role in the al-Qaida structure. If the information turns out to be true this could also mean, Anwar al-Awlaki might have been willing to finally join al-Qaida officially.
I doubt Bin Laden was afraid of Awlaki´s fame and a possible successor – as Peter Bergen pointed out in a recent hearing on Al-Qaida: We care about Awlaki because he speaks fluent English. If he was only preaching in Arabic…nobody would really care.
Al-Qaida´s main support base still lies within the Arabic speaking Jihadi community – Awlaki´s popularity there is limited. He is not seen as „The Next Bin Laden“.