Bin Laden, Atiyah, Pakistan, & Awlaki

The NY Times published an important article this morning entitled “Signs that Bin Laden Weighed Seeking Pakistani Protection”.  Here are some of the articles insights I keyed on:

Documents seized at the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed show that he and his aides discussed making a deal with Pakistan in which Al Qaeda would refrain from attacking the country in exchange for protection inside Pakistan

Thoughts: The Pakistani government (as a whole) maybe didn’t know that UBL was in their midst; officially. However, I imagine if AQ considered negotiating with the Pakistani government, then some AQ operatives, maybe Atiyah in fact, maintained contact with elements inside the Pakistani Army and ISI that he considered amenable to AQ’s protection.

Speaking of Atiyah:

the documents highlight the central role played by Atiya Abdul Rahman, the operations chief with whom American officials said Bin Laden discussed a possible truce with Pakistan.

Thoughts: Last week’s poll results discussed who would lead AQ after UBL’s death.  AQ TV leaders were largely credited with leading AQ in the future.  However, discussions of Sayf al- Adel illustrate his key role and suggest (correctly I think) that it’s those that do operations more than those that talk about operations who will lead AQ in the future.  I believe Adel and Atiyah are key to AQ Central’s future operations and essential glue to AQ’s global affiliates.

Mr. Rahman 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. That group, known as 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.

Thoughts: Two issues emanate from this key quote:

  1. American media pundits and terrorism analysts (the tail) helped promote Awlaki in the minds of Americans and AQ (the dog). Endless punditry on Awlaki’s Internet statements increased Awlaki’s profile communicating to AQ, “the Americans are really freaking out about Awlaki so maybe we should promote him.”  I still think Awlaki’s role in planning operations justifies his removal.  However, ePundits promoted iJihad through their media race to anoint AQ’s next Bin Laden.
  2. UBL didn’t approve of Awlaki’s ascension.  This revelation may be one of the most important strategic communication messages for counterterrorism efforts.  Did UBL think Awlaki lacked experience? Maybe Awlaki needed to increase his ideological credibility? Or was Awlaki outshining AQ’s top dog?  Hopefully, UBL’s disapproval of Awlaki will curb his recruitment value for AQ wannabes.


  1. Interesting post! It’s worth noting that ‘Atiyyatullah is both a reported operational leader and a “media” leader in the sense that he’s recorded some video and audio messages and has been a prolific writer as well of essays and monographs.

    • A very fair point on Atiyah. I’m not saying the more operational folks don’t show up in videos, etc.
      I was hoping to emphasize, based on the results of the poll, it appears many have been drawn heavily to Zawahiri and Awlaki because of their sustained media presence.
      Meanwhile, I think the lightly covered AQ operators, such as Atiyah and Adel, have a much more significant role. I think these are the people analysts should be examining while also being cautious not to promote them.
      As for writing, I think that is an important point. I wonder if any of the Jihadica guys have ever posted on the Atiyah monographs? Have you posted on them at the Occident?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>