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The ongoing study of files recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound revealed that he wanted to plan another 9/11-scale attack on the US, which he hoped would shock the US into ending its presence in the Middle East.
As information from the files is studied, it is becoming increasingly clear to US officials that bin Laden remained very involved in Al Qaeda's operations from his hiding spot in Abbottabad. It remains to be seen, however, if this will convince Pakistani officials that the 9/11 mastermind was more than an "out-of-touch figurehead" whose presence deep inside Pakistan was of little consequence, as they have suggested.
Citing bin Laden's handwritten journal and information gleaned from computer files recovered in the May 2 raid, US officials told the Associated Press that the Saudi-born terrorist calculated how many Americans he thought would have to die in order for the US to leave the Arab world and decided that the small attacks since 9/11 would not be enough – that thousands had to die at once, like they did in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Bin Laden was cognizant of US counterterrorism defenses and educated his followers on how to evade them, according to the AP. He also urged them to focus plots not just on New York City, but other large cities, such as Los Angeles, and smaller cities throughout the country. He insisted they consider trains as a target, not just planes.
The files show that bin Laden was involved in every terror plot in the past year that the US knew about, including those in Europe that had the continent on alert for weeks. He was also in contact with Al Qaeda franchises that the US thought were working independently, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), although it does not seem like he was able to coordinate the various franchises' activities.
The first clues to bin Laden's continued role in Al Qaeda emerged May 5, when US officials revealed that bin Laden had wanted to stage an attack on the US rail system, possibly on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Further analysis has revealed bin Laden's unexpectedly high level of involvement in Al Qaeda in recent years, contrasting with initial reports that his capture would change little about the terrorist organization's work. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, Al Qaeda's primacy was already on the wane and the fact that bin Laden was still at large was mostly a symbol of defiance.
“Whether bin Laden provided material assistance or not to actual terrorist attacks, his act of survival provided spiritual sustenance to supporters,” Ray Takeyh, a Georgetown professor and senior fellow in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Monitor. “That’s been removed."
John J. LeBeau, a former CIA senior operations officer, told the news agency that it was still too early to say what bin Laden's role was in his final years. "The information needs to be filtered, vetted, and cross-checked before you can say anything with any authority," said Mr. LeBeau, a professor of security studies at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Germany.
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