Osama bin Laden maintained operational control of Al Qaeda from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Saturday, citing material found in the compound.
“This compound in Abbottabad was an active command-and-control center for Al Qaeda’s leader,” the official said at a Pentagon briefing. “He was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions within Al Qaeda.”
Until recently, many analysts believed bin Laden’s operational control over Al Qaeda eroded in recent years due to his being in hiding and increased decentralization of those planning terror plots. Some said bin Laden had become little more than an inspirational figure as well as an occasional propagandist for the anti-American terror movement.
But the official said that was not the case, and the intelligence proves it: “It was entirely unsurprising to us and it was always our working assumption.”
The official said intelligence analysts are still looking at the massive amount of information seized from the compound, but would not discuss whether any of this has led to information about the whereabouts of other Al Qaeda leaders, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group’s No. 2 and bin Laden’s presumed successor.
“There’s actually so much material that we’re still trying to quantify it,” the official said, noting that much of what has already been found remains classified.
So, the United States did not just kill a symbolic figurehead of al Qaeda. Rather, it killed a leader with a great deal of tactical and operational involvement in the al Qaeda’s terrorist operations, and found a veritable treasure trove of information in the process. Not a bad day’s work at all. About the only thing I have to argue with is the disclosure that we have found a veritable treasure trove of information; if there is any way possible to prevent al Qaeda from knowing what we have gotten our hands on, I would like for us to be able to keep that information away from them.