“Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive” was a favorite mantra of the Obama campaign during the 2012 election. The implication was that al-Qaeda was “decimated,” as President Obama said several times.
But the recent release of documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout shows that al-Qaeda, far from being “decimated,” was, in fact, growing even stronger.
The information was deliberately withheld from the American people by President Obama, who released just a few pages of documents in May of 2012, carefully selected to jibe with the administration’s narrative on al-Qaeda.
“The overall narrative that I think was being pushed to the press, and if you look back at the editorials that were done when that trove came out, was an image of bin Laden isolated, he had lost control of this group,” [New York Times reporter] Rukmini Callimachi said during an event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, referring to the 17 hand-picked documents released by the Obama administration in May of 2012.
Her remarks triggered the following question from Kim Dozier, a former top correspondent for the Associated Press and CBS, and current executive editor of the Cipher Brief: “Do you think that was something that was kept from the public’s view because it revealed that there had to be reams of communication going back and forth, which means U.S. intelligence, Western intelligence, was missing this?”
“Think back to when bin Laden was killed. It was 2011, it was right before a major campaign season. I don’t want to underplay the role that the killing of Osama bin Laden had,” said Callimachi. “But I think that that was theorized into something much bigger.”
“The head of the organization has been killed, and now—these are literally quotes that I would get: the organization has been ‘decimated,’ the organization is in ‘disarray,’ the organization is ‘on the run,’” she continued. “At the same time that we were preparing to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed.”
The only thing really surprising here is the lengths to which Obama went to justify pulling troops from Iraq — that he would risk so much just to please his liberal base. Intelligence in this case was cynically manipulated to paint a false picture of American security.
When Callimachi was covering West Africa in 2011, Obama administration officials and others told her that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which had just taken over the northern half of Mali, “was actually not really connected to al Qaeda.”
“The narrative I would get is that . . . it had opportunistically taken the al Qaeda name in order to have prestige and scare people, and that in fact those people were just criminals,” she said.
In 2013, after AQIM had been cleared out of the area, Callimachi began sorting through thousands of files that had been left in the city of Timbuktu. She discovered evidence that “central” al Qaeda commanders were actually “micromanag[ing]” the Malians who the Obama administration had said had no ties to al Qaeda.
“Suddenly, my worldview, which had been informed by officials . . . started to fall apart,” she said. “Suddenly, I was seeing that this group that I was told really had no ties, with no connection . . . was in fact being micromanaged by al Qaeda central.”
Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Thomas Joscelyn, who with Bill Roggio had been advocating for the release of the bin Laden documents for years, said, “That narrative that came out in 2012, we knew immediately was wrong, totally wrong, and was basically a cherry-picked version of what’s going on.”
And now, with the Islamic State in decline, al-Qaeda finds itself very well positioned to emerge as the primary terrorist threat to America once again.
By the way, this story has been embargoed — at least so far — by all major media.