Saturday, May 07, 2011


A few right-wing bloggers have picked up on this story of (alleged) betrayal from Britain's Daily Mail:

Osama Bin Laden's deputy led U.S. troops to the Al Qaeda leader's hideout so he could take over the terrorist group, it was claimed today....

The plot to get rid of Bin Laden began when [Egyptian Ayman Al] Zawahiri's faction persuaded bin Laden to leave the protection of the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Instead, they convinced him to set up home in Abbottabad, where he was finally killed by U.S. Navy SEALS earlier this week, a regional source told the Al-Watan newspaper.

Zawahiri's Egyptian ally Saif Al Adel is said to have moved to Pakistan last autumn as Al Qaeda's 'chief of staff' after a period of house arrest in Iran.

With his return, Al Qaeda's Egyptian faction then hatched a plan to dispose of Saudi-born Bin Laden after irresolvable divisions developed between the terrorist group's top two men.

There's just one problem with this story: the timeline. If the plot began with "persuad[ing] bin Laden to leave the protection of the tribal areas," that wasn't "last autumn," it was a long time ago, if this (from The New York Times) is true:

Two Pakistani officials with knowledge of the continuing Pakistani investigation say that Bin Laden's Yemeni wife, one of three wives now in Pakistani custody since the raid on Monday, told investigators that before moving in 2005 to the mansion in Abbottabad where he was eventually killed, Bin Laden had lived with his family for nearly two and a half years in a small village, Chak Shah Mohammad, a little more than a mile southeast of the town of Haripur, on the main Abbottabad highway.

In retrospect, one of the officials said, this means that Bin Laden left Pakistan's rugged tribal region sometime in 2003 and had been living in northern urban regions since then.

So ... what? They lured him out of the mountains eight years ago -- then waited all this time to lead the Americans to him? That's some slo-mo power struggle.

Hugh Hewitt thinks Zawahiri's enemies planted this story, while Ed Morrissey just thinks it's useful for us to have this out there:

Not only does it keep the enemy in the position of underestimating our capabilities, it's likely to start an internal war within the AQ network if it really starts to catch hold among the terrorist rank and file. It makes a post-Osama power struggle a little more likely, and at the very least increases the chances of AQ conducting a purge that will weaken their network significantly.

I hope Ed Morrissey is right. (I can't believe I just typed that sentence.) I hope there'll be more factional squabbling in Al Qaeda as a result of this story (even though it seems certain that it's false). Hugh Hewitt notes that Lawrence Wright, the New Yorker writer who wrote the acclaimed book The Looming Tower, has described tensions between Egyptians and non-Egyptians in Al Qaeda. Rachel Maddow fans may have heard the same thing on her show last Tuesday, as she quoted a New York Times op-ed by an FBI interrogator who also wrote about tensions within Al Qaeda between Egyptians and non-Egyptians. (Hugh Hewitt and Rachel Maddow agreeing? This is way too much comity for me.)

I'm happy that no one on the right (at least so far) is drawing the conclusion that this just proves Obama didn't accomplish anything special, because Al Qaeda let him win.

By the way, if the report about bin Laden's wife is true, please note when bin Laden decamped to Pakistan: 2003, just as the U.S. was, um, turning its attention elsewhere.


(Edited days after the fact to insert the missing "best" in the post title.)

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