Osama bin Laden asked that Al Qaeda form hit squads to kill President Obama and General David Petraeus, but that Vice President Biden be spared because Biden is "totally unprepared for the presidency" and making him president by killing Obama would "lead the U.S. into a crisis."
In a 45-page letter to a newly promoted al Qaeda lieutenant in May 2010, part of a trove of documents found in bin Laden's Pakistan compound that were placed online Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, bin Laden tells him he had asked his predecessor to put together two teams in Pakistan and Afghanistan to target Petraeus and Obama during their visits "and target the aircraft of either one of them."
"They are not to target visits by U.S. Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Gates, Joints Chiefs of Staff [Chairman] Mullen, or the Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Holbrooke," wrote bin Laden. "The groups will remain on the lookout for Obama or Petraeus."
"The reason for concentrating on them is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency for the remainder of the term, as it is the norm over there. Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis."
"As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour in this last year of the war, and killing him would alter the war's path."
Much of the rest of the letter, one of 17 documents released today, is devoted to Osama's micromanagement of al Qaeda affairs, and his regrets that al Qaeda has lost the affection of Muslims because its regional affiliates had killed so many Muslim civilians.
According to bin Laden, 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan "filled Muslims with sympathy toward their fellow Mujahidin." But "after the war expanded and the Mujahidin spread out into many regions, some of the brothers became totally absorbed in fighting out local enemies, and more mistakes have been made."
"Clear boundaries need to be established so that no Muslims fall victim except when it is absolutely necessary," wrote bin Laden.
He also expresses his desire for al Qaeda leaders to leave the Pakistani border region to escape U.S. drone attacks.
"I had mentioned in several previous messages," wrote bin Laden, "the importance of the exit from Waziristan of the brother leaders, especially the ones that have media exposure. I stress this matter to you and they you choose distant locations to which to move them, away from aircraft photography and bombardment, while taking all security precautions."
According to an analysis of the documents by the Center for Combating Terrorism, the late terror leader was frustrated at his own inability to control the violent jihadi movement he helped create, especially when it came to regional affiliates of al Qaeda.
Bin Laden was angry at his "seeming inability to exercise control" over regional actors whose attacks often claimed Muslim lives, according to the Center, which bin Laden believed hurt the reputation of al Qaeda in the Muslim world. The Center recently posted the original Arabic-language notes on its website.
"Rather than a source of strength, bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the 'affiliates,' including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims," the CTC's analysis says. "He was at pains advising them to abort domestic attacks and… instead focus on the United States, 'our desired goal.'"
American officials have repeatedly said that the core of al Qaeda, formerly led by bin Laden and now headed by his old deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been considerably weakened in recent years, highlighted by the death of bin Laden himself at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs last May. But National Intelligence Director James Clapper said as recently as this January that the terror organization's affiliates, most prominently in Yemen and Somalia, have emerged as some of the greatest threats to the American homeland.
According to the CTC, before bin Laden's death, the senior leadership in al Qaeda was split on how to deal with affiliates. Some wanted to distance themselves completely from any group that acted in al Qaeda's name without first consulting them. Another side believed it was important to include the affiliates into al Qaeda's cause regardless of some of their more questionable operational choices. Bin Laden himself, the CTC says, made up a third party: the one who simply wanted to keep the communication lines open so he could urge restraint, "without granting formal unity with al Qaeda."
Zawahiri appears to have ignored bin Laden's concerns once he took the reins of al Qaeda, as he was the one to formally announce an alliance between core al Qaeda and the domestically-violent Somalia-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab.
The documents also show direct communications between bin Laden and several top terror suspects including American-born Adam Gadahn and the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the CTC said.