Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— In his final years, Osama bin Laden was delusional, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen tells Newsmax based on reporting for his new book.
“I don’t think that he was delusional in a sort of psychotic sense,” Bergen says. “He was out of touch after six years basically living in probably two rooms of his house. He’s calling for attacks on America. The people in al-Qaida were saying well, you know, that’s all very well, but we just don’t have the resources to do that. He was pushing for things that just weren’t very plausible.”
Osama bin Laden's image hangs over a coffee shop in the West Bank with the Arabic slogan: 'Osama bin Laden, the warrior, the martyr.'
Based on interviews with key players, Bergen’s masterful book “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad” hits bookstores this week. Bergen was the first television correspondent to interview bin Laden back in 1997. He provides a gripping minute-by-minute account of the events leading up to President Obama’s decision to kill bin Laden and of the raid by Navy SEALs.
Bergen is convinced the Pakistani government was not involved in hiding bin Laden.
“Having spent 15 years working on this guy, I intuitively knew that was going to be the case because this guy was very paranoid and secretive and a disciplined person who wasn’t going to tell anybody that didn’t need to know,” Bergen says. “One of the things that I found out is that the people in the compound themselves didn’t know that bin Laden was living there.”
In fact, “The courier’s wife living in the compound knew there was a strange Arab but was told by her husband never to ask questions,” Bergen says. “She only saw him once in the almost six years he was living there.”
Bergen points out that on two occasions, al-Qaida tried to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharref.
As for the state of al-Qaida, Bergen says that for some time now the terrorist organization has been losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world.
“Their own actions sort of undercut all of their principal claims that they were defending Muslims, when so many of their victims were Muslim civilians,” Bergen says. “That was widely understood in the Muslim world. So this group was in bad shape even before the Arab Spring.”
Then the Arab Spring changed the landscape.
“One of the striking things in the TV coverage is that not one American flag was burned, not one Israeli flag was burned,” Bergen says. “Al-Qaida ideas and bin Laden’s ideas were just completely irrelevant.”
At the same time, bin Laden was commenting on a range of issues but never on the Arab Spring that was taking place before the eyes of the world.
“That underlined his irrelevance,” Bergen says.
At this point, al-Qaida is in “terrible shape but still has “residual capabilities,” Bergen says. Lone wolves inspired by al-Qaida continue to be a threat.
As the first anniversary of bin Laden’s death approaches, Bergen looks back at all the national security changes since 9/11.
“On 9/11, there was no Transportation Security Administration [TSA],” Bergen notes. “Sixteen people were on the no-fly list on 9/11. Now there are 21,000. There was no Department of Homeland Security. There were a few joint terrorism task forces. Now, there are 100.”
Back then, Bergen says, “The CIA and FBI weren't talking to each other. Now, they are. There are 2,000 intelligence analysts at the FBI, which didn’t have these positions before.”
The result: “America is now a very hard target,” Bergen says.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here.
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