Al-Libbi Capture Seen as Path to bin Laden

Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz report that this week’s capture of Abu Farraj al-Libbi is viewed as the best chance to capture Osama bin Laden himself.

Capture seen as path to bin Laden (Washington Times, p. 1)

The arrest of al Qaeda’s No. 3 man, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, in Pakistan promises to provide new information on Osama bin Laden’s life on the run and deprives the terror network of its chief operating officer, according to counterterrorism and defense officials. Officials said that if al-Libbi chooses to talk, he is in a position to dish out valuable information about al Qaeda’s current structure, funding sources and attacks in the pipeline. And most importantly, he might provide information that could rekindle leads to bin Laden that have grown cold this year.

Al-Libbi is potentially the best source of information since the March 2003 capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. “As far as an information bonanza, I know that, to this day, we are still getting actionable intelligence from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and he has been in custody for a couple of years now,” a senior defense official said. “The real question is how loyal this guy is to bin Laden. If he’s a die-hard, he may not give up much. If he’s a canary, we could be getting something very soon,” he said.

Al-Libbi had ascended to the al Qaeda inner circle after the arrest of Mohammed, who masterminded the September 11 attacks. Officials said al-Libbi is thought to have had contact with bin Laden since December 2001, when a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan and the terrorist leader fled to Pakistan. U.S. officials have said bin Laden, and his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahri, have spent most of their time on the run. In contrast, al-Libbi had stayed active in carrying out terror attacks until the hunt for him become so intense this summer that he, too, went underground.

We shall see. My guess is that al-Libbi did not know bin Laden’s location and that, in any case, bin Laden has moved. One would think, though, that he would have valuable insights into the planning for future al Qaeda operations.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Maybe, maybe not.
    But why do I get the intense feeling of Deja Pooh with this one?

  2. herb says:

    We should learn as much as possible from libbi, then let him know we are going after OBL, and if we don’t get him, then we will be back, take him out back and shoot him. And that will be that.