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“The Americans have great accumulated expertise of photography of the region due to the fact they have been doing it for so many years,” bin Laden lamented.

He noted that the drones could even identify individual houses that received more than the usual number of male visitors.

Bin Laden knew al Qaeda’s brand name was in deep trouble, in particular because the group and its affiliates had killed so many civilians,” Mr. Bergen added.

In August 2010, bin Laden wrote to the leader of the al-Shabab Islamic extremist militia in Somalia, advising the group to avoid publicly identifying itself as an al Qaeda affiliate.

“If asked, it would be better to say there is a relationship with al Qaeda, which is simply a brotherly Islamic connection, and nothing more,” he wrote.

He explained that the group’s affiliate in Iraq had attracted many enemies by adopting the al Qaeda name.

In a letter to the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, bin Laden warned his followers in Yemen not to kill leaders of the local tribes, a tactic al Qaeda in Iraq had frequently used. Those attacks helped launch a Sunnin backlash in 2006.

In another internal memo, bin Laden pointed out that “Obama [says] that our war is not on Islam or the Muslim people, but rather our war is on the al Qaeda organization.” He considered adding the word “Islam,” or “Muslim” to the group’s name.