Interesting items from the life Osama bin Laden from the perspective of understanding his capabilites as a military commander and organizer:
- Osama is the son of an entrepreneur. His father went from being a poor imigrant (Yemeni) porter to the head of the largest construction company in Saudi Arabia. Children of entrepreneurs are extremely likely to be entrepreneurs themselves. In this case he built a private guerrilla/terrorist movement. An example of his entrepreneurial spirit: in 1986 he decided to build his own mujahedeen force in Afghanistan. He built more than 6 camps and developed his own front in the war against the Russians. He has also established an "incubator style" VC operation for terrorist groups (structure, technology, money, expertise, and intelligence).
- Osama was born and grew up in Jeddah. Jiddah is a stones throw from Mecca (Makkah) and in the Hejaz (the birthplace of the Arab revolt against Turkish rule). This may mean that the tactics/strategy developed by T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) for this revolt may play an important part of his military thinking. By the way, Lawrence perfected the art of destroying trains. Lawrence also used psychological terror: he warned Turkish troops in garrisons he was about to attack that his Arab forces would lose control and slaughter all defenders unless they surrendered.
- He was prescient in predicting the invasion of Kuwait (and potentially Saudi Arabia) by Saddam, and publicly spoke about it (which embarrassed the Saudi government) in 1989. When the invasion did occur, he asked the Saudi government to allow him to mount the defense of the Kingdom with his mujahedeen. His plan was rejected in favor of American intervention. In this he shows that he saw his forces as "competitive" to western militaries (fresh off the success in Afghanistan). He recognized the long lines of communication needed for an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia would have been extremely vulnerable to mujahedeen tactics.
- Osama lost his Saudi citizenship in 1994. He is now a man without a country. In 1996 he declared war against the US in a 12-page document. These developments put Osama in opposition to all nation-states.
- He wisely does not allow any electronic devices (including a watch) near his person because it may be used to target him. He is widely read and always is followed by his intelligence data team (good intelligence is an exceedingly important aspect of terrorist operations). This indicates a tendency towards a "scientific" management style. He is not a hands on micromanager although he directly led attacks against Russian forces earlier in his career.