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Insights from Bin Ladin’s Audiocassette Library in Kandahar
By Flagg Miller
As the world waits for the declassification of documents from Usama bin Ladin’s Abbottabad residence in Pakistan, an earlier archive shedding valuable light on al-Qa`ida’s formation under Bin Ladin is slowly being released. Acquired by the Cable News Network in early 2002 from Bin Ladin’s Kandahar compound, more than 1,500 audiocassettes are being made available to public researchers by Yale University. Dating from the late 1960s through 2000, the vast majority of tapes in this collection are in Arabic and feature lectures, sermons and conversations among more than 200 speakers from across the Islamic world. This author began cataloguing and archiving the collection in 2003, as soon as the tapes arrived at the college, and is currently writing a book about the figuration of Bin Ladin’s leadership and al-Qa`ida through the archive. The initial results of the findings are presented in this article. The Kandahar audiocassette collection is central to understanding al-Qa`ida’s emergence as an organization before the 9/11 attacks.