Osama bin Laden wanted to assassinate former President Barack Obama in the early 2010s as part of a plan to plunge the U.S. into crisis through the elevation of Joe Biden, whom the infamous terrorist leader believed was “totally unprepared” to serve as commander-in-chief.
The plot, which was first revealed in 2012 by the Washington Post, reportedly centered around shooting down the president’s plane as he toured Afghanistan with then-Gen. David Petraeus. Bin Laden briefed members of his terrorist network about the scheme, which he hoped would “alter” the path of the war in Afghanistan, before being killed by U.S. forces in May 2011, according to documents seized from al-Qaeda’s compound.
“The reason” for the assassination, bin Laden is said to have explained to top lieutenants, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency. … Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.”
When the story first broke, the Obama White House claimed the plot was never a serious threat as al-Qaeda lacked the appropriate weapons required to shoot down a presidential aircraft.
The scheme comes back into the spotlight as the former vice president, now the presumptive 2020 Democrat nominee, touts his foreign policy expertise on the campaign trail. Most recently, Biden claimed his experience on matters relating to national security and international affairs would be a boon to uniting the global community in a post-coronavirus world.
Even as the former vice president has made such claims, many have noted that the questionable stances he took over decades in public life are likely to pose a problem when staring down America’s enemies. On this front, some of Biden’s biggest critics have been Department of Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and James Mattis, two men held in high regard by foreign policy experts.
Gates, who led the Pentagon under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, asserted during a May 2019 interview with CBS’s Face the Nation he stood by statements made in his memoir that Biden had “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” The show’s host, Margaret Brennan, looped Gates’ prior comments into a broader question about whether Biden had the ability to “be an effective commander-in-chief.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Gates said. “I stand by that statement. He and I agreed on some key issues in the Obama administration, we disagreed significantly on Afghanistan and some other issues.”
“I think that the vice president has some issues with the military, so how he would get along with the senior military and what that relationship would be,” Gates continued. “I just think it would depend on the personalities at the time.”
Mattis, a former general who served as Trump’s first Defense secretary, echoed a similar sentiment in his own memoir, which was released last year.
Biden “exuded the confidence of a man whose mind was made up, perhaps even indifferent to considering the consequences were he judging the situation incorrectly,” Mattis wrote when discussing the former vice president’s strategy for the Iraq War.
One such situation, in fact, was Obama’s 2011 decision to move against bin Laden. At the time, Biden advised the president not to launch the raid that led to the al-Qaeda leader’s death because the risks were “too high.”