The CIA is known for its covert “influence operations”, trying to gain the support of local people in conflicts through the decades.
As well as the bin Laden toy, which started development in 2005, forces in Afghanistan were also going to give out notebooks, pencils and games to foster goodwill with children, theWashington Post reported.
The faces of the figures were painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden.The idea was to undermine support for the al-Qa'ida leader, who was then in hiding and being hunted by US forces as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continued.
An anonymous source told the Washington Postfamous toymaker Donald Levine, a former Hasbro executive, was drafted by the CIA to create the bin Laden doll.
He died last month aged 86, but his family said he had been “honoured” to be involved.
Despite claims that hundreds of the 12-inch figures were sent to Pakistan in 2006, the CIA said the project was discontinued after prototypes were developed.
The CIA said it nixed the project before any figures were shipped. “To our knowledge, there were only three individual action figures ever created, and these were merely to show what a final product might look like,” CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said.
“After being presented with these examples, the CIA declined to pursue this idea and did not produce or distribute any of these action figures. Furthermore, CIA has no knowledge of these action figures being produced or distributed by others.”