- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Monday taunted the United States amid rising casualties in Afghanistan, calling the U.S.-NATO military campaign “hopeless” and warning of a “war of extermination against you on all possible fronts.”

In his latest audio release, titled “A message to the American people” and posted on a Web site often used by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, bin Laden says President Obama is too “weakened” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, the terrorist leader purportedly said, “in reality is nothing but a puppet in the hands of powerful interest groups, specifically big corporations and the Israel lobby.”

“We will continue our war of extermination against you on all possible fronts.”

The authenticity of the 11-minute message could not be independently verified. But it bore the logo of as-Sahab, al Qaedas media production house, and there have been no known instances of fake messages from bin Laden or other terrorist leaders posted on extremist Web sites.

It was the fourth message this year from bin Laden and the 49th released by as-Sahab this year, according to Ben Venzke, of IntelCenter, a company that monitors extremist messaging for clients including U.S. government agencies.

Two Americans and a Briton died in combat Monday, the Associated Press reported, adding to a toll that has made this year the deadliest for U.S. and NATO troops since the 2001 invasion.

The tape reflected difficulties faced by troops during the recent buildup, with more than 100,000 NATO forces are now deployed, including more than 60,000 Americans.

“You are waging a hopeless and losing war, a war in which the end is not visible on the horizon,” bin Laden purportedly said.

Juan Carlos Zarate, a former White House counterterrorism official, said the message’s focus on Israeli and corporate influence on U.S. policy was a “sign of stress rather than weakness.”

He said it reflected a narrative al Qaeda has been using since Mr. Obama’s election.

Discrediting Mr. Obama is important for them, Mr. Zarate said, “because they perceive their weakness vis-a-vis his popularity,” especially in the Muslim world.

The latest video message featured a still photograph of bin Laden over the sound of his voice. It included neither a translation nor subtitles as have many previous audio and visual releases.

Since 2001, about three-quarters of bin Laden’s releases have been audio rather than video, Mr. Venzke said.

“I think it is a security issue,” said bin Laden biographer Peter Bergen, noting that tracking bin Ladens messages back to their source would be a good way to find the terrorism leader.

“A video means more people involved in the process. Audio-only is a more secure way of doing it.”

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