A tape bearing a warning about new terror attacks from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been authenticated by the CIA. On the tape, bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world, offers both a threat against the United States and its allies and, uncharacteristically, a truce.
"[Terror] operations are under preparation, and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through [with preparations], with God's permission," bin Laden warns.
According to an Associated Press translation of the tape, which aired on al-Jazeera television, bin Laden appears to be addressing the American people when he says, "My message to you is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end them. I did not intend to speak to you about this because this issue has already been decided. Only metal breaks metal, and our situation, thank God, is only getting better and better, while your situation is the opposite of that."
In a sign that the tape is relatively new, bin Laden — whose whereabouts are not known and who had not been heard from since December 2004 — makes reference to President Bush's recent low poll numbers while issuing a veiled threat of future attacks. "I plan to speak about the repeated errors your President Bush has committed in comments on the results of your polls that show an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
"[Bush] has opposed this wish and said that withdrawing troops sends the wrong message to opponents, that it is 'better to fight them on their land than their fighting us on our land.' I can reply to these errors by saying that war in Iraq is raging with no letup, and operations in Afghanistan are escalating in our favor, thank God, and Pentagon figures show the number of your dead and wounded is increasing, not to mention the massive material losses."
"Following technical analysis of the Osama bin Laden tape aired today, the CIA assesses that it was the voice of Osama bin Laden," an agency official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP.
Bin Laden goes on to claim that, contrary to Bush's claims, the war against America and its allies has not been limited to Iraq, which he said has become a rallying point for anti-American holy warriors. He added that these mujahedeen fighters have "managed repeatedly to penetrate all security measures adopted by the unjust allied countries. The proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of the European nations who are in this aggressive coalition. The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures."
The White House was dismissive of the final portion of the tape, in which bin Laden appeared to be offering a truce, something he previously offered European countries. "We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to," bin Laden says on the tape. "We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war."
Asked by FOX News about the offer, Vice President Dick Cheney said it appeared to be a ploy. "I'm not sure what he's offering by way of a truce. I don't think anybody would believe him. ... It sounds to me like it's some kind of a ploy, but again, not having seen the entire text or validated the tape and the timing of it, I'm reluctant to draw any conclusions," Cheney said, according to a Reuters report. Al-Jazeera said the tape was recorded in December.
During his daily briefing, before the voice was authenticated, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said bin Laden was desperate and "clearly on the run," adding, "we do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. The terrorists started this war and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing."
Bush was in Virginia giving a speech about the economy when the news broke about the tape and was not informed about it until after his speech, well after the major news networks had picked up the story. The release of the tape comes just days after a deadly air strike in Pakistan that targeted bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Though it turned out he was not present at the time of the attack, it is believed that four other al Qaeda leaders were killed.