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MBITIRU: Osama remains as lethal as ever

Sunday September 20 2009

Osama bin Laden Photo/FILE

Osama bin Laden Photo/FILE 


Al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden emulates US presidents with an annual address on the state of his terror machine. This year’s audio was remarkably mild.

As usual, bin Laden’s address coincided with the anniversary of September 11 attacks in New York and the Pentagon, near Washington DC eight years ago. Al-Qaeda operatives used hijacked jetliners as missiles, simple but most deadly an innovation.

Incidentally, here are seemingly forgotten details: Five days after the attacks, Osama denied, on Al Jazeera, any role. When the attacks’ impact became obvious, Osama admitted personal command of the hijackers.

That war rages

The attacks prompted a justified US and allies’ war against Afghanistan’s Taliban. They hosted Osama. That war rages. Two years later, former US President George W. Bush turned against Iraq’s President Sadam Hussein. It turned out Mr Bush told lies to justify the war. As a Christian, he has probably sought and obtained divine forgiveness. It appears US security agencies also had a message for Osama on the anniversary. That day a missile, fired by a US drone, hit a car in northwest Pakistan. Talk about Osama’s whereabouts point at that region. It might as well be Osama lives quietly on a remote farm in Montana.

Anyway, the missile killed four people. It’s unlikely any was Osama. On Monday, helicopter-borne Special Forces attacked a vehicle in southern Somalia. Among the dead was al-Qaeda’s alleged top operative in Eastern Africa, Kenyan Saleh Ali Nabhan. The forces carried the bodies.

On the same day, federal agents raided two apartments in New York City in an al-Qaeda-related investigation. By mid-week, the agents had extended their raids westward to Denver, Colorado. They raided the home of an Afghan who had visited the apartments.

They avenged

Somalia’s militia, al-Shabaab produced a most spectacular al-Qaeda-related event last Thursday. They said they avenged Saleh’s death with two suicide bombs that killed 21 people, including 17 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu. That’s sure mighty war against “imperialist” US.

More on the significance of this attack later, now, a return to Osama’s 11- minute audio. Most commentators, especially in the US, agreed Osama was uncharacteristic mild. He even avoided jihad jingoism. One commentator even said, “Bin Laden failed.”

Essentially, Osama told US President Barack Obama his strategy in Afghanistan is “hopeless.” Was the US to stop the war and cut alliance with Israel—neither can happen—then al-Qaeda will lay off US Translated, “the war continues.”

There’s no doubt Osama and al-Qaeda core leadership are much physically constrained. This is even more so since Pakistan became more aggressive against its own Taliban. They are allies of Afghanistan Taliban, and consequently al-Qaeda’s. All this though isn’t much solace. A few US commentators got it right.

Mr Jarret Brachman, in, compared sections of Osama’s previous audios and some in the latest. He concluded, “This is stock al-Qaeda just stewed a bit longer…’’ Those who say Osama “is up to something new and dastardly with this statement either don’t get it or are looking to create buzz.”

Another commentator, Mr Gregg Carlstrom in The Majlis journal noted, “The majority of attacks conducted by al-Qaeda are actually conducted by affiliates with vague, ill-defined links to the core of the group.”

That’s where groups like al-Shabaab, the Maghreb al-Qaeda, their foreign fighters, and other copycats come in.

All Osama needs do is channel them to a cause. He still needs a spectacular attack. Those seeing a failed or mild Osama are hoodwinked. Good intelligence legworks a la US agents remain in order.

Chege Mbitiru is a freelance journalist ([email protected])