Al-Jazerra is airing excerpts from what it says is a new bin Laden audiotape. At one point in the tape, the Al-Qaida leader offers a possible truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, while claiming that preparations are underway for more attacks in the United States.
We haven't heard the entire tape (yet), and the voice has yet to be authenticated as bin Laden's. The speaker says heightened security is not the reason there have been no additional terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9-11. "You will see them here at home the minute they are through with preparations, with God's permission," he said.
As far as we know, God hasn't commented on the purported bin Laden statements. But claims that Al-Qaida has delayed attacks in the U.S. due to long-term preparations is downright ludicrous. True, bin Laden's organization plans some of its operations over a period of years. But since 9-11, we have foiled a number of terrorist attacks; in a speech last October, President Bush stated that intelligence and security services have prevented at least 10 major Al-Qaida attacks since 9-11, three of them in the U.S. Hat tip: Troutmaster. In late 2002, FBI Director Stephen Muller reported that more than 100 terror plots were foiled in the year following 9-11. And remember: these are many more successes that haven't been reported, to protect intelligence sources and on-going counter-terrorism operations. In a more permissive security environment, Al-Qaida would followed the 9-11 strikes with even more attacks on American soil.
But the real story here is bin Laden's offer of a "truce." If the Global Jihad is going so well, why does the Al-Qaida leader want to take a pause for the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan? You don't have to be a military analyst to see that the Al-Qaida "offer" is a tacit admission that it's terror campaign is failing in both countries. Attacks in Iraq dropped almost 33% between October and December; the number of successful IED strikes is at an 18-month low, and Al-Qaida failed to prevent the election of a democratic government in that country. In Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaida remnants are all-but-beaten, despite a recent upswing in suicide attacks, and the U.S. has enjoyed recent success in targeting the group's leadership along the border with Pakistan. In short, Al-Qaida is playing a losing hand in both countries, and it is increasingly stretched thin (in terms of leadership and resources). Hence, the need to call a truce in the Middle East, and focus remaining resources on attacks within the U.S.
While the truce offer indicates that we are, indeed, winning the War on Terror, some caution is in order. Perhaps more than ever, Al-Qaida is in need for a major success on U.S. soil, something beyond the scale of last summer's attacks in London. There is no doubt that Al-Qaida continues to plot strikes within the CONUS, despite a continued degradation in their operational capabilities.