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October 23, 2007
New Bin Laden Tape Begs Iraqi Insurgents to Unite
You know you're winning when your enemy starts to get desperate.
And that's the clearest signal that comes from the new Osama Bin Laden tape released yesterday and played on al-Jazeera:
"Don't be arrogant," bin Laden warned. "Your enemies are trying to break up the jihadi groups. I urge you all to work in one united group." That appears to be the understatement of the year. While there is still a steep hill to climb in Iraq with many fundamental problems yet to be dealt with by the Iraqi government, there is no doubting our continued success in killing and capturing al-Qaeda operatives faster than they can replace them.
People familiar with bin Laden's voice say the tape appeared to be authentic, although there was no reference to any event that would indicate when it was recorded.
Bin Laden's message comes at a time when U.S. strategy to split Iraqi insurgent groups from al Qaeda units appears to be working.
Just recently, one American general declared that al-Qaeda's capabilities had been degraded considerably:
There is widespread agreement that AQI has suffered major blows over the past three months. Among the indicators cited is a sharp drop in suicide bombings, the group's signature attack, from more than 60 in January to around 30 a month since July. Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a "cascade effect," leading to other killings and captures. The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished, although officials are unsure of the reason and are concerned that the broader al-Qaeda network may be diverting new recruits to Afghanistan and elsewhere. Put in that context, Bin Laden's audio message can be seen as a plea for unity in the face of great difficulties. And that hard fact for the Islamists to digest is that there is no longer any place they can retire to in order to regroup and refit. They are on the run all over the country so the chances of them uniting in any meaningful way appear to be close to zero.
The deployment of more U.S. and Iraqi forces into AQI strongholds in Anbar province and the Baghdad area, as well as the recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters to combat AQI operatives in those locations, has helped to deprive the militants of a secure base of operations, U.S. military officials said. "They are less and less coordinated, more and more fragmented," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. Describing frayed support structures and supply lines, Odierno estimated that the group's capabilities have been "degraded" by 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year.