CAIRO, Egypt – The U.S. military has only seen "loss, disaster and misfortune" in Iraq, Al Qaeda's No. 2 said, in a video message that a U.S. official deemed part of a propaganda campaign to demonstrate the terror network's relevancy.
The video by Ayman al-Zawahiri, posted on an Islamic militant Web forum Saturday, came within the same week as an audiotape by Usama bin Laden and a video by the head of Al Qaeda's branch in Iraq — a volley of messages by the group's most prominent figures.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian militant believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as "traitors" and called on Muslims to rise up to "confront them."
He said that U.S. and British forces in Iraq had bogged down in Iraq and "have achieved nothing but loss, disaster and misfortune."
Al Qaeda in Iraq "alone has carried out 800 martyrdom operations (suicide attacks) in three years, besides the sacrifices of the other mujahedeen, and this is what has broken the back of American in Iraq," al-Zawahiri said.
The video by al-Zawahiri was first obtained by IntelCenter, a U.S. contractor that provides counterterrorism intelligence services to the U.S. government
U.S. counterterrorism officials were aware of the video and analyzing it, two officials said on condition of anonymity.
One of the officials, who would not be identified in compliance with office policy, said it was part of Al Qaeda's ongoing propaganda blitz to demonstrate the terror group remained relevant.
Bin Laden issued an audiotape on Sunday accusing the United States and Europe of supporting a "Zionist" war on Islam in what many analysts saw as an attempt to draw support from moderate Muslims.
Two days later, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq — the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — issued an audiotape in which he showed his face for the first time and denounced Iraq's attempts to form a new government. He called on Sunni Arabs to join the "jihad" or holy war in Iraq.
It was not known what prompted the release of bin Laden's, al-Zawahiri's and al-Zarqawi's messages within the space of one week — and to what degree they were coordinated.
Al-Zawahiri's 16-minute video posted Saturday, entitled "A Message to the People of Pakistan," was mainly dedicated to criticism of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, accusing him of undermining his own country to help the United States, Israel and India.
There was no date in the video, but al-Zawahiri mentioned a "recent" visit in early March by President Bush to India and Pakistan. During the visit, Bush "gave a great push to India's nuclear program while handing out orders and instructions in Pakistan," al-Zawahiri said.
"Every soldier and officer in the Pakistani military should know that Musharraf is throwing them into the burner of civil war in return for the bribes he is getting from the United States," al-Zawahiri said
"For this reason I call on every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army to disobey the orders of his commanders to kill Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan or otherwise he will be confronted by the mujahedeen," he said.
In the video, the gray-bearded al-Zawahiri sat indoors, in front of a semi-translucent white curtain with rows of lace embroidery on it. Wearing a black turban and white traditional robes, he motioned often with his right hand, while his left arm remained largely still, as it has in other recent videos.
Al-Zawahiri, who last appeared in a video on March 4, has been the most vocal spokesman for al-Qaida. While bin Laden was silent for nearly a year — ending his silence with an audiotape in January — al-Zawahiri has frequently released messages, using videos while bin Laden only issued audiotapes. U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe the two are hiding separately.
Al-Zawahiri messages have closely followed bin Laden ones in the past, suggesting a degree of coordination. Al-Zarqawi's tapes, however, have often appeared more closely timed with events in Iraq.