CAIRO (AP) — A U.S.-born, Al Qaeda-linked cleric warned the American people that President Obama will mire U.S. forces in Yemen just as Afghanistan, in a message appearing Monday on militant websites.
The 13-minute audio message, in English, comes just days after the U.S. Treasury department put Anwar al-Awlaki on its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
"If George W. Bush is remembered as being the president who got America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen," he said.
Separately, Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri vowed that the American troops would leave both Afghanistan and Iraq in "defeat."
U.S officials worry Al Qaeda's offshoot in Yemen has found refuge in the country's remote, lawless areas and could be plotting attacks against American and other Western targets. Critics, meanwhile, have warned that imposing a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq could provide the terror network a propaganda tool.
Al-Zawahiri praised Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked groups, saying they are "moving from one victory to another" in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban will "enter Kabul in triumph and Obama will leave it in fear," he said in the hourlong message, his first since May.
"Oh Obama, whether you admit it or not, Muslims have defeated you in Afghanistan and in Iraq and you will be defeated in Palestine, Somalia and the Arab Megrab," he said, referring to Islamic countries in northern Africa. "You will not be defeated militarily and economically but most important you will be defeated morally."
The message appeared with Arabic subtitles over still photos of al-Awlaki and accused Fort Hood shooter, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, and the accused would-be Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Al-Awlaki, who is on the run in Yemen, is believed to have had contacts with the accused bomber in the Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner. He also is believed to have exchanged e-mails with Hasan, who allegedly killed 13 people at Fort Hood.
In the audio message, al-Awlaki mocked U.S. efforts to combat Al Qaeda in Yemen, saying its strikes were only sending recruits streaming to the terror group and had "accomplished for them (Al Qaeda) the work of years."
He added that the Yemeni government, which the U.S. is supporting with millions in military aid, was swindling the Obama administration.
Al-Awlaki began the message by highlighting the inconvenient new airport security measures in the United States brought on by its wars against Muslims and said they still could not keep people safe and he predicted America's demise.
"Imperial hubris is leading America to its fate: a war of attrition, a continuous hemorrhage that would end with the fall and splintering of the United States of America," he said.
Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki, 39, is not perceived by American officials as a major tactical terror leader on par with Al Qaeda founder Usama bin Laden. But his role as an inspirational exhorter for Al Qaeda's cause and his growing involvement in plots aimed at the U.S. has made him a prime target in the effort to counter the militant movement.
Six months ago the U.S. government put al-Awlaki on a secret list of targets to be captured or killed, according to U.S. officials.
Despite ties to two of the 9/11 hijackers and the Fort Hood gunman, al-Awlaki has avoided terrorism charges over the years because he never crossed the line into being an active member of Al Qaeda — someone who recruits and trains terrorists and plots attacks on the U.S.
But that changed with his involvement with Abdulmutallab, the young recruit to Al Qaeda's nascent Yemen branch, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
Associated Press Writer Salah Nasrawi contributed to this report.