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Bin Laden Tape Surfaces; Proves Threat Continues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2003 – While emphasizing that its authenticity still remains in question, top Defense officials said today a newly released videotape depicting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden reinforces the threat the terrorist organization continues to pose.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the tape's message -- in which he promises new attacks against the United States and denounces the Middle East peace process -- "very consistent with past messages from Osama bin Laden, where he essentially wants to do away with our way of life."

"So that threat is still out there," he said.

The footage, broadcast Sept. 10 by the Arabic-language news channel Al-Jazeera, is the first new video of bin Laden in almost two years. Analysts are studying the tape to determine its authenticity and unlock any clues it reveals about bin Laden's location, or whether he is, in fact, still alive.

"We don't know if he's dead or alive, or what his capability is right now, (or) what kind of health he's in. We have a lot of people trying to figure that out," Myers told morning show reporters today, on the second anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

"Some people's best guess is that he's somewhere there on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where largely in many areas they're ungoverned, and where he has supporters that he can pay off," he said.

The search for bin Laden continues, and "we've been terrifically successful against al Qaeda over the last two years," Myers said, adding that more than 500 al Qaeda members, many of them leaders in the organization, have been captured for killed. "Afghanistan no longer is a safe haven for al Qaeda. We have disrupted their finances. Almost in every front, we have made very, very good progress," he said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told reporters today a recent Central Intelligence Agency report reveals that "al Qaeda is reeling from the blows that have been struck against it."

But completely overcoming al Qaeda, he said, "is going to be a long struggle." Of particular concern, he said, are indications that "a great many of bin Laden's key lieutenants are trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam (Hussein) regime to attack in Iraq."

Myers agreed that al Qaeda remains "a very viable threat." He called al Qaeda "a thinking enemy," and said it has changed tactics in light of its setbacks, shifting from its traditional hierarchical structure to a network. "It's still a very difficult enemy," he said.

Capturing bin Laden would be an important symbolic step in the battle on terrorism, but Myers said it would not eliminate the threat. "Even if we were to capture Osama bin Laden today, that would not make the al Qaeda threat go away," he said. "I think we'll find Osama bin Laden, but I don't think that will end the threat."

Wolfowitz told reporters the United States must remain vigilant in its war on terrorism, including bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. It's a war, he emphasized, that won't be won overnight.

"The people have spent decades building up this kind of capability," he said. "It's going to take time to dismantle it. So we need to be hopeful. We need to be confident. We need to recognize it's going to be a long struggle."

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