Karzai Calls New Osama Tape "Ridiculous"

This image taken from a video posted on the Internet on Nov. 30, 2007 by al Qaeda's as-Sahab media operation shows a dated still photo of the group's leader, Osama bin Laden. The audio of the tape was a message from bin Laden, warning European nations to abandon the U.S.-led war on terror, and taking sole responsibility for the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
CBS
President Hamid Karzai dismissed as "ridiculous" a message from Osama bin Laden denouncing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and accusing foreign troops of killing civilians, and blamed the al Qaeda chief for causing mass bloodshed in his country.

"Osama bin Laden is the main reason that terrorism befell Afghanistan after the end of the Cold War, and caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Afghans," a statement from Karzai's office said Friday.

Bin Laden's latest message, in a recording titled "To the European people" and posted on a Web site on Friday, said it was unjust for the U.S. to have invaded Afghanistan for sheltering him after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In a further nod to its intended "markets," the video was available for download with English, German or Pashto subtitles.

The message's intended audience seems to vacilate between the European public and their leaders. At one point bin Laden said, "My message is therefore to you and not to your politicians. It's no longer a secret that Blair, Brown, Berlosconi, Aznar, Sarkozy and those with him like to be in the shade of the White House."

In addition, bin Laden extols Afghans, almost pleading for them, in a manner suggesting he is selling al Qaeda to the Afghan public as their "voice."

He urged Europeans to force their governments to pull their soldiers out of Afghanistan.

Karzai said bin Laden "has no right to make any comments about Afghanistan" and gave Muslims all over the world a "bad name."

"Afghan people are some of the most religious people in the world and they know that Osama bin Laden's actions are not legitimate and are un-Islamic."

In spite of his message being squarely targeted at Europe, the message once again places Pakistan in the spotlight of the global hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist, analysts said.

"For years now, the suspicion has been that bin Laden is hiding somewhere along the Pak-Afghan border, maybe on the Pakistani side" Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani analyst on political and security affairs, told CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Karachi. "This message will once again remind people to reconsider a Pakistani connection (to bin Laden)."

There was mixed reaction from Pakistani security officials and European diplomats dedicated to analyzing the contents of the latest message.

"Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden seems to have excelled in the art of psychological warfare," said one Pakistani official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity. "They know when to put out messages just to remind the world that they continue to exist as a strong force.

"But given the pressure on militants connected to al Qaeda in Pakistan, there is no evidence that the group is any stronger than before," the Pakistani official added.

The official cited this year's mounting military operations in the country's semi-autonomous tribal region along the Afghan border as evidence of al Qaeda and its affiliates coming under fast mounting pressure: "How can bin Laden tell anyone to quit Afghanistan when the fact clearly remains that his capability, and that of his friends on the ground, seems to be the same as a year ago or two years ago or even three years ago? These guys may be talking more than before, but they certainly aren't gaining," concluded the Pakistani official.

A European diplomat who spoke to Bokhari on the condition of not being named said al Qaeda appeared to be "trying to exploit signs of growing skepticism in Europe. You tell the Europeans to leave Afghanistan in the hope that politicians and ordinary people will be influenced, will be swayed to rethink [their commitment] about Afghanistan".

The diplomat disagreed with the Pakistani official's assessment that Al Qaeda was not gaining ground in Pakistan's northern tribal region along the Afghan border, where the Pakistani military in October faced an unprecedented challenge when about 250 of its soldiers were taken hostage by Taliban militants. The soldiers were released only when the Pakistani government in a humiliating gesture released at least 20 hardcore Islamic militants in its custody.

"There is much evidence that pro-al Qaeda elements are gaining ground in Pakistan. To argue otherwise makes little sense" concluded the European diplomat.