U.S. intelligence officials say the voice heard on an audiotape aired Thursday on Arab television is indeed that of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. In the taped message, he threatens more attacks on the United States, but says there can be a truce in the war on terror if U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Spokesman Scott McClellan's response to the truce offer was blunt. "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business," he said.
He spoke during a White House briefing that focused largely on the audiotape, which was first aired by the Arab television station al-Jazeera.
McClellan said he could not discuss the tape in detail since it was still being analyzed by the intelligence community. But he said it is no secret that al-Qaida would like to attack the United States again.
"We know the enemy wants to attack us again and they want to inflict even greater harm than they have previously and that is why we must continue to take the fight to them. That is why we must not stop until they are defeated," he said.
McClellan went on to stress that the al-Qaida of today is far weaker than the terrorist network that carried out the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He said many al-Qaida leaders have been arrested or killed, and others, including Osama bin Laden, remain in hiding.
"I think clearly he is on the run. Clearly, he is under a lot of pressure just as other al-Qaida leaders who are on the run are, and that is why we are going to continue pursuing them and continue to go after them to bring them to justice," he said.
The White House spokesman was asked if there might be a link between the release of the tape and the recent attack on suspected terrorist targets in Pakistan. He said that is a matter for the intelligence community to decide as they continue to mine the audiotape for clues that might be useful in the war on terrorism.
This is the first message from bin Laden since December of 2004. Al-Jazeera reported it was recorded last month, and includes references to last June's transit bombings in London, and the dip in President Bush's public opinion ratings that occurred in the final months of 2005.