CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida threatened major new attacks in Afghanistan and dismissed setbacks in Iraq, vowing to continue its fight in a video marking the Sept. 11 attack, released Friday more than a week after the anniversary. The lag in release, apparently due to problems in militant Web sites where al-Qaida posts its videos, raised questions among counterterror specialists over whether the terror network's propaganda machine was faltering.The delay deflated what is usually a media splash for al-Qaida. In previous years, it released a string of videos on the attack's anniversary, featuring leaders trumpeting triumphs. Osama bin Laden spoke in one last year, making his first appearance in nearly three years.Al-Qaida had promised a similar event this year, announcing in a Sept. 8 Web advertisement that it would release a video that would bring joy to its followers. It sought to build drama by promising a surprise speaker, showing him in silhouette with a question mark over his face.But soon after, the Islamic militant Web forums traditionally used by al-Qaida to post such videos went down and have remained off. The reason is not known.The 90-minute video, titled "The Results of Seven Years of Crusades," was finally released Friday, according to two U.S. groups that monitor militant messages.It features speeches by bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and other top figures in the terror network, as well as the final testament of Ahmed al-Ghamdi, one of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attack. He was apparently the "surprise" speaker, SITE Intelligence and IntelCenter said. In the video, al-Qaida's top commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, said the "mujahedeen (holy warriors) are on the increase day after day" in that country."We inform the forces of the cross and their apostate agents that the mujahedeen's policy in the coming stage, Allah permitting, is going to be more major, large-scale attacks," he said, according to a transcript by SITE. Elsewhere in the video, a leading al-Qaida cleric, known as Sheik Attiyatullah, dismissed claims that the U.S. and Iraqi military were defeating the terror group's branch in Iraq. "The Americans have not won nor has their security plan succeeded," he said. He acknowledged a "decline in the number of operations (in Iraq) and decline in the number of losses in the ranks of the Americans," but said that "this is something natural, as everything has its ups and downs, and every stage has its own circumstances." "The Americans are without a doubt going to pull out of Iraq dragging their tails in defeat," he said. "The jihad and mujahedeen are here to stay and will keep going, with Allah's help. It requires only a little patience." Violence has dramatically dropped in Iraq this year. U.S. commanders say the decline is in part due to setbacks to al-Qaida and the Sunni Arab-led insurgency, particularly because of U.S. reinforcements and the growth of anti-al-Qaida Sunni tribal fighters known as "Awakening Councils." The problems in posting the anniversary video, usually the most eagerly awaited among al-Qaida's sympathizers, raised eyebrows. "The late timing is certainly curious since they made such a big deal of the announcement," said Evan F. Kohlman, director of Globalterroralert.com, a private terrorism research group. "They made it seem this was something big, but in the end it turned out to be all bark and no bite," he told The Associated Press. "They could be having problems in the production line." Analysts have long seen al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, as a key tool for rallying the network's followers and sympathizers, churning out videos and audios even though top leaders are in hiding, apparently in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. David Heyman, at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointed to recent Pakistani military sweeps in the border region. "It's possible some of those (personnel or facilities) associated with video production have been damaged or destroyed," he said. Bruce Hoffman, a terror expert at RAND Corp., said he was surprised by the delay. "It could be because there has been so much torment in Pakistan and general instability, it has made it more difficult for Al-Sahab to deliver their product," he said.
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