Usama Bin Ladin has just released a new audio statement to the European peoples. It is relatively short (under 5 minutes) and basically tells the Europeans to get out of Afghanistan. The statement is subtitled in German and is clearly timed to coincide with the German elections this coming Sunday.
Bin Ladin’s statement comes in addition to a series of three statements from Bekkai Harrach threatening Germany. I have not seen this kind of jihadi media offensive in connection with any other non-US election. Of course, I, like everyone else, can’t help thinking of the Spanish elections in 2004.
Personally I think al-Qaida would not issue all these messages if something really big was in the making in the next few days, precisely because media offensives put intelligence services on high alert.
My guess is that these messages are primarily intended to influence German public opinion at a crucial juncture in the Western campaign in Afghanistan. Germany is a pivotal player in the coalition; her withdrawal could initiate a vicious (or virtuous, depending on one’s preferences) circle of European withdrawals from the Afghanistan enterprise. Al Qaida is focusing the weakest link in the coalition, just as the Madrid bombers were advised to do.
Another function of messages such as this is to set the stage for attacks that may be several months away. By warning Germans before the elections, al-Qaida can punish them afterwards for not doing as he said.
Finally, Bin Ladin and Harrach are probably also hoping that these messages will inspire some independent initiatives from grassroots jihadists in Europe. Today’s arrest of a man in Stuttgart suspected of distributing the video suggests there are people inside Germany who are thus inclined. On a related note, Leah at All Things CT has a post about forum reactions to the Bin Ladin message.
In short, there are good reasons for German analysts to be working some overtime this weekend.