Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio message to mark five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq that Washington's war had brought nothing but failure and defeat.
Zawahri mocked George W. Bush's decision to suspend troop withdrawals from Iraq this summer, saying the US president was scared of admitting defeat and was trying to pass the "problem" on to his successor instead.
"What the American invasion of Iraq has reached, on Friday, after five years, is failure and defeat," Zawahri said in the tape posted on a website used by Islamist groups.
"The American troops, if they leave will lose everything and if they stay will bleed to death. This is what Bush has chosen for his army and his people, who elected him twice."
Bush endorsed this month a recommendation by his commander in Iraq to complete the withdrawal in July of about 20,000 extra combat forces deployed last year, but then imposed a 45-day freeze on the remaining 140,000 troops to assess the security situation before considering more cuts.
"This is a stupid drama to cover up the failure in Iraq and for Bush to escape from the decision of withdrawing his forces, which would be considered an announcement of the defeat of the Crusader invasion of Iraq, and to pass the problem to the next president," Zawahri said.
The authenticity of the tape could not immediately be verified but the voice sounded like Zawahri.