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Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11 (181)
Able Danger (39)
Military Exercises (38)
Hunt for bin Laden (73)
Pipeline Politics (54)

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany (42)
Alhazmi and Almihdhar (74)
Other 9/11 Hijackers (48)
Marwan Alshehhi (21)
Mohamed Atta (37)
Ziad Jarrah (9)
Hani Hanjour (15)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (33)
Zacarias Moussaoui (40)
Nabil al-Marabh (10)

Geopolitics and 9/11

Pakistani ISI (126)
Randy Glass (7)
Sibel Edmonds (6)
Saeed Sheikh (3)
Mahmood Ahmed (3)
Drugs (21)
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family (110)
Bin Laden Family (33)
Israel (33)
Iraq (49)
US Dominance (34)

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events (401)
Flight AA 11 (62)
Flight UA 175 (49)
Flight AA 77 (70)
Flight UA 93 (105)
George Bush (66)
Dick Cheney (24)
Donald Rumsfeld (24)
Richard Clarke (22)

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan
Investigations (166)
9/11 Congressional Inquiry (0)
9/11 Commission (0)
Other 9/11 Investigations (0)
Other events (79)
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Complete 911 Timeline: Post-9/11 Afghanistan

 
  

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September 16, 2001: Taliban Said to Agree to All US Demands in a Secret Meeting

       A secret meeting takes place between Taliban and US government representatives in the city of Quetta, Pakistan. Afghan-American businessman Kabir Mohabbat serves as a middleman. US officials deny the meeting takes place, but later in the month Mohabbat explains that the US demands the Taliban hand over bin Laden, extradite foreign members of al-Qaeda who are wanted in their home countries, and shut down bin Laden's bases and camps. Mohabbat claims that the Taliban agrees to meet all the demands. However, some days later he is told the US position has changed and the Taliban must surrender or be killed. Later in the month, the Taliban again agrees to hand over bin Laden unconditionally, but the US replies that “the train had moved.” [Counterpunch, 11/1/04; CBS, 9/25/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Kabir Mohabbat, Taliban, Bush administration
          

September 21, 2001: US Denies Plans for Afghanistan Regime Change

       A secret report to NATO allies says the US privately wants to hear allied views on “post-Taliban Afghanistan after the liberation of the country.” However, the US is publicly claiming it has no intentions to overthrow the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/21/01] For instance, four days later, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denies that military actions there are “designed to replace one regime with another.” [State Department, 12/26/01]
People and organizations involved: Ari Fleischer, Bush administration, Taliban
          

Late September-Early October 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Agrees to Face International Tribunal; US Not Interested?

       Leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties are negotiating bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks during this period, according to a later Mirror article. Under the plan, bin Laden will be held under house arrest in Peshawar and will face an international tribunal, which will decide whether to try him or hand him over to the US. According to reports in Pakistan (and the Daily Telegraph ), this plan has been approved by both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. [Mirror, 7/8/02] Based on the first priority in the US's new “war on terror” proclaimed by President Bush, the US presumably would welcome this plan. For example, Bush had just announced, “I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ” [ABC News, 9/17/01] Yet, Bush's ally in the war on terror, Pakistani President Musharraf, rejects the plan (stating that his reason for doing so was because he “could not guarantee bin Laden's safety”). Based on a US official's later statements, it appears that the US did not want the deal: “Casting our objectives too narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort [to overthrow the Taliban] if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.” [Mirror, 7/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Pervez Musharraf, George W. Bush, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden
          

Early October 2001: General Franks Disregards Advice to Open Second Front in Afghanistan

       The Washington Post reports in late 2004 that, shortly after Richard Myers officially becomes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman on October 1, 2001, he raises doubts about the military plan to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. General Tommy Franks, the chief of US Central Command, plans a single thrust towards the capital, Kabul, from the north. Myers urges Franks to open a southern front. A brigade of the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Uzbekistan and two Marine Expeditionary Forces in the Arabian Sea are prepared and in position for the role. However, Franks does not position a blocking force to meet any retreating forces. The Washington Post reports, “Some Bush administration officials now acknowledge privately they consider that a costly mistake.” Franks later claims that it would have taken too much time to put a force into position and would have antagonized the country's Pashtun majority. Most of al-Qaeda and the Taliban's leaders are eventually able to escape the country. “A high-ranking war planner [later] likened the result to throwing a rock at a nest of bees, then trying to chase them down, one by one, with a net.” [Washington Post, 10/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Richard B. Myers, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

Early October-Mid-November, 2001: Air Force Is Repeatedly Denied Permission to Bomb Top al-Qaeda and Taliban Leaders

       In mid-November 2001, the Washington Post will report that senior Air Force officials are upset they have missed opportunities to hit top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the start of the bombing of Afghanistan. According to these officials, the Air Force believes it has the leaders in its crosshairs as many as ten times, but they are unable to receive a timely clearance to fire. Cumbersome approval procedures, a concern not to kill civilians, and a power play between the Defense Department and the CIA contribute to the delays. One anonymous Air Force official later says, “We knew we had some of the big boys. The process is so slow that by the time we got the clearances, and everybody had put in their 2 cents, we called it off.” The main problem is that commanders in the region have to ask for permission from General Tommy Franks, based in Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, or even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other higher-ups. Air Force generals complain to Franks about the delay problem, but never receive a response. For example, at one point in October, a Taliban military convoy is moving north to reinforce front line positions. Targeters consider it an easy mark of clear military value. But permission from Central Command is denied on the suspicion that the target is so obvious that “it might be a trick.” In another example, a target is positively identified by real-time imagery from a Predator drone, but Central Command overrides the decision to strike, saying they want a second source of data. An anonymous official calls this request for independent verification of Predator imagery “kind of ridiculous.” [Washington Post, 11/18/01] The London Times paraphrase officials who claim that, “Attempts to limit collateral damage [serve] merely to prolong the war, and force the Pentagon to insert commandos on the ground to hunt down the same targets.” [London Times, 11/19/01 (B)] By the end of the war, only one top al-Qaeda leader, Mohammed Atef, is killed in a bombing raid (see November 15, 2001), and no top Taliban leaders are killed.
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Defense, Thomas Franks, Mohammed Atef, Donald Rumsfeld, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

October 7, 2001: US Begins Bombing in Afghanistan

      
The Afghan village of Darya Khanah is bombed on October 27, 2001.
The US begins bombing Afghanistan in the first strike of its “war on terror.” [MSNBC, 11/01] Most documentary evidence suggests the US was not planning this bombing before 9/11. However, former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik has claimed that in July 2001 senior US officials told him that a military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan would, as the BBC put it, “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.” [BBC, 9/18/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Niaz Naik, United States
          

October 7, 2001: US Hesitates, Fails to Kill Mullah Omar

       On the first night of the Afghan war, an unmanned Predator drone identifies a convoy of vehicles fleeing Kabul. Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, is determined to be inside this convoy. The CIA is in control of the Predator attack drone and wants to use it to kill Omar, but they have to ask for permission from military commanders who are based in Florida. General Tommy Franks decides not to fire any missiles or launch an air strike against the building in which Omar takes shelter. Eventually fighters attack and destroy the building, but by then Omar and his associates have moved on. One anonymous senior official later says of this failure to kill Omar, “It's not a f_ckup, it's an outrage.” According to one senior military officer, “political correctness” and/or slow bureaucratic procedures are to blame. [New Yorker, 10/16/01] It is later revealed that this is part of a pattern of delays that will hinder many attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders (see Early October-Mid-November, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Mullah Omar, Central Intelligence Agency, Thomas Franks
          

October 8, 2001: Ex-CIA Director's Meeting With Taliban Leader Is Called Off

       Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, as part of his attempt to gather evidence that could tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, contacts the Taliban. He works with Mansour Ijaz, a US businessman of Pakistani origin, who is a lobbyist for Pakistan in the US, an occasional Fox News commentator, and has extensive political ties in the US. Woolsey is also vice-chairman of the board of Ijaz's company. Woolsey and Ijaz work with Khalid Khawaja, a friend of bin Laden and ex-ISI operative. The three plus an unnamed US journalist arrange to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on October 8. The Taliban agree to tell Woolsey about a meeting between Iraqi and al-Qaeda officials that took place in 1997, and possibly other similar information. Apparently in return they hope to avert the US invasion of Afghanistan. However, the US bombing begins on October 7, and the meeting is called off. [Dawn, 02/15/02; Financial Times, 3/6/03] At least part of this team will later play another behind-the-scenes role. After being given a tip that Mansour Ijaz is connected to leading militant Muslims in Pakistan, reporter Daniel Pearl will connect with Khalid Khawaja, who in turn connects him with militant Muslims who kidnap and eventually kill him. A leading Pakistani newspaper claims that at one point Newsweek is about to accuse Khawaja of involvement in the plot to kidnap Pearl, but Ijaz vouches for Khawaja and convinces Newsweek to pull back their accusations. [Dawn, 02/15/02; Vanity Fair, 8/02]
People and organizations involved: James Woolsey, Khalid Khawaja, Mansour Ijaz, Taliban, Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda, Iraq, Daniel Pearl
          

October 15, 2001: Russian Newspaper Calls Afghanistan War US Political Power Move

       According to the Moscow Times, the Russian government sees the upcoming US conquest of Afghanistan as an attempt by the US to replace Russia as the dominant political force in Central Asia, with the control of oil as a prominent motive: “While the bombardment of Afghanistan outwardly appears to hinge on issues of fundamentalism and American retribution, below the surface, lurks the prize of the energy-rich Caspian basin into which oil majors have invested billions of dollars. Ultimately, this war will set the boundaries of US and Russian influence in Central Asia—and determine the future of oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea.” [Moscow Times, 10/15/01] The US later appears to gain military influence over Kazakhstan, the Central Asian country with the most resource wealth, and closest to the Russian heartland (see March 30, 2002).
People and organizations involved: United States, Russia
          

October 19, 2001: US Ground Attacks Begin in Afghanistan

       US Special Forces begin ground attacks in Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 11/01] However, during the Afghanistan war, US ground soldiers are mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power to assist the Northern Alliance—not as direct combatants. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] White House Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke will suggest in 2004 that the Bush administration did not commit more ground forces to Afghanistan because it wanted to have enough troops available to stage a large offensive against Iraq. “I can't prove this, but I believe they didn't want to put in a lot of regular infantry because they wanted to hold it in reserve,” Richard Clarke explains. “And the issue is the infantry. A rational military planner who was told to stabilize Afghanistan after the Taliban was gone, and who was not told that we might soon be doing Iraq, would probably have put in three times the number of infantry, plus all the logistics support ‘tail.’ He would have put in more civil-affairs units, too. Based on everything I heard at the time, I believe I can make a good guess that the plan for Afghanistan was affected by a predisposition to go into Iraq. The result of that is that they didn't have enough people to go in and stabilize the country, nor enough people to make sure these guys didn't get out.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]
People and organizations involved: United States, Northern Alliance, Bush administration, Taliban, Richard A. Clarke
          

October 25, 2001: Afghan Resistance Leader Killed

      
Abdul Haq.
Abdul Haq, a leader of the Afghan resistance to the Taliban, is killed. According to some reports, he “seemed the ideal candidate to lead an opposition alliance into Afghanistan to oust the ruling Taliban.” [Observer, 10/28/01] Four days earlier, he had secretly entered Afghanistan with a small force to try to raise rebellion, but was spotted by Taliban forces and surrounded. He calls former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane (who had supported him in the past) who then calls the CIA and asks for immediate assistance to rescue Haq. A battle lasting up to twelve hours ensues. (The CIA had previously rejected Haq's requests for weapons to fight the Taliban, and so his force is grossly underarmed.) [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/29/01] The CIA refuses to send in a helicopter to rescue him, alleging that the terrain is too rough, even though Haq's group is next to a hilltop once used as a helicopter landing point. [Observer, 10/28/01; Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B)] An unmanned surveillance aircraft eventually attacks some of the Taliban forces fighting Haq, but not until five hours after Haq has been captured. The Taliban executes him. [Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01] Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA director of counterterrorism, and others suggest that Haq's position was betrayed to the Taliban by the ISI. Haq was already an enemy of the ISI, which may have killed his family. [Knight Ridder, 11/3/01; Toronto Star, 11/5/01; USA Today, 10/31/01; Village Voice, 10/26/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Abdul Haq, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Robert C. McFarlane, Vincent Cannistraro
          

Late October-Early November 2001: Al-Qaeda Fighters, Bin Laden Said to Move into Jalalabad Without Hindrance

       Since late October, US intelligence reports began noting that al-Qaeda fighters and leaders were moving into and around the Afghanistan city of Jalalabad. By early November, bin Laden is said to be there. Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that “American intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden and his retreating fighters were preparing to flee across the border. However, the US Central Command, which was running the war, made no move to block their escape. ‘It was obvious from at least early November that this area was to be the base for an exodus into Pakistan,’ said one intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. ‘All of this was known, and frankly we were amazed that nothing was done to prepare for it.’ ” The vast majority of leaders and fighters are eventually able to escape into Pakistan. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden
          

Early November 2001: Al-Qaeda Convoy Flees Kabul

       Many locals in Afghanistan reportedly witness a remarkable escape of al-Qaeda forces from Kabul around this time. One local businessman says, “We don't understand how they weren't all killed the night before because they came in a convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks. It was a very dark night, but it must have been easy for the American pilots to see the headlights. The main road was jammed from eight in the evening until three in the morning.” This convoy was thought to have contained al-Qaeda's top officials [Times of London, 7/22/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda
          

November 3, 2001: US Is Said to Be Relying on ISI for Intelligence in Afghan War

       The US, lacking local agents and intelligence in Afghanistan, is said to be heavily reliant on the ISI for information about the Taliban. The US is said to be confident in the ISI, even though the ISI was the main supporter of the Taliban up until 9/11. Knight Ridder Newspapers comments, “Anti-Taliban Afghans, foreign diplomats, and Pakistani government security officials say that pro-Taliban officers remain deeply embedded within ISI and might still be helping America's enemies inside Afghanistan.” A leader of the resistance to the Taliban says, “There are lots of (ISI) officers who are fully committed to the way of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.” Former ISI Director Hamid Gul says, “It is a foolish commander who depends on someone else's intelligence, especially when that someone doesn't like him and was once friendly with the enemy.” [Knight Ridder, 11/3/01] Later in the month another article notes that the CIA continues to rely on the ISI for covert actions against the Taliban. One CIA agent says, “The same Pakistani case officers who built up the Taliban are doing the translating for the CIA. Our biggest mistake is allowing the ISI to be our eyes and ears.” [Toronto Star, 11/5/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Hamid Gul, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

November 9, 2001: The Taliban Loses Control of Northern Afghanistan

       The Taliban abandon the strategic northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, allowing the Northern Alliance to take control. [Associated Press, 8/19/02] The Taliban abandons the rest of Northern Afghanistan in the next few days, except the city of Kunduz, where most of the Taliban flee. Kunduz falls on November 25, but not before most of the thousands of fighters there are airlifted out. [New Yorker, 1/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, Taliban
          

November 13, 2001: Kabul Falls to Northern Alliance; Rest of Country Soon Follows

       Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, falls to the Northern Alliance. The Taliban will abandon the rest of the country over the next few weeks. [BBC, 11/13/01] As The New Yorker reports, “The initial American aim in Afghanistan had been not to eliminate the Taliban's presence there entirely but to undermine the regime and al-Qaeda while leaving intact so-called moderate Taliban elements that would play a role in a new postwar government. This would insure that Pakistan would not end up with a regime on its border dominated by the Northern Alliance.” The surprisingly quick fall of Kabul ruins this plan. [New Yorker, 1/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, al-Qaeda, Northern Alliance, Bush administration
          

November 14, 2001: Al-Qaeda Convoy Flees to Tora Bora; US Fails to Attack

       The Northern Alliance captures the Afghan city of Jalalabad. [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/14/01] On this night, a convoy of 1,000 or more al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters escapes from Jalalabad and reaches the fortress of Tora Bora after hours of driving and then walking. Bin Laden is believed to be with them, riding in one of “several hundred cars” in the convoy. The US bombs the nearby Jalalabad airport, but apparently does not attack the convoy. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02; Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

November 14-November 25, 2001: US Secretly Authorizes Airlift of Pakistani and Taliban Fighters

      
The main routes al-Qaeda and the Taliban escape US and Nothern Alliance forces.
At the request of the Pakistani government, the US secretly allows rescue flights into the besieged Taliban stronghold of Kunduz, in Northern Afghanistan, to save Pakistanis fighting for the Taliban (and against US forces) and bring them back to Pakistan. Pakistan's President “Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the humiliation of losing hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of Pakistani Army men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival.” [New Yorker, 1/21/02] Dozens of senior Pakistani military officers, including two generals, are flown out. [PBS Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] In addition, it is reported that the Pakistani government assists 50 trucks filled with foreign fighters to escape the town. [New York Times, 11/24/01] Many news articles at the time suggest an airlift is occurring. [BBC, 11/26/01; Independent, 11/26/01; New York Times, 11/24/01; Independent, 11/16/01; Guardian, 11/27/01; MSNBC, 11/29/01] Significant media coverage fails to develop, however. The US and Pakistani governments deny the existence of the airlift. [State Department, 11/16/01; New Yorker, 1/21/02] On December 2, when asked to assure that the US did not allow such an airlift, Rumsfeld says, “Oh, you can be certain of that. We have not seen a single—to my knowledge, we have not seen a single airplane or helicopter go into Afghanistan in recent days or weeks and extract people and take them out of Afghanistan to any country, let alone Pakistan.” [MSNBC, 12/2/01] Reporter Seymour Hersh believes that Rumsfeld must have given approval for the airlift. [PBS Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] However, The New Yorker magazine reports, “What was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus.” A CIA analyst says, “Many of the people they spirited away were in the Taliban leadership” who Pakistan wanted for future political negotiations. US intelligence was “supposed to have access to them, but it didn't happen,” he says. According to Indian intelligence, airlifts grow particularly intense in the last three days before the city falls on November 25. Of the 8,000 remaining al-Qaeda, Pakistani, and Taliban, about 5,000 are airlifted out and 3,000 surrender. [New Yorker, 1/21/02] Hersh later claims that “maybe even some of bin Laden's immediate family were flown out on those evacuations.” [PBS Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Taliban, Pakistan, al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld
          

November 15, 2001: Al-Qaeda Leader Reported Dead in Bombing Raid

      
Mohammed Atef.
Al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef is believed to have been killed in a US bombing raid on Afghanistan. Atef is considered al-Qaeda's military commander, and one of its top leaders. [ABC News, 11/17/01; State Department, 11/16/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Mohammed Atef
          

Mid-November 2001: Afghan Politician Says Mohammed Atef US Policy Prevented bin Laden Capture

       Ismail Khan's troops and other Northern Alliance fighters are reportedly ready to take back Pashtun areas from Taliban control at this time. Khan, governor of Herat province and one of Afghanistan's most successful militia leaders, later maintains that “we could have captured all the Taliban and the al-Qaeda groups. We could have arrested Osama bin Laden with all of his supporters.” [USA Today, 1/2/02] However, according to Khan, his forces hold back at the request of the US, who allegedly do not want the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance to conquer Pashtun areas. British newspapers at the time report bin Laden is surrounded in a 30-mile area, but the conquest of Kandahar takes weeks without the Northern Alliance and bin Laden slips away (other accounts put him at Tora Bora). [CNN, 11/18/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Northern Alliance, Ismail Khan, United States
          

November 16, 2001: Al-Qaeda, Taliban Leaders Reportedly Escape Afghanistan

       According to Newsweek, approximately 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, including many senior leaders, escape Afghanistan on this day. There are two main routes out of the Tora Bora cave complex to Pakistan. The US bombed only one route, so the 600 escaped without being attacked using the other route. Hundreds continue to use the escape route for weeks, generally unbothered by US bombing or Pakistani border guards. US officials later privately admit they lost an excellent opportunity to close a trap. [Newsweek, 8/11/02 (B)] On the same day, the media reports that the US is studying routes bin Laden might use to escape Tora Bora [Los Angeles Times, 11/16/01] , but the one escape route is not closed, and apparently bin Laden and others escape into Pakistan using this route several weeks later (see November 28, 2001). High-ranking British officers will later privately complain, “American commanders had vetoed a proposal to guard the high-altitude trails, arguing that the risks of a firefight, in deep snow, gusting winds, and low-slung clouds, were too high.” [New York Times, 9/30/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, al-Qaeda
          

November 21, 2001: Opium Boom in Afghanistan

       The Independent runs a story with the title: “Opium Farmers Rejoice at the Defeat of the Taliban.” Massive opium planting is underway all across Afghanistan. [Independent, 11/21/01] Four days later, the Observer runs a story headlined, “Victorious Warlords Set to Open the Opium Floodgates.” It states that farmers are being encouraged by warlords allied with the US to plant “as much opium as possible.” [Observer, 11/25/01]
          

November 25, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Gives Last Public Speech to Followers

       It is believed bin Laden makes a speech before a crowd of about 1,000 followers in the village of Milawa, Afghanistan. This village is on the route from Tora Bora to the Pakistani border, about eight to ten hours by walking. In his last known public appearance, bin Laden encourages his followers to leave Afghanistan, so they could regroup and fight again. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02] It is believed he leaves the country a few days later. [Daily Telegraph, 2/23/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

November 25, 2001: US Troops Arrive in Kandahar amid Talk of a Secret Deal

       US troops land near the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Afghanistan. [Associated Press, 8/19/02] Apparently, as the noose tightens around Kandahar, new Afghanistan head Hamid Karzai makes a deal with the Taliban, giving them a general amnesty in return for surrender of the city. Taliban's leader Mullah Omar is allowed to escape “with dignity” as part of the deal. However, the US says it will not abide by the deal and Karzai then says he will not let Omar go free after all. Taliban forces begin surrendering on December 7. [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/8/01] Omar escapes.
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Hamid Karzai, Mullah Omar
          

November 28, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Escapes Tora Bora by Helicopter

       A US Special Forces soldier stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolina, later (anonymously) claims that the US has bin Laden pinned in a certain Tora Bora cave on this day, but fails to act. Special Forces soldiers allegedly sit by waiting for orders and watch two helicopters fly into the area where bin Laden is believed to be, load up passengers, and fly toward Pakistan. No other soldiers have come forward to corroborate the story, but bin Laden is widely believed to have been in the Tora Bora area at the time. [Fayetteville Observer, 8/2/02] However, other reports indicate that bin Laden may have left the Tora Bora region by this time. Newsweek separately reports that many locals “claim that mysterious black helicopters swept in, flying low over the mountains at night, and scooped up al-Qaeda's top leaders.” [Newsweek, 8/11/02 (B)] Perhaps coincidentally, on the same day this story is reported, months after the fact, the media also will report a recent spate of strange deaths at the same military base in Fayetteville. Five soldiers and their wives died since June 2002 in apparent murder-suicides. At least three were Special Forces soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan. [Independent, 8/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

Early December 2001: Battle for Tora Bora Is Called Charade

       The Daily Telegraph later reports on the battle for Tora Bora around this time: “In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade.” Eyewitnesses express shock that the US pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan's new government says, “The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. In addition, there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet.” [Daily Telegraph, 2/23/02] It is believed that up to 2,000 were in the area when the battle began. The vast majority successfully flee, and only 21 al-Qaeda fighters are finally captured. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] The US relies on local forces “whose loyalty and enthusiasm were suspect from the start” to do most of the fighting. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02] Some of the local commanders drafted to help the US had ties to bin Laden going back to the 1980s. [New York Times, 9/30/02 (B)] These forces actually help al-Qaeda escape. An Afghan intelligence officer says he is astounded that Pentagon planners did not consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them. It is later widely believed that bin Laden escapes along one of these routes on November 30 or December 1, walking out with about four loyal followers. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02; Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also escapes the area. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Taliban, Osama bin Laden, US Department of Defense, Ayman al-Zawahiri
          

December 17, 2001: Northern Alliance Declares Victory at Tora Bora; Afghan War Considered Over

       Northern Alliance forces declare that the battle of Tora Bora, with a ground assault begun on December 5, has been won. The Afghan war is widely considered finished. However, in retrospect, many consider the battle a failure because most of the enemy escapes, and the Taliban will later regroup. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, Taliban
          

December 22, 2001: Karzai Assumes Power in Afghanistan

      
Hamid Karzai.
Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and his transitional government assume power in Afghanistan. It was reported a few weeks before that he had been a paid consultant for Unocal at one time (Karzai and Unocal both deny this), as well as Deputy Foreign Minister for the Taliban. [CNN, 12/22/01 (B); Le Monde, 12/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Unocal, Hamid Karzai
          

December 24, 2001: Taliban Free, Living in Luxury

       The Guardian reports that many in Afghanistan intelligence say former top Taliban officials are living openly in villas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least four top leaders who had been caught have been simply released. One intelligence source claims to know the exact location of many, and says they could be rounded up within hours. A former Taliban minister now working with the Northern Alliance also claims: “Some are living in luxury in fine houses, they are not hiding in holes. They could be in jail by tonight if the political will existed.” The US claims it is working hard to find and catch these leaders. [Guardian, 12/24/01]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Taliban
          

January 6, 2002: Mullah Omar Escapes Capture by US Military

      
Taliban leader Mullah Omar, blind in one eye.
The US allegedly locates former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and 1,500 of his soldiers in the remote village of Baghran, Afghanistan. After a six-day siege, and surrounded by US helicopters and troops, Omar and four bodyguards supposedly escape the dragnet in a daring chase on motorcycles over dirt roads. His soldiers are set free in return for giving up their weapons, in a deal brokered by local leaders. Yet it remains unclear if Omar was ever in the village in the first place. [Observer, 1/6/02]
People and organizations involved: Mullah Omar, Taliban
          

February 19, 2002: Gen. Franks: US Is Deploying Resources from Afghanistan to Iraq

       General Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D) of Florida, who is on a visit to US Central Command: “Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/04 Sources: Bob Graham] (In his memoirs, Graham quotes Franks as saying that “military and intelligence personnel are being re-deployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2004; Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp 125] ) Franks denies making the comment. [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2004] The New Yorker magazine also reports on a redeployment of resources to Iraq at this time (see Early March 2002). [New Yorker, 10/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Bob Graham
          

February 25, 2002: Captured Taliban Leader Ignored by CIA

       Time magazine reports that the second highest Taliban official in US custody, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar, has been waiting for months for the CIA to talk to him. Two weeks after Time informed US officials that Khaksar wanted to talk, he still has not been properly interviewed. He says he has useful information, and may be able to help locate former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Time notes that “he claims to have information about al-Qaeda links to the ISI.” [Time, 2/25/02] “The little that Khaksar has divulged to an American general and his intelligence aide—is tantalizing. ... He says that the ISI agents are still mixed up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” and that the three groups have formed a new group to get the US out of Afghanistan. He also says that “the ISI recently assassinated an Afghan in the Paktika province who knew the full extent of ISI's collaboration with al-Qaeda.” [Time, 2/19/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar
          

April 1, 2002: Afghan Opium Crackdown Fails

      
An Afghani farmer stands in his opium poppy fields.
“American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan's opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world's heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs.” They want to see the new Afghan government make at least a token effort to destroy some opium, but it appears that the new government is not doing even that. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had announced a total ban on opium cultivation, processing, and trafficking, but it appears to be a total sham. The new harvest is so large that it could be “enough opium to stockpile for two or two and a half more years.” [New York Times, 4/1/02] Starting this month, Karzai's government offers farmers $500 for every acre of poppies they destroy, but farmers can earn as much as $6,400 per acre for the crop. The program is eventually cancelled when it runs out of money to pay farmers. [Associated Press, 3/27/03]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Hamid Karzai
          

April 4, 2002: Head of US Military States ‘The Goal Has Never Been to Get bin Laden’

       Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers states in an interview, “The goal has never been to get bin Laden.” He adds, “Obviously, that's desirable,” but then he hints it won't be desirable to do so soon, saying, “I just read a piece by some analysts that said you may not want to go after the top people in these organizations. You may have more effect by going after the middlemen, because they're harder to replace. I don't know if that's true, or not, and clearly we would like to eventually get bin Laden.” [Defense Department, 4/6/02] In early 2005, the recently retired Executive Director of the CIA will explicitly state that it is better to let bin Laden remain free.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Richard B. Myers
          

April 17, 2002: Failure to Capture bin Laden in Afghan War Is Gravest Error

       The Washington Post reports that, “The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit US ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al-Qaeda,” allowing bin Laden to escape. The newspaper claims that while the administration has failed to acknowledge the mistake publicly, “inside the government there is little controversy on the subject.” [Washington Post, 4/17/02] The next day, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denies this, and states he did not know at the time of the assault, “nor do I know today of any evidence that he was in Tora Bora at the time or that he left Tora Bora at the time or even where he is today.” [USA Today, 4/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld
          

June 20, 2002: Afghan Council Appears Manipulated in Selecting Warlords

       The long-awaited loya jirga, or grand council, is concluded in Afghanistan. This council was supposed to be a traditional method for the Afghan people to select their leaders, but most experts conclude that the council is clearly rigged. [BBC, 8/1/02] Half of the delegates walk out in protest. [CNN, 6/18/02] One delegate states, “This is worse than our worst expectations. The warlords have been promoted and the professionals kicked out. Who calls this democracy?” Delegates complain, “This is interference by foreign countries,” obviously meaning the US. The New York Times publishes an article (“The Warlords Win in Kabul”) pointing out that the “very forces responsible for countless brutalities” in past governments are back in power. [New York Times, 6/21/02]
People and organizations involved: United States, Afghanistan
          

July 6, 2002: Afghan Vice President Assassinated

       Afghan Vice President Hajji Abdul Qadir is assassinated by Afghan warlords. Some believe that Qadir was assassinated by opium warlords upset by Qadir's efforts to reduce the rampant opium farming and processing that has taken place since the US occupation. Qadir had been overseeing a Western-backed eradication program, and had recently complained that the money meant to be given to reward farmers for not planting opium was in fact not reaching the farmers. Additionally, Qadir “had long been suspected of enriching himself through involvement in the opium trade.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/8/02; New York Times, 7/8/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Hajji Abdul Qadir
          

Late July 2002: Taliban General Reportedly Captured, but Released After Questioning

       US Special Forces apprehend Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a top general and one of the six most-wanted Taliban, in Kandahar. He is flown to a detention center north of Kabul for interrogation, but is released a few weeks later and escapes to Pakistan. Contradicting the statements of many soldiers in Kandahar, the Defense Intelligence Agency says it “has no knowledge that Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani was ever in US custody in Afghanistan.” [Washington Times, 12/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, Defense Intelligence Agency
          

August 11, 2002: Afghans Directly Producing and Exporting Heroin in Broad Daylight

      
An Afghan refines opium into heroin.
In the past, Afghanistan had mostly exported raw opium, but now many new refineries are converting the opium into heroin. The British government has spent £20 million to eradicate opium, but the program is marred by corruption and largely seen as a failure. The new heroin factories are said to be “working in broad daylight.” There has been a rash of bombings and assassinations in Afghanistan as various factions fight over drug profits. Reporters for a British newspaper are able to determine the precise location of some of these factories, but the US-led forces in Afghanistan are doing nothing to stop them. [Observer, 8/11/02]
People and organizations involved: Britain
          

August 15, 2002: US General Believes Troops Will Remain in Afghanistan for Long Time

       General Tommy Franks, commander of US troops in Central Asia, says, “It does not surprise me that someone would say, ‘Oh gosh, the military is going to be in Afghanistan for a long, long time.’ Sure we will be.” He likens the situation to South Korea, where the US has stationed troops for over 50 years. A few days earlier, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said the war on terrorism “could last years and years.” [CBS News, 8/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Richard B. Myers
          

October 8, 2002: War in Afghanistan Still Not Over

      
A year after the US conquest of Afghanistan began, most of the country is in the hands of local warlords. Only the small white area marked Karzai is under control of the nation's president. Click here for a complete key. ABC News, 10/7/02
Many in the US have the impression that the war in Afghanistan is over, and US allied forces conquered the country. However, the US ambassador says, “The war is certainly not over. Military operations are continuing, especially in the eastern part of the country and they will continue until we win.” Most of the country is controlled by warlords who are now being supplied with weapons and money by the US government. [Daily Telegraph, 10/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Americans
          

November 18, 2002: US Said to Be Ignoring Accurate Information on Bin Laden's Whereabouts

       Right wing journalist Arnaud De Borchgrave, writing for United Press International, claims that although the US has given millions of dollars to buy the loyalty of Pakistani tribal leaders in an attempt to learn more about al-Qaeda leaders, they are ignoring a cooperative tribal leader who has the best information on bin Laden's whereabouts. De Borchgrave calls this leader a “good news source ... his information [is] prescient and invariably accurate.” Since November 2001, De Borchgrave and others have given the name of this tribal leader to top US leaders, but the tribal leader still has not been contacted. De Borchgrave concludes from this lack of interest that perhaps neither Pakistan nor the US is actually interested in capturing bin Laden. He notes that some people are speculating that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf fears the US will lose interest in Pakistan and greatly reduce economic aid commitments once bin Laden is captured or killed. He also speculates that US leaders think getting bin Laden “might detract from the current ‘get [Saddam] Hussein’ priority objective” and trigger more terror attacks. [UPI, 11/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Pervez Musharraf, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, United States
          

December 9, 2002: Special Forces in Afghanistan Back Away from Risky Operations

       US commanders have rejected as too risky many special operations missions to attack Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. After Army Green Beret A-Teams received good intelligence on the whereabouts of former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, commanders turned down the missions as too dangerous. Soldiers traced the timidity to an incident in June 2002 called Operation Full Throttle, which resulted in the death of 34 civilians. [Washington Times, 12/9/02]
People and organizations involved: United States, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Mullah Mohammed Omar
          

March 14, 2003: Afghanistan Becomes Number One Heroin Producer

       The Afghan government warns that unless the international community hands over the aid it promised, Afghanistan will slip back into its role as the world's premier heroin producer. The country's foreign minister warns Afghanistan could become a “narco-mafia state.” [BBC, 3/17/03] A United Nations study later in the month notes that Afghanistan is once again the world's number one heroin producer, producing 3,750 tons in 2002. Farmers are growing more opium poppies than ever throughout the country, including areas previously free of the crop. [Associated Press, 3/27/03]
People and organizations involved: United Nations, Afghanistan
          

May 1, 2003: Rumsfeld Prematurely Declares an End to War in Afghanistan

       Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that the 8,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan have ended major combat operations there and will now shift their focus to rebuilding the country. The US talks about reducing the number of troops in 2004 and replacing them with newly trained Afghan soldiers. Rumsfeld's announcement comes on the same day that President Bush declares that combat operations have ended in Iraq (see May 1, 2003). Rumsfeld says that small-scale combat operations will continue to mop up pockets of Taliban and al-Qaeda resistance. [Washington Post, 5/2/03] Over two years later, in June 2005, the New York Times will report that despite periodic predictions of the Taliban's collapse, recent intense fighting “reveals the Taliban to be still a vibrant fighting force supplied with money, men and weapons.” While the Taliban may not be able to hold ground in the “almost forgotten war,” they have enough personnel and weapons to “continue their insurgency indefinitely” and render parts of the country ungovernable. [New York Times, 6/4/05]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld
          

2004: Afghan poppy farmers harvest a record 4,600 tons of opium

       Roughly 4,600 tons of opium are harvested in Afghanistan during 2004, according to a December 2004 statement by Russian Federal Drug Control Service Oleg Kharichkin. By the end of the year, more than 206,000 hectares in Afghanistan are reportedly planted with the crop. The Russians believe that 2005 production will approach 5,000 tons. [Paknews Tribune, 12/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Russia
          

January 2004: Critical Internal Report of US Military Efforts in Afghanistan Is Suppressed

      
Hy Rothstein.
In late 2002, the Defense Department asks retired Army Colonel Hy Rothstein, a leading military expert in unconventional warfare, to examine the planning and execution of the war in Afghanistan. Rothstein travels to Afghanistan and interviews dozens of military personnel at all levels. The New Yorker calls his report, completed this month, “a devastating critique of the [Bush] administration's strategy.” While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has described the US military to be mostly reliant upon unconventional forces, Rothstein sees a reliance on heavy aerial bombing that results in large numbers of civilian casualties. He sees a poor effort at winning the hearts and minds of Afghans, and many mistakes such as allying with corrupt, drug-dealing warlords who oppress the population. One military expert calls the US strategy “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” When Rothstein presents his conclusions to Rumsfeld, he is told to dampen his criticisms before the report can be published. He refuses to do so, and so the report is left sitting in bureaucratic limbo. Many other officials privately agree with the report's conclusions. One former senior intelligence officer says, “The reason they're petrified is that it's true, and they didn't want to see it in writing.” [New Yorker, 4/5/04]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Defense, Hy Rothstein, Donald Rumsfeld
          

Spring 2004: Conditions In Afghanistan Deteriorate

       It is reported that conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated significantly in nearly every respect. According to Lakhdar Brahima, UN special envoy to Afghanistan, the situation “is reminiscent to what was witnessed after the establishment of the mujahedeen government in 1992.” Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam who opposed the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, along with several other warlords accused of atrocities in the mid-1990s, have returned to power and are effectively ruling the country. Several hold key positions within the government. They “continue to maintain their own private armies and ... are reaping vast amounts of money from Afghanistan's illegal opium trade...” The US, while claming to support Afghan President Karzai, is relying on these warlords to “help” hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda factions, although the success rate is abysmal, and much of the intelligence provided by the warlords is faulty. The Taliban has begun to regroup, and now essentially controls much of the southern and eastern regions of the country. [Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004]
People and organizations involved: Lakhdar Brahima, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamid Karzai, Bush administration
          

August 4, 2004: Pakistan Continues to Support the Taliban

       The New York Times reports that, “For months Afghan and American officials have complained that even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against al-Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and sending them into Afghanistan to attack American and Afghan forces.” One prisoner captured by the Afghan government says Pakistan is allowing militant groups to train and organize insurgents to fight in Afghanistan. Groups designated as terrorist organizations by the US and/or Pakistan have simply changed names and continue to operate freely. An anonymous Western diplomat says, “When you talk about Taliban, it's like fish in a barrel in Pakistan. They train, they rest there. They get support.” The New York Times comments, “Western diplomats in Kabul and Pakistani political analysts have said that Pakistan has continued to allow the Taliban to operate to retain influence in Afghanistan.” [New York Times, 8/4/04]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Pakistan, al-Qaeda
          


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