December 19, 2000: The Washington Post reports that "the United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose." Russia and the US are discussing "what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper." [Washington Post, 12/19/00] It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia (see March 15, 2001, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001), but 9/11 allows the US to do it without Russian help.
March 15, 2001: Jane's Intelligence Review reports that the US is working with India, Iran and Russia "in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime." India is supplying the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operations (see December 19, 2000, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001). [Jane's Intelligence Review, 3/15/01]
June 26, 2001: An Indian magazine reports more details of the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and Iran against the Taliban regime: "India and Iran will 'facilitate' US and Russian plans for ‘limited military action' against the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don't bend Afghanistan's fundamentalist regime." Earlier in the month, Russian President Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of Independent States that military action against the Taliban may happen, possibly with Russian involvement using bases and forces from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and July 21, 2001). [IndiaReacts, 6/26/01] FTW
Late summer 2001 (C): The Guardian later reports, "Reliable western military sources say a US contingency plan existed on paper by the end of the summer to attack Afghanistan from the north." [Guardian, 9/26/01]