August 20, 1998: The US fires approximately 60 missiles at six training camps in Afghanistan and about 20 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings. The US makes clear the attacks are aimed at terrorists "not supported by any state'' despite obvious evidence to the contrary in Afghanistan. About 30 people are killed in the attacks, but no important al-Qaeda figures. Evidence soon emerges strongly suggesting that the Sudanese factory had no terrorist connections. The US later unfreezes the bank accounts of the factory owner and takes other actions indicating guilt, but admits no wrongdoing. It is later learned that of the six camps targeted in Afghanistan, only four were hit, and of those only one had connections to bin Laden. Two of the camps belong to the ISI, and five ISI officers and some twenty trainees are killed. Clinton says on TV that the missiles were aimed at a "gathering of key terrorist leaders", which turns out to have taken place a month earlier, in Pakistan. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00] A US defense analyst later states, "I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden's reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world... My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero." [Washington Post, 10/3/01] Was intelligence really that bad, or was Clinton set up by his own intelligence agencies to fail, so he wouldn't try to attack bin Laden in the future, and thus deprive them of a war on terrorism?
August 24, 1998: The New York Times reports that the training camps recently attacked by the US (see August 20, 1998) were actually built years before by the US and its allies. The US and Saudi Arabia gave the Afghans between $6 billion and $40 billion to fight the Soviets in the 1980's (see December 26, 1979). Many of the people targeted by the Clinton missile attacks were actually trained and equipped by the CIA years before. [New York Times, 8/24/98]