War on Terrorism

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired

Extensive 1999 Report on Al-Qaeda Threat Released by U.S. Dept of Energy

Taliban Told U.S. They Wanted to Bomb Washington

For more information contact:
Barbara Elias - 202/994-7000 - belias@gwu.edu

http://www.nsarchive.org

Washington, DC, August 20, 2008 - On the tenth anniversary of U.S. cruise missile strikes against al-Qaeda in response to deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, newly-declassified government documents posted today by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org) suggest the strikes not only failed to hurt Osama bin Laden but ultimately may have brought al-Qaeda and the Taliban closer politically and ideologically.

A 400-page Sandia National Laboratories report on bin Ladin, compiled in 1999, includes a warning about political damage for the U.S. from bombing two impoverished states without regard for international agreement, since such action "mirror imag[ed] aspects of al-Qaeda's own attacks." A State Department cable argues that although the August missile strikes were designed to provide the Taliban with overwhelming reason to surrender bin Laden, the
military action may have sharpened Afghan animosity towards Washington and even strengthened the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance.

Following the August 20 U.S. air attacks, Taliban spokesman Wakil Ahmed told U.S. Department of State officials "If Kandahar could have retaliated with similar strikes against Washington, it would have." Such an attack, although unfeasible at the time, was at least in part actualized by al-Qaeda on 9/11.

Visit the Web site of the National Security Archive for more information about today's posting.

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