1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired





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.


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