1,258. 8/15/1998

“There was no serious discussion among them [the Clinton cabinet] that August [1998] about a broad U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban. Congress and the American people would not sanction such a war as an answer to the [African] embassy attacks, [U.S. National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger said later; the idea was all out of proportion. [President Bill] Clinton told a colleague later that ‘as despicable as the embassy bombings were,’ he was certain that even ‘our closest allies would not support us’ if he ordered a sustained ground attack in Afghanistan. Besides, as skeptical as [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright was about the Taliban, many regional specialists at her State Department and elsewhere believed–as [Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief] Prince Turki [al Faisal] did–that [Taliban leader] Mullah [Mohammad] Omar could be persuaded by threats and enticements to break with bin Laden eventually. These American analysts believed, as Prince Turki and Pakistani intelligence repeatedly argued, that the Taliban would eventually mature into a Saudi-like moderate Islamic government. The Small Group did review that first week Pentagon-drawn options for a Special Forces raid into Afghanistan. But the size of the force that Joint Chiefs chairman [Hugh] Shelton said would be required, the slow pace at which it could be assembled, and the lack of obvious targets to attack inside Afghanistan led the group to set aside this idea quickly.” [The 15th of the month used for date sorting purposes only.]

 – Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, Pages 407-408

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