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After the attacks had occurred, while crisis managers were still sorting 
out a number of unnerving false alarms, Air Force One flew to Barksdale Air 
Force Base in Louisiana. One of these alarms was of a reported threat against 
Air Force One itself, a threat eventually run down to a misunderstood com- 
munication in the hectic White House Situation Room that morning. 1 

While the plan at the elementary school had been to return to Washington, 
by the time Air Force One was airborne at 9:55 A.M. the Secret Service, the 
President's advisers, andVice President Cheney were strongly advising against 
it. President Bush reluctantly acceded to this advice and, at about 10:10, Air 
Force One changed course and began heading due west. The immediate objec- 
tive was to find a safe location — not too far away — where the President could 
land and speak to the American people.The Secret Service was also interested 
in refueling the aircraft and paring down the size of the traveling party. The 
President's military aide, an Air Force officer, quickly researched the options 
and, sometime around 10:20, identified Barksdale Air Force Base as an appro- 
priate interim destination. 2 

When Air Force One landed at Barksdale at about 11:45, personnel from 
the local Secret Service office were still en route to the airfield. The motorcade 
consisted of a military police lead vehicle and a van; the proposed briefing the- 
ater had no phones or electrical outlets. Staff scrambled to prepare another 
room for the President's remarks, while the lead Secret Service agent reviewed 
the security situation with superiors in Washington. The President completed 
his statement, which for security reasons was taped and not broadcast live, and 
the traveling party returned to Air Force One. The next destination was dis- 
cussed: once again the Secret Service recommended against returning to Wash- 
ington, and the Vice President agreed. Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was 
chosen because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it 
could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service 
wanted a place where the President could spend several days, if necessary. 3 


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Air Force One arrived at Offutt at 2:50 P.M. At about 3:15, President Bush 
met with his principal advisers through a secure video teleconference. 4 Rice 
said President Bush began the meeting with the words, "We're at war," 5 and 
that Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said the agency was still 
assessing who was responsible, but the early signs all pointed to al Qaeda. 6 That 
evening the Deputies Committee returned to the pending presidential direc- 
tive they had labored over during the summer. 7 

The secretary of defense directed the nation's armed forces to Defense Con- 
dition 3, an increased state of military readiness. 8 For the first time in history, 
all nonemergency civilian aircraft in the United States were grounded, strand- 
ing tens of thousands of passengers across the country. Contingency plans for 
the continuity of government and the evacuation of leaders had been imple- 
mented. 9 The Pentagon had been struck; the White House or the Capitol had 
narrowly escaped direct attack. Extraordinary security precautions were put in 
place at the nation's borders and ports. 

In the late afternoon, the President overruled his aides' continuing reluc- 
tance to have him return to Washington and ordered Air Force One back to 
Andrews Air Force Base. He was flown by helicopter back to the White House, 
passing over the still-smoldering Pentagon. At 8:30 that evening, President Bush 
addressed the nation from the White House. After emphasizing that the first 
priority was to help the injured and protect against any further attacks, he said: 
"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts 
and those who harbor them." He quoted Psalm 23 — "though I walk through 
the valley of the shadow of death . . ." No American, he said, "will ever forget 
this day." 10 

Following his speech, President Bush met again with his National Security 
Council (NSC), expanded to include Secretary of Transportation Norman 
Mineta and Joseph Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Manage- 
ment Agency. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had returned from Peru after 
hearing of the attacks, joined the discussion. They reviewed the day's events. 11 


As the urgent domestic issues accumulated,White House Deputy Chief of Staff 
Joshua Bolten chaired a temporary "domestic consequences" group. 12 The 
agenda in those first days is worth noting, partly as a checklist for future crisis 
planners. It began with problems of how to help victims and stanch the flow- 
ing losses to the American economy, such as 

• Organizing federal emergency assistance. One question was what kind 
of public health advice to give about the air quality in Lower Manhat- 
tan in the vicinity of the fallen buildings. 13 

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• Compensating victims. They evaluated legislative options, eventually 
setting up a federal compensation fund and defining the powers of a 
special master to run it. 

• Determining federal assistance. On September 13, President Bush 
promised to provide $20 billion for New York City, in addition to the 
$20 billion his budget director had already guessed might be needed 
for the country as a whole. 14 

• Restoring civil aviation. On the morning of September 13, the 
national airspace reopened for use by airports that met newly impro- 
vised security standards. 

• Reopening the financial markets. After extraordinary emergency 
efforts involving the White House, the Treasury Department, and the 
Securities and Exchange Commission, aided by unprecedented 
cooperation among the usually competitive firms of the financial 
industry, the markets reopened on Monday, September 17. 15 

• Deciding when and how to return border and port security to more 
normal operations. 

• Evaluating legislative proposals to bail out the airline industry and cap 
its liability. 

The very process of reviewing these issues underscored the absence of an 
effective government organization dedicated to assessing vulnerabilities and 
handling problems of protection and preparedness. Though a number of agen- 
cies had some part of the task, none had security as its primary mission. 

By September 14, Vice President Cheney had decided to recommend, at 
least as a first step, a new White House entity to coordinate all the relevant agen- 
cies rather than tackle the challenge of combining them in a new department. 
This new White House entity would be a homeland security adviser and 
Homeland Security Council — paralleling the National Security Council sys- 
tem. Vice President Cheney reviewed the proposal with President Bush and 
other advisers. President Bush announced the new post and its first occupant — 
Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge — in his address to a joint session of Con- 
gress on September 20. 15 

Beginning on September 11, Immigration and Naturalization Service 
agents working in cooperation with the FBI began arresting individuals for 
immigration violations whom they encountered while following up leads in 
the FBI's investigation of the 9/11 attacks. Eventually, 768 aliens were arrested 
as "special interest" detainees. Some (such as Zacarias Moussaoui) were actu- 
ally in INS custody before 9/11; most were arrested after. Attorney General 
John Ashcroft told us that he saw his job in directing this effort as "risk mini- 
mization," both to find out who had committed the attacks and to prevent a 
subsequent attack. Ashcroft ordered all special interest immigration hearings 
closed to the public, family members, and press; directed government attorneys 

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to seek denial of bond until such time as they were "cleared" of terrorist con- 
nections by the FBI and other agencies; and ordered the identity of the 
detainees kept secret. INS attorneys charged with prosecuting the immigration 
violations had trouble getting information about the detainees and any terror- 
ist connections; in the chaos after the attacks, it was very difficult to reach law 
enforcement officials, who were following up on other leads. The clearance 
process approved by the Justice Department was time-consuming, lasting an 
average of about 80 days. 17 

We have assessed this effort to detain aliens of "special interest." The 
detainees were lawfully held on immigration charges. Records indicate that 531 
were deported, 162 were released on bond, 24 received some kind of immi- 
gration benefits, 12 had their proceedings terminated, and 8 — one of whom 
was Moussaoui — were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. 
The inspector general of the Justice Department found significant problems in 
the way the 9/11 detainees were treated. 18 In response to a request about the 
counterterrorism benefits of the 9/11 detainee program, the Justice Depart- 
ment cited six individuals on the special interest detainee list, noting that two 
(including Moussaoui) were linked directly to a terrorist organization and that 
it had obtained new leads helpful to the investigation of the 9/11 terrorist 
attacks. 19 A senior al Qaeda detainee has stated that U.S. government efforts 
after the 9/11 attacks to monitor the American homeland, including review of 
Muslims' immigration files and deportation of nonpermanent residents, forced 
al Qaeda to operate less freely in the United States. 20 

The government's ability to collect intelligence inside the United States, and 
the sharing of such information between the intelligence and law enforcement 
communities, was not a priority before 9/11. Guidelines on this subject issued 
in August 2001 by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson essentially reca- 
pitulated prior guidance. However, the attacks of 9/1 1 changed everything. Less 
than one week after September 1 1 , an early version of what was to become the 
Patriot Act (officially, the USA PATRIOT Act) began to take shape. 21 A cen- 
tral provision of the proposal was the removal of "the wall" on information 
sharing between the intelligence and law enforcement communities (discussed 
in chapter 3). Ashcroft told us he was determined to take every conceivable 
action, within the limits of the Constitution, to identify potential terrorists and 
deter additional attacks. 22 The administration developed a proposal that even- 
tually passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into 
law on October 26. 23 

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Flights of Saudi Nationals Leaving the United States 

Three questions have arisen with respect to the departure of Saudi 
nationals horn the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: 
(1) Did any flights of Saudi nationals take place before national airspace 
reopened on September 13,2001? (2) Was there any political interven- 
tion to facilitate the departure of Saudi nationals? (3) Did the FBI 
screen Saudi nationals thoroughly before their departure? 

First, we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, 
domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national 
airspace on the morning of September 13, 200 1. 24 To the contrary, 
every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace 
reopened. 25 

Second, we found no evidence of political intervention. We found 
no evidence that anyone at the White House above the level of Richard 
Clarke participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals. 
The issue came up in one of the many video teleconferences of the 
interagency group Clarke chaired, and Clarke said he approved of how 
the FBI was dealing with the matter when it came up for interagency 
discussion at his level. Clarke told us,'T asked the FBI, Dale Watson . . . 
to handle that, to check to see if that was all right with them, to see if 
they wanted access to any of these people, and to get back to me. And 
if they had no objections, it would be fine with me." Clarke added, "I 
have no recollection of clearing it with anybody at the White 
House." 26 

Although White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card remembered 
someone telling him about the Saudi request shortly after 9/1 1 , he said 
he had not talked to the Saudis and did not ask anyone to do anything 
about it. The President and Vice President told us they were not aware 
of the issue at all until it surfaced much later in the media. None of the 
officials we interviewed recalled any intervention or direction on this 
matter from any political appointee. 27 

Third, we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of 
Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. 28 The 
Saudi government was advised of and agreed to the FBI's requirements 
that passengers be identified and checked against various databases 
before the flights departed. 29 The Federal Aviation Administration rep- 
resentative working in the FBI operations center made sure that the 

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FBI was aware of the flights of Saudi nationals and was able to screen 
the passengers before they were allowed to depart. 30 

The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to 
their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was con- 
nected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change 
that conclusion. Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals 
involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed 
on these flights. 31 


By late in the evening of September 1 1, the President had addressed the nation 
on the terrible events of the day. Vice President Cheney described the Presi- 
dent's mood as somber. 32 The long day was not yet over. When the larger meet- 
ing that included his domestic department heads broke up, President Bush 
chaired a smaller meeting of top advisers, a group he would later call his "war 
council." 33 This group usually includedVice President Cheney, Secretary of State 
Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, General Hugh Shelton, Vice 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (later to become chairman) General Myers, DCI 
Tenet, Attorney General Ashcroft, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. From the 
White House staff, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Chief of 
Staff Card were part of the core group, often joined by their deputies, Stephen 
Hadley and Joshua Bolten. 

In this restricted National Security Council meeting, the President said it 
was a time for self-defense. The United States would punish not just the per- 
petrators of the attacks, but also those who harbored them. Secretary Powell 
said the United States had to make it clear to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the 
Arab states that the time to act was now. He said we would need to build a 
coalition. The President noted that the attacks provided a great opportunity to 
engage Russia and China. Secretary Rumsfeld urged the President and the 
principals to think broadly about who might have harbored the attackers, 
including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, and Iran. He wondered aloud how 
much evidence the United States would need in order to deal with these coun- 
tries, pointing out that major strikes could take up to 60 days to assemble. 34 

President Bush chaired two more meetings of the NSC on September 12. 
In the first meeting, he stressed that the United States was at war with a new 
and different kind of enemy.The President tasked principals to go beyond their 
pre-9/11 work and develop a strategy to eliminate terrorists and punish those 
who support them. As they worked on defining the goals and objectives of the 
upcoming campaign, they considered a paper that went beyond al Qaeda to 

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propose the "elimination of terrorism as a threat to our way of life," an aim that 
would include pursuing other international terrorist organizations in the Mid- 
dle East. 35 

Rice chaired a Principals Committee meeting on September 13 in the Sit- 
uation Room to refine how the fight against al Qaeda would be conducted. 
The principals agreed that the overall message should be that anyone support- 
ing al Qaeda would risk harm. The United States would need to integrate 
diplomacy, financial measures, intelligence, and military actions into an over- 
arching strategy. The principals also focused on Pakistan and what it could do 
to turn the Taliban against al Qaeda. They concluded that if Pakistan decided 
not to help the United States, it too would be at risk. 36 

The same day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with the 
Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, and the visiting head 
of Pakistan's military intelligence service, Mahmud Ahmed. Armitage said that 
the United States wanted Pakistan to take seven steps: 

• to stop al Qaeda operatives at its border and end all logistical support 
for Bin Ladin; 

• to give the United States blanket overflight and landing rights for all 
necessary military and intelligence operations; 

• to provide territorial access to U.S. and allied military intelligence and 
other personnel to conduct operations against al Qaeda; 

• to provide the United States with intelligence information; 

• to continue to publicly condemn the terrorist acts; 

• to cut off all shipments of fuel to the Taliban and stop recruits from 
going to Afghanistan; and, 

• if the evidence implicated bin Ladin and al Qaeda and the Taliban 
continued to harbor them, to break relations with the Taliban 
government. 37 

Pakistan made its decision swiftly. That afternoon, Secretary of State Powell 
announced at the beginning of an NSC meeting that Pakistani President 
Musharraf had agreed to every U.S. request for support in the war on terror- 
ism. The next day, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad confirmed that Musharraf and 
his top military commanders had agreed to all seven demands. "Pakistan will 
need full US support as it proceeds with us," the embassy noted. "Musharraf 
said the GOP [government of Pakistan] was making substantial concessions in 
allowing use of its territory and that he would pay a domestic price. His stand- 
ing in Pakistan was certain to suffer. To counterbalance that he needed to show 
that Pakistan was benefiting from his decisions." 38 

At the September 13 NSC meeting, when Secretary Powell described Pak- 
istan's reply, President Bush led a discussion of an appropriate ultimatum to the 
Taliban. He also ordered Secretary Rumsfeld to develop a military plan against 

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the Taliban. The President wanted the United States to strike the Taliban, step 
back, wait to see if they got the message, and hit them hard if they did not. He 
made clear that the military should focus on targets that would influence the 
Taliban's behavior. 39 

President Bush also tasked the State Department, which on the following 
day delivered to the White House a paper titled "Game Plan for a Political- 
Military Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan." The paper took it as a given 
that Bin Ladin would continue to act against the United States even while 
under Taliban control. It therefore detailed specific U.S. demands for the Tal- 
iban: surrender Bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants, including Ayman al 
Zawahiri; tell the United States what the Taliban knew about al Qaeda and its 
operations; close all terrorist camps; free all imprisoned foreigners; and comply 
with all UN Security Council resolutions. 40 

The State Department proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban: 
produce Bin Ladin and his deputies and shut down al Qaeda camps within 24 
to 48 hours, or the United States will use all necessary means to destroy the 
terrorist infrastructure. The State Department did not expect the Taliban to 
comply. Therefore, State and Defense would plan to build an international 
coalition to go into Afghanistan. Both departments would consult with NATO 
and other allies and request intelligence, basing, and other support from coun- 
tries, according to their capabilities and resources. Finally, the plan detailed a 
public U.S. stance: America would use all its resources to eliminate terrorism 
as a threat, punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hold states and other 
actors responsible for providing sanctuary to terrorists, work with a coalition 
to eliminate terrorist groups and networks, and avoid malice toward any peo- 
ple, religion, or culture. 41 

President Bush recalled that he quickly realized that the administration 
would have to invade Afghanistan with ground troops. 42 But the early brief- 
ings to the President and Secretary Rumsfeld on military options were disap- 
pointing. 43 Tommy Franks, the commanding general of Central Command 
(CENTCOM), told us that the President was dissatisfied. The U.S. military, 
Franks said, did not have an off-the-shelf plan to eliminate the al Qaeda threat 
in Afghanistan. The existing Infinite Resolve options did not, in his view, 
amount to such a plan. 44 

All these diplomatic and military plans were reviewed over the weekend of 
September 15—16, as President Bush convened his war council at Camp 
David. 45 Present were Vice President Cheney, Rice, Hadley, Powell, Armitage, 
Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Mueller, Tenet, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wol- 
fowitz, and Cofer Black, chief of the DCI's Counterterrorist Center. 

Tenet described a plan for collecting intelligence and mounting covert oper- 
ations. He proposed inserting CIA teams into Afghanistan to work with Afghan 
warlords who would join the fight against al Qaeda. 46 These CIA teams would 
act jointly with the military's Special Operations units. President Bush later 
praised this proposal, saying it had been a turning point in his thinking. 47 

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General Shelton briefed the principals on the preliminary plan for 
Afghanistan that the military had put together. It drew on the Infinite Resolve 
"phased campaign" plan the Pentagon had begun developing in November 
2000 as an addition to the strike options it had been refining since 1998. But 
Shelton added a new element — the possible significant use of ground forces — 
and that is where President Bush reportedly focused his attention. 48 

After hearing from his senior advisers, President Bush discussed with Rice 
the contents of the directives he would issue to set all the plans into motion. 
Rice prepared a paper that President Bush then considered with principals 
on Monday morning, September 17. "The purpose of this meeting," he 
recalled saying, "is to assign tasks for the first wave of the war against terror- 
ism. It starts today." 49 

In a written set of instructions slightly refined during the morning meet- 
ing, President Bush charged Ashcroft, Mueller, and Tenet to develop a plan for 
homeland defense. President Bush directed Secretary of State Powell to 
deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban along the lines that his department had 
originally proposed. The State Department was also tasked to develop a plan 
to stabilize Pakistan and to be prepared to notify Russia and countries near 
Afghanistan when hostilities were imminent. 50 

In addition, Bush and his advisers discussed new legal authorities for covert 
action in Afghanistan, including the administration's first Memorandum of 
Notification on Bin Ladin. Shortly thereafter, President Bush authorized broad 
new authorities for the CIA. 51 

President Bush instructed Rumsfeld and Shelton to develop further the 
Camp David military plan to attack the Taliban and al Qaeda if the Taliban 
rejected the ultimatum. The President also tasked Rumsfeld to ensure that 
robust measures to protect American military forces against terrorist attack were 
implemented worldwide. Finally, he directed Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill 
to craft a plan to target al Qaeda s funding and seize its assets. 52 NSC staff mem- 
bers had begun leading meetings on terrorist fund-raising by September 18. 53 

Also by September 18, Powell had contacted 58 of his foreign counterparts 
and received offers of general aid, search-and-rescue equipment and person- 
nel, and medical assistance teams. 54 On the same day, Deputy Secretary of State 
Armitage was called by Mahmud Ahmed regarding a two-day visit to 
Afghanistan during which the Pakistani intelligence chief had met with Mul- 
lah Omar and conveyed the U.S. demands. Omar's response was "not negative 
on all these points." 55 But the administration knew that theTaliban was unlikely 
to turn over Bin Ladin. 56 

The pre-9/11 draft presidential directive on al Qaeda evolved into a new 
directive, National Security Presidential Directive 9, now titled "Defeating the 
Terrorist Threat to the United States." The directive would now extend to a 
global war on terrorism, not just on al Qaeda. It also incorporated the Presi- 
dent's determination not to distinguish between terrorists and those who har- 
bor them. It included a determination to use military force if necessary to end 

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al Qaeda s sanctuary in Afghanistan. The new directive — formally signed on 
October 25, after the fighting in Afghanistan had already begun — included new 
material followed by annexes discussing each targeted terrorist group. The old 
draft directive on al Qaeda became, in effect, the first annex. 57 The United 
States would strive to eliminate all terrorist networks, dry up their financial sup- 
port, and prevent them from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The goal 
was the "elimination of terrorism as a threat to our way of life." 58 


President Bush had wondered immediately after the attack whether Saddam 
Hussein's regime might have had a hand in it. Iraq had been an enemy of the 
United States for 11 years, and was the only place in the world where the 
United States was engaged in ongoing combat operations. As a former pilot, 
the President was struck by the apparent sophistication of the operation and 
some of the piloting, especially Hanjour's high-speed dive into the Pentagon. 
He told us he recalled Iraqi support for Palestinian suicide terrorists as well. 
Speculating about other possible states that could be involved, the President 
told us he also thought about Iran. 59 

Clarke has written that on the evening of September 12, President Bush told 
him and some of his staff to explore possible Iraqi links to 9/11. "See if Sad- 
dam did this," Clarke recalls the President telling them. "See if he's linked in any 
way." 60 While he believed the details of Clarke's account to be incorrect, Presi- 
dent Bush acknowledged that he might well have spoken to Clarke at some 
point, asking him about Iraq. 61 

Responding to a presidential tasking, Clarke's office sent a memo to Rice 
on September 18, titled "Survey of Intelligence Information on Any Iraq 
Involvement in the September 11 Attacks." Rice's chief staffer on Afghanistan, 
Zalmay Khalilzad, concurred in its conclusion that only some anecdotal evi- 
dence linked Iraq to al Qaeda. The memo found no "compelling case" that Iraq 
had either planned or perpetrated the attacks. It passed along a few foreign 
intelligence reports, including the Czech report alleging an April 2001 Prague 
meeting between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer (discussed in chapter 7) 
and a Polish report that personnel at the headquarters of Iraqi intelligence in 
Baghdad were told before September 11 to go on the streets to gauge crowd 
reaction to an unspecified event. Arguing that the case for links between Iraq 
and al Qaeda was weak, the memo pointed out that Bin Ladin resented the 
secularism of Saddam Hussein's regime. Finally, the memo said, there was no 
confirmed reporting on Saddam cooperating with Bin Ladin on unconven- 
tional weapons. 62 

On the afternoon of 9/11, according to contemporaneous notes, Secretary 
Rumsfeld instructed General Myers to obtain quickly as much information as 

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possible.The notes indicate that he also told Myers that he was not simply inter- 
ested in striking empty training sites. He thought the U.S. response should con- 
sider a wide range of options and possibilities. The secretary said his instinct 
was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time — not only Bin Ladin. Secretary 
Rumsfeld later explained that at the time, he had been considering either one 
of them, or perhaps someone else, as the responsible party 63 

According to Rice, the issue of what, if anything, to do about Iraq was really 
engaged at Camp David. Briefing papers on Iraq, along with many others, were 
in briefing materials for the participants. Rice told us the administration was 
concerned that Iraq would take advantage of the 9/11 attacks. She recalled that 
in the first Camp David session chaired by the President, Rumsfeld asked what 
the administration should do about Iraq. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz made the 
case for striking Iraq during "this round" of the war on terrorism. 64 

A Defense Department paper for the Camp David briefing book on the 
strategic concept for the war on terrorism specified three priority targets for 
initial action: al Qaeda, theTaliban, and Iraq. It argued that of the three, al Qaeda 
and Iraq posed a strategic threat to the United States. Iraq's long-standing 
involvement in terrorism was cited, along with its interest in weapons of mass 
destruction. 65 

Secretary Powell recalled that Wolfowitz — not Rumsfeld — argued that Iraq 
was ultimately the source of the terrorist problem and should therefore be 
attacked. 66 Powell said that Wolfowitz was not able to justify his belief that Iraq 
was behind 9/11. "Paul was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that 
had to be dealt with," Powell told us. "And he saw this as one way of using this 
event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem." Powell said that President Bush 
did not give Wolfowitz's argument "much weight." 67 Though continuing to 
worry about Iraq in the following week, Powell said, President Bush saw 
Afghanistan as the priority. 68 

President Bush told Bob Woodward that the decision not to invade Iraq was 
made at the morning session on September 15. Iraq was not even on the table 
during the September 15 afternoon session, which dealt solely with 
Afghanistan. 69 Rice said that when President Bush called her on Sunday, Sep- 
tember 1 6, he said the focus would be on Afghanistan, although he still wanted 
plans for Iraq should the country take some action or the administration even- 
tually determine that it had been involved in the 9/11 attacks. 70 

At the September 17 NSC meeting, there was some further discussion of 
"phase two" of the war on terrorism. 71 President Bush ordered the Defense 
Department to be ready to deal with Iraq if Baghdad acted against U.S. inter- 
ests, with plans to include possibly occupying Iraqi oil fields. 72 

Within the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz continued to press the 
case for dealing with Iraq. Writing to Rumsfeld on September 17 in a memo 
headlined "Preventing More Events," he argued that if there was even a 10 per- 
cent chance that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack, maximum pri- 

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ority should be placed on eliminating that threat. Wolfowitz contended that 
the odds were "far more" than 1 in 10, citing Saddam's praise for the attack, his 
long record of involvement in terrorism, and theories that RamziYousef was 
an Iraqi agent and Iraq was behind the 1993 attack on the World Trade Cen- 
ter. 73 The next day, Wolfowitz renewed the argument, writing to Rumsfeld 
about the interest ofYousef's co-conspirator in the 1995 Manila air plot in 
crashing an explosives-laden plane into CIA headquarters, and about informa- 
tion from a foreign government regarding Iraqis' involvement in the attempted 
hijacking of a Gulf Air flight. Given this background, he wondered why so lit- 
tle thought had been devoted to the danger of suicide pilots, seeing a "failure 
of imagination" and a mind-set that dismissed possibilities. 74 

On September 19, Rumsfeld offered several thoughts for his commanders 
as they worked on their contingency plans. Though he emphasized the world- 
wide nature of the conflict, the references to specific enemies or regions named 
only the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Afghanistan. 75 Shelton told us the administra- 
tion reviewed all the Pentagon's war plans and challenged certain assumptions 
underlying them, as any prudent organization or leader should do. 75 

General Tommy Franks, the commanding general of Central Command, 
recalled receiving Rumsfeld's guidance that each regional commander should 
assess what these plans meant for his area of responsibility. He knew he would 
soon be striking the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But, he told us, he 
now wondered how that action was connected to what might need to be done 
in Somalia, Yemen, or Iraq. 77 

On September 20, President Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony 
Blair, and the two leaders discussed the global conflict ahead. When Blair asked 
about Iraq, the President replied that Iraq was not the immediate problem. 
Some members of his administration, he commented, had expressed a differ- 
ent view, but he was the one responsible for making the decisions. 78 

Franks told us that he was pushing independently to do more robust plan- 
ning on military responses in Iraq during the summer before 9/11 — a request 
President Bush denied, arguing that the time was not right. (CENTCOM also 
began dusting off plans for a full invasion of Iraq during this period, Franks 
said.) The CENTCOM commander told us he renewed his appeal for further 
military planning to respond to Iraqi moves shortly after 9/11, both because 
he personally felt that Iraq and al Qaeda might be engaged in some form of 
collusion and because he worried that Saddam might take advantage of the 
attacks to move against his internal enemies in the northern or southern parts 
of Iraq, where the United States was flying regular missions to enforce Iraqi 
no-fly zones. Franks said that President Bush again turned down the request. 79 

Having issued directives to guide his administration's preparations for 
war, on Thursday, September 20, President Bush addressed the nation before a 
joint session of Congress. "Tonight," he said, "we are a country awakened to 

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danger." 80 The President blamed al Qaeda for 9/11 and the 1998 embassy 
bombings and, for the first time, declared that al Qaeda was "responsible for 
bombing the USS Cole." Hl He reiterated the ultimatum that had already been 
conveyed privately. "The Taliban must act, and act immediately," he said. "They 
will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate." 82 The President 
added that America's quarrel was not with Islam: "The enemy of America is 
not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is 
a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them." 
Other regimes faced hard choices, he pointed out: "Every nation, in every 
region, now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the 
terrorists." 83 

President Bush argued that the new war went beyond Bin Ladin. "Our war 
on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there," he said. "It will not 
end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and 
defeated."The President had a message for the Pentagon: "The hour is com- 
ing when America will act, and you will make us proud." He also had a mes- 
sage for those outside the United States. "This is civilization's fight," he said. 
"We ask every nation to join us." 84 

President Bush approved military plans to attack Afghanistan in meetings 
with Central Command's General Franks and other advisers on September 21 
and October 2. Originally titled "Infinite Justice," the operation's code word 
was changed — to avoid the sensibilities of Muslims who associate the power of 
infinite justice with God alone — to the operational name still used for opera- 
tions in Afghanistan: "Enduring Freedom." 85 

The plan had four phases. 

• In Phase One, the United States and its allies would move forces into 
the region and arrange to operate from or over neighboring coun- 
tries such as Uzbekistan and Pakistan. This occurred in the weeks fol- 
lowing 9/11, aided by overwhelming international sympathy for the 
United States. 

• In Phase Two, air strikes and Special Operations attacks would hit key 
al Qaeda and Taliban targets. In an innovative joint effort, CIA and 
Special Operations forces would be deployed to work together with 
each major Afghan faction opposed to the Taliban. The Phase Two 
strikes and raids began on October 7. The basing arrangements con- 
templated for Phase One were substantially secured — after arduous 
effort — by the end of that month. 

• In Phase Three, the United States would carry out "decisive operations" 
using all elements of national power, including ground troops, to top- 
ple the Taliban regime and eliminate al Qaeda's sanctuary in 
Afghanistan. Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, fell to a coali- 
tion assault by Afghan and U.S. forces on November 9. Four days later 
the Taliban had fled from Kabul. By early December, all major cities 

Final 10-11. 4pp 7/17/04 4:12 PM Page 



had fallen to the coalition. On December 22, Hamid Karzai, a Pash- 
tun leader from Kandahar, was installed as the chairman of 
Afghanistan's interim administration. Afghanistan had been liberated 
from the rule of the Taliban. 

In December 2001, Afghan forces, with limited U.S. support, engaged al 
Qaeda elements in a cave complex called Tora Bora. In March 2002, the largest 
engagement of the war was fought, in the mountainous Shah-i-Kot area south 
of Gardez, against a large force of al Qaeda jihadists. The three-week battle was 
substantially successful, and almost all remaining al Qaeda forces took refuge 
in Pakistan's equally mountainous and lightly governed frontier provinces. As 
of July 2004, Bin Ladin and Zawahiri are still believed to be at large. 

• In Phase Four, civilian and military operations turned to the indefinite 
task of what the armed forces call "security and stability operations." 

Within about two months of the start of combat operations, several hun- 
dred CIA operatives and Special Forces soldiers, backed by the striking power 
of U.S. aircraft and a much larger infrastructure of intelligence and support 
efforts, had combined with Afghan militias and a small number of other coali- 
tion soldiers to destroy the Taliban regime and disrupt al Qaeda. They had killed 
or captured about a quarter of the enemy's known leaders. Mohammed Atef, 
al Qaeda s military commander and a principal figure in the 9/11 plot, had been 
killed by a U.S. air strike. According to a senior CIA officer who helped devise 
the overall strategy, the CIA provided intelligence, experience, cash, covert 
action capabilities, and entree to tribal allies. In turn, the U.S. military offered 
combat expertise, firepower, logistics, and communications. 86 With these ini- 
tial victories won by the middle of 2002, the global conflict against Islamist ter- 
rorism became a different kind of struggle.