Additions To The 9/11 Timeline As Of July 6, 2008

Kevin Fenton

The majority of new entries this week deal with Pakistan and its relations with al-Qaeda after 9/11. The Pakistani government allowed al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regroup in its tribal region, which was assisted by the US's failure to fund reform of Islamist education in Pakistan and to monitor Taliban strongholds. Suicide bombings dramatically increased in Afghanistan starting in 2004, partly because one top militant leader was allowed to operate openly in Pakistan, and a detainee released form Guantanamo became an important Taliban leader.

President Musharraf falsely claimed al-Qaeda had been smashed in Pakistan in 2005, but Taliban and al-Qaeda control of Pakistan's tribal region increased in 2006, partly because the US ignored a NATO report saying the ISI was behind militant attacks and Pakistan released thousands of extremists. President Bush supported a deal with the Taliban in late 2006, but the deal failed to produce the desired results.

The US tracked an al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan for months without trying to capture him, a NATO commander admitted the Taliban was headquartered in Pakistan and the director of national intelligence said al-Qaeda was regrouping from a "secure hide-out" in Pakistan. Shortly after this, in early 2007 the head of Pakistan's supreme court was arrested, causing unrest, although US policy to Pakistan, controlled by Vice President Cheney, did not alter.

Over a hundred people were killed in the Red Mosque siege, at which, according to the Sunday Times, al-Qaeda directed the militants. Pakistani security services and local militants then started fighting each other, and the army launched an offensive against extremists in the tribal belt. US intelligence concluded that the safe haven was helping radicals in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and presidential candidate Barrack Obama said troops should be sent into Pakistan to hunt terrorists, even without Pakistan's permission.

In late 2007, 300 Pakistani soldiers were taken hostage and then swapped for 28 militants, and a deal with Benazir Bhutto enabled Musharraf to be reelected president. Bhutto then returned to Pakistan, surviving an initial assassination attempt. However, Musharraf imposed a state of emergency.

A group of potential suicide bombers arrested in Spain in January 2008 had all trained in Pakistan's tribal region, where Spain had an informer. Later in the year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai survived an attempt on his life, an al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan's tribal region, and the Taliban freed hundreds of prisoners from a government jail.

Moving away from Pakistan, one group of new entries focuses on the 9/11 hijackers' visas. Some of the hijackers' passports had the same indicator of Islamist extremism as the 1993 World Trade bombers. Saeed Alghamdi obtained his US visa at the consulate in Jeddah, although his passport may have contained fraudulent travel stamps, Mohand Alshehri obtained a visa despite not completing his application, and it is unclear where Hamza Alghamdi's visa was issued. Hani Hanjour's visa application was rejected in September 2000, but he got a visa a couple of weeks later.

Some new entries deal with bin Laden's early career, in particular his interaction with a fellow traveler named Essam al Ridi. Al Ridi purchased equipment for the Arab Afghans in the US and Britain at a time the CIA was aware bin Laden was "tapping into" the anti-Soviet operation it was backing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The CIA also penetrated bin Laden's bank in the early 1990s and was probably aware when al Ridi crashed bin Laden's plane in the Sudan. A bin Laden associate named Wadih El Hage also asked al Ridi for advice on his status with the FBI just before the 1998 embassy bombings.

There are also a number of miscellaneous entries this week. Deena Burnett, wife of one of the Flight 93 passengers, reportedly called the FBI before the plane crashed, an attempt to duplicate 9/11 on the West Coast fizzled out, and the US refused to cooperate with Iran on Islamist militants. Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced a merger with an Egyptian group, although some of the group's members denied this, and called for a revolt in Pakistan after the Red Mosque siege. Karl Rove was concerned about the 9/11 investigation and asked Thomas Kean if he would consider chairing the 9/11 Commission.

President Bush exaggerated his success against al-Qaeda in a 2004 presidential debate, and an article claimed Bush was focused on removing al-Qaeda's top leaders, but not interested in the root causes of terrorism, while John McCain thought bin Laden's intervention in the presidential race would favor Bush. Bush also exaggerated a list of foiled terrorist plots in 2005 and used a 2002 plot to deflect criticism of NSA wiretapping in 2006. Finally, Russian security services planted a much disputed bomb in an apartment block in 1999.

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