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Commission draws conclusions on terror attacks

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Acts of terror
Military Intelligence
September 11 attacks

(CNN) -- Preliminary findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, as reported by commission staff at Tuesday's hearing:

  • In response to requests from policymakers, the military prepared a wide array of options for striking at al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his organization from May 1998 onward.
  • After missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan on August 20, 1998, senior military officials and policymakers emphasized actionable intelligence as the key factor in recommending or deciding to strike bin Laden and his organization.
  • Policymakers and military officials expressed frustration at a lack of actionable intelligence.
  • Some officials inside the Pentagon, including those in special forces and the counterterrorism policy office, expressed frustration at a lack of military action.
  • The Bush administration began to develop new policies toward al Qaeda in 2001, but there is no evidence of new work on military capabilities or plans against it before September 11.
  • Both civilian and military officials of the Defense Department say neither Congress nor the American public would have supported large-scale military operations in Afghanistan before September 11.
  • From spring 1997 to September 2001, the U.S. government tried to persuade the Taliban to expel bin Laden to a country where he could face justice. The Taliban were also asked to stop giving sanctuary to bin Laden's organization. The efforts employed inducements, warnings and sanctions. All failed.
  • The U.S. government also pressed two successive Pakistani governments to demand that the Taliban stop providing sanctuary for bin Laden and his organization and, failing that, to cut off their support for the Taliban. Before the attacks, the United States could not find a mix of incentives or pressure that would persuade Pakistan to reconsider its fundamental relationship with the Taliban.
  • From 1999 through early 2001, the United States pressed the United Arab Emirates, one of the Taliban's few travel and financial outlets to the outside world, to break off ties and enforce sanctions, especially those related to air travel to Afghanistan. These efforts achieved little before September 11.
  • Saudi Arabia worked closely with top U.S. officials to solve the bin Laden problem with diplomacy. Yet before September 11, the Saudi and U.S. governments did not achieve full sharing of important intelligence information or develop an adequate joint effort to track and disrupt the finances of the al Qaeda organization.

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