Late January 2001 (B): The new Bush administration discontinues the covert deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships on six-hour alert near Afghanistan's borders that had begun under President Clinton. The standby force gave Clinton the option of an immediate strike against targets in al-Qaeda's top leadership. The discontinuation makes a possible assassination of bin Laden much more difficult. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

February 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney is briefed that it has been conclusively proven bin Laden was behind the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Bush has been in office a matter of days, when secret pipeline negotiations with the Taliban have begun. The new administration has already twice threatened the Taliban that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for any al-Qaeda attack. But, fearful of ending those negotiations, the US does not retaliate against either the Taliban or known bin Laden bases in Afghanistan in the manner Clinton did in 1998. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]