July 21, 2001: Three American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs) and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. [Salon, 8/16/02] It is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called "brainstorming on Afghanistan." Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/22/01] At the meeting, former US State Department official Lee Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action." [Guardian, 9/26/01] Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to "take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest." The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and June 26, 2001). Naik also says "it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban." [BBC, 9/18/01] One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between "carpets of bombs" - an invasion - or "carpets of gold" - the pipeline. [Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] Niaz Naik says Tom Simons made the "carpets" statement. Simons claims: "It's possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can't resist the temptation to be mischievous." Naik and the American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/02] So then what was the "carpets of gold" phrase referring to? FTW