U.S. Strikes Against Terrorist Forces
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 1998 U.S. military forces struck targets in Afghanistan and Sudan Aug. 20, going after terrorists believed responsible for the Aug. 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
President Clinton told the nation over television that he had directed the attacks on a major terrorist training center in Afghanistan and a chemical weapons facility in Sudan after obtaining "compelling evidence" of their involvement in past and planned future terrorist activities.
According to senior intelligence officials, the simultaneous attacks occurred at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time against the most prominent Sunni Muslim terrorist training facility in the world, some 60 miles south of the Afghan capital of Kabul; and against the Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan. Both locations were tied to Osama ben Laden, a dissident Saudi millionaire who has vowed to drive the United States from all Muslim nations.
Clinton said he ordered the attack for four reasons:
"First, because we have convincing evidence these groups played a key role in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania;
"Second, because the groups have executed terrorist attacks against Americans in the past;
"Third, because we have compelling information that they were planning additional terrorist attacks against our citizens and others with the collateral casualties we saw so tragically in Africa; and
"Fourth, because they are seeking to acquire chemical weapons and other dangerous weapons."
Following the president's brief statement from his vacation site at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., Defense Secretary William Cohen and Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters at the Pentagon.
Cohen forewarned reporters: "The unique nature of the terrorist threat, the lack of regard for international law, the willingness to specifically target innocent civilians, transnational operations which defy traditional means of influence -- all of these factors have forced us to adopt some very different approaches to the problem. Therefore, we do not intend to provide, at least for now, the specific numbers or units of U.S. military forces involved, nor will we discuss the specific weapons and tactics employed."
The military strikes at terrorist camps and facilities were "part of a continuing effort to defend U.S. citizens and interests abroad against the very real threat posed by international terrorists," Cohen said. "We've taken these actions to reduce the ability of these terrorist organizations to train and equip their misguided followers or to acquire weapons of mass destruction for their use in campaigns of terror."
Admitting the strikes don't guarantee an end to terrorist strikes against U.S. people and facilities, Cohen said they still send a clear message: "There will be no sanctuary for terrorists and no limit to our resolve to defend American citizens, our interests, our ideals of democracy and law, against these cowardly attacks."
Shelton called the attacks a concerted effort to defend U.S. citizens and interests worldwide. "Osama ben Laden's network of terrorists was involved in the planning, the financing and the execution of the attacks on the U.S. embassies" in Africa, he said. "This is by no means the first time the ben Laden network has been connected to terrorist attacks.
"The targets selected and the timing of the strikes -- 7:30 p.m. in Sudan and 10 p.m. in Afghanistan -- were part of our overall effort to minimize collateral damage at the sites," he said.
Avoiding specific details, a senior intelligence official said the strikes were successful. "Everything worked; all avenues worked very well," he said.