Osama bin Laden is seen at a news conference in Khost, Afghanistan in 1998

Britain backed “whacking” bin Laden before 9/11 attacks

Taliban founder, Mullah Omar, famously refused to hand over bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, which resulted in the US, the UK and allies invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban regime in October 2001

Secret British government documents released to the British National Archive, and reported by the Times newspaper, reveal that Britain wanted to kill Osama bin Laden with an airstrike nine months before the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon. Held responsible for attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and a suicide attack on USS Cole, a US Navy destroyer, in Yemen in 2000, bin Laden was already a wanted man by the FBI.

The documents reveal that in a briefing paper to the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, before a dinner with the outgoing President Clinton, a senior government official said that “We’re all in favour of whacking UBL [Usama Bin Laden].” 

The Times newspaper reports that John Sawers, Blair’s foreign policy adviser, who later became head of the British foreign intelligence service, MI6, told him that: “The Americans don’t yet have proof that UBL was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. They won’t launch airstrikes until they have a smoking gun, and that may not be until after 20 January [when George W. Bush would become president].”

But despite the British plans, Bill Clinton had already attempted to eliminate bin Laden on 20 August 1998 with Tomahawk missile strikes at Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost, less than two weeks after the deadly bombings on US embassies in East Africa, with the Al Qaeda leader escaping unharmed.

The Taliban founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, famously refused to hand over bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, which resulted in the US and allies invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban regime. 

22 years on, the Taliban are back in power, ruling Afghanistan in the same manner and with the same oppressive zeal it did before, implementing its ideology. 

After a recent order banning women from universities, the Taliban’s education minister, Neda Mohammad Nadem, said that the group was not interested in progress and development, but religion. “If we wanted those, we would have handed bin Laden to the US.”

On 2 May 2012, a team of US Navy Seal killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. And on 31 July 2022, his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan.