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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Bush's military countdown
US President George Bush
Mr Bush said the Taleban had to "pay a price"
"We'll act on our time," said US President George Bush last Tuesday, as he turned down an offer from the increasingly jittery Taleban to negotiate the fate of Osama Bin Laden.

It now emerges it was that very Tuesday that Mr Bush decided the time had arrived for the United States to act - exactly three weeks after the devastating attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

"He called me to the Oval Office and told me he was preparing to launch a military operation and asked me to start thinking about an address to the nation," said White House adviser Karen Hughes.

Five days and two diplomatic missions later, US and British forces had blasted Afghan targets, and Mr Bush delivered that speech.

Final manoeuvres

Soon after the 11 September attacks, Mr Bush was declaring a "war of the 21st century" which would "whip terrorists", disturbing those who wanted a considered response from the US.

But such talk was soon toned down and a more restrained rhetoric introduced, with the focus on coalitions and consensus. In the days leading up to the strikes, two key diplomatic missions were under way.

Taleban fighters
Mr Bush said the battle was "broader" than Afghanistan
On the Wednesday of last week, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started what was to be Washington's last attempt to shore up Arab support for military strikes against Bin Laden and his network before those strikes began, trying to find friends in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt.

And a day later, Mr Bush's "truest friend", British Prime Minister Tony Blair, started another two-day diplomatic mission which took him to Russia and Pakistan - the latter seen as particularly crucial to any coalition, given its former close ties with the Taleban.

While his colleagues were busy abroad, Mr Bush came to the decision as to the final timing of his strikes during a briefing with his military planners on the Friday, according to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

She said that Mr Bush had asked whether Army General Tommy Franks, commander of the forces in the Gulf and the Middle East, was ready to get going.

Warplane takes off during air strikes
US military objectives were "clear" and their goal "just", Mr Bush said
"Yes sir," replied General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"The president sat back and said: 'All right then. We're ready to go'," said Ms Rice.

On Saturday, Mr Rumsfeld returned and Mr Blair was back.

Everything, and everyone, was in place.

Go

The president then spent the weekend at Camp David, alternating between a football game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, Mr Bush's home-state, and issuing final orders to send the bombers on their way.

Early Sunday, he left to address the National Fire Academy near Camp David, speaking at a memorial honouring the 300 fire-fighters who died in service when the World Trade Center collapsed.

He then travelled to the White House.

With the exception of Britain, international leaders, including those of France, Germany and Russia, were only informed of the strikes shortly before they were launched.

Then, at 1:00 pm local time, Mr Bush turned to his country for a televised address.

"On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan," he said.

"The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waver. We will not tire. We will not falter and we will not fail," Mr Bush said.

See also:

08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Enduring Freedom - the first strikes
08 Oct 01 | World
Raids split US friends and foes
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban refuse to bow to US
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