During the five years in which the Clinton administration “engaged” the Taliban, only once did it move beyond chat. In August 1998, after al Qaeda attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack against a terrorist training facility in Afghanistan.
This attack did not signal any change in our approach to the Taliban. Before long, we were talking with the Taliban as if nothing had happened.
What, then, was the August 1998 bombing about? The answer may lie in the following chronology:
August 7, 1998 — Al Qaeda bombs U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; the U.S. does not respond;
August 17, 1998 — the president testifies before a grand jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky then ridicules Ken Starr and the Independent Counsel’s Office in a televised address to the entire nation;
August 18, 1998 — First Family heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a vacation; Dick Morris testifies before grand jury about his conversations with the president about Lewinsky, including January 1998 “we just have to win” comment when Morris told him about polls that indicated that he could not stay in office if he had already obstructed justice and perjured himself; reports surface that Lewinsky will testify again before the grand jury on August 20;
August 20, 1998 — the president cuts short his vacation and announces missile strikes into Afghanistan; Monica Lewinsky testifies before the grand jury and contradicts the president’s August 17 testimony.