President Bush addresses a joint session of Congress.

An Al-Qaeda and Taliban Nexus
The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1267, creating the so-called al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, which links the two groups as terrorist entities and imposes sanctions on their funding, travel, and arms shipments. The UN move follows a period of ascendancy for al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, who guided the terror group from Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan, in the late 1980s, to Sudan in 1991, and back to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. The Taliban, which rose from the ashes of Afghanistan’s post-Soviet civil war, provides al-Qaeda sanctuary for operations.

2001
Afghans carry a picture of Massood in Kabul.
Afghans carry a picture of Massood in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kamran Jebreili/AP Images Share
September 9, 2001
A Northern Alliance Assassination
Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban coalition, is assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives. The killing of Massoud, a master of guerilla warfare known as the Lion of the Panjshir, deals a serious blow to the anti-Taliban resistance. Terrorism experts believe his assassination assured Osama bin Laden protection by the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. Expert Peter Bergen later calls Massoud’s assassination “the curtain raiser for the attacks on New York City and Washington, DC.”

World trade center towers burning on 9/11.
Terrorist attack on World Trade Center. Steven James Silva/Reuters Share
September 11, 2001
Terrorists Strike the United States
Al-Qaeda operatives hijack four commercial airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A fourth plane crashes in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Close to three thousand people die in the attacks. Although Afghanistan is the base for al-Qaeda, none of the nineteen hijackers are Afghan nationals. Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian, led the group, and fifteen of the hijackers originated from Saudi Arabia. President George W. Bush vows to “win the war against terrorism,” and later zeros in on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Bush eventually calls on the Taliban regime to “deliver to the United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land,” or share in their fate.

President Bush addresses a joint session of Congress.
President Bush addresses a joint session of Congress. Win McNamee/Pool/AP Images Share
September 18, 2001
A War Footing
President George W. Bush signs into law a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against those responsible for attacking the United States on 9/11. This joint resolution will later be cited by the Bush administration as legal rationale for its decision to take sweeping measures to combat terrorism, from invading Afghanistan, to eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a court order, to standing up the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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