1988: Osama bin Laden forms al Qaeda to recruit, train, and support the faithful warriors.
1990: Iraq invades Kuwait. Osama bin Laden makes an offer to the King of Saudi Arabia to bring together a force of faithful warriors to protect the kingdom. The King refuses and invites American forces. Outraged, bin Laden vows to force Western forces (and their moral corruption) out of the Middle East and to overthrow the Saudi government, which he regards as tainted. On November 5, terrorist El Sayyid Nosir murders Jewish radical Meir Kahane in New York but is convicted only of a minor weapons violation. Knowing that captured terrorists in Egypt face torture and execution, Nosir decides that the US is a soft target, a view that continues. Nosir's apartment included manuals on making bombs and photos of the World Trade Center, but police dismiss such plots as unlikely.
1993: In February, a van loaded with 1,500 pounds of explosives damages the World Trade Center. Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian Army major who had spent time in the US special forces and fighting with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, tells US intelligence that bin Laden was involved in supporting the bombers.
In October, a furious street battle in Mogadishu leaves 18 US Army Rangers dead and forces the US to abandon its intervention in Somalia. This (confirming the effects of the 1983 Beirut bombing) convinces many Islamic radicals that the US will pull out of any troubled region if enough casualties can be inflicted. Islamic radicals become convinced that the US has no stomach for a fight. Osama bin Laden will later claim that many of those who fought in the Mogadishu battle were graduates of his training schools and believers in his goal of expelling the US from Islamic countries.
1994: In December, terrorists from the Armed Islamic Group (an Algerian terrorist organization which sent operatives to be trained in Afghanistan) hijacked a French airliner and planned to crash it into the Eiffel tower. The problem is that none of them are pilots and the Air France pilot lands the plane safely even while under threat. A few months later, the first men later linked to the Al Qaeda organization apply for admission to US airline pilot schools.
1995: A plot to destroy 11 US airliners over the Pacific is foiled by US intelligence. Two men arrested in the plot describe plans to fly a hijacked airliner into CIA headquarters or another government building, plans the FBI dismisses as grandiose and far fetched. The US begins to focus on Osama bin Laden as the master of the terror network.
1996: Bin Laden issues his first fatwa, calling on all Moslems to kill American soldiers. The US pressures Sudan into expelling bin Laden, who moves to Afghanistan. This will later be seen as a mistake, in that he was able to set up and run a larger infrastructure there, and the Taliban government is effectively immune to international pressure. In June, terrorists set off a massive truck bomb at the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis execute the suspects before allowing the FBI to interrogate them. At the time, many theorize that the Saudis are covering up for Iranians (seeking to avoid a regional crisis), but this attack will later be thought to have its roots in the Al Qaeda network.
1997: The US, aided by Egyptian intelligence, rounds up the bin Laden cells in Albania.
1998: Osama bin Laden expands his fatwa to include killing American civilians abroad and at home. In August, bin Laden orchestrates the bomb attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. President Clinton signs a "Lethal Finding," allowing the CIA to assassinate him, as he is technically not a "leader of a foreign nation" protected by a 1975 executive order. Two years of attempts fail. Ali Mohamed, the former Egyptian Army major, is involved in planning the attacks; arrested, he confirms bin Laden's role and is convicted by a US court in 1999.
1999: Just before the New Year, the US detects and blocks a series of terrorist attacks linked to Algerian groups linked to al Qaeda.
2000: In October, an attack orchestrated by Al Qaeda damages the destroyer USS Cole, nearly sinking her. The attack was organized by Tawfiq "Khallad" bin Atash, who is thought to have been the tactical leader of the 11 Sept 2001 attacks.
2001: All summer long, the Al Qaeda organization floods US intelligence with dozens of phony rumors of impending attacks all around the world. A merger between Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad produces a much more organized and dangerous network, but the WTC attacks predate this merger. September 11, the largest terrorist attack in history strikes the World Trade Center and Pentagon.--Stephen V Cole
The CIA backs the Afghan Mujahideen in a bid to throw Russia out of Afghanistan. Many Arab men who fought in the US-backed rebel forces would later serve in the forces of Taliban or bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was commander of one of these foreign legions.