"With the United States investing huge resources and assigning top priority to the case, some experts predict it is only a matter of time before Bin Laden is run to ground."
- Paul Richter, September 7, 1998
"I think this was an example of reach exceeding grasp."
- U.S. official.
Operation Infinite Reach was the response action by the USA in August 1998 following the bombing of United States of America embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. 79 cruise missiles were deployed at targets around Afghanistan and Sudan, including Osama Bin Laden's terrorist training camps. Six camps in total were targetted.
The most controversial target of all turned out to be in Sudan. A pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum that the United States alleged to be producing nerve gas was destroyed in a cruise missile strike. The Sudanese government claimed it was a medicine factory providing for up to 50% of Sudanese medical needs. The owner of the plant has been linked to both Osama bin Laden and an Iraqi official who is described as "the father of Iraq's chemical weapons program". The US claims to have obtained soil samples from the site which contain a chemical that has no commercial use but in the manufacture of nerve gas.
One of the most notable things about Operation Infinite Reach was the secrecy surrounding it. This was described as "unprecedented" by Pentagon officials, but was telling of what was to come in the War on Terrorism - in this new kind of war it is hoped the enemies will not know who they are until it is too late, and so secrecy is paramount. Al'Queda were successful in invading the United States for so long because they could turn back the hands of time and revert to the stone age, hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan. Lightning strikes were essential - the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not even know of the attacks until President Clinton announced them.
It is also interesting to note that at this point the United States considered the Taliban a possible source of co-operation and help in fighting the terrorist threat, with their feelings toward Osama bin Laden described as "lukewarm".
Operation Infinite Reach lent its name in part to Operation Infinite Justice, the tentative name to come out of Washington for retaliatory strikes following September 11, 2001. The name of this operation was eventually changed to Operation Enduring Freedom following outcry from Islamic groups, who claimed that only Allah could provide infinite justice.