US-Afghanistan policy before 2001 was sympathetic to the state of Afghanistan until the collaborations of Taliban with Al Qaeda began and it slowly became a high interest nation for the US. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the United States policy and strategy towards Afghanistan were diplomatic efforts. Government employees who were involved in these diplomatic efforts were genuinely interested in the state while much of the United States did not know anything about Afghanistan.
Therefore, a national interest in the country was quite lacking (Taddeo, 2010). The United States had a cursory interest in the form of lending support for some of the infrastructures of the land. Economic assistance was provided to Afghanistan for the country to develop its roads, dams etc. With such a peripheral interest, the diplomatic assistance then grew over the 1960s to include support for education, the transportation facilities of the country, the governmental administration etc.
The Taliban was initially viewed by the US government as a group that could provide some form of stable political state for Afghanistan. Afghanistan had suffered because of many wars. Hence the US expected the Taliban to give the region some political and economic stability. However, this was not the case as observed in latter times. The Taliban began to collaborate with the al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. “Hopes were dashed as the Taliban demonstrated a tolerance for Islamic extremists, and aligned itself with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization by beginning to host them. In September of 1996, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda began using the Taliban controlled Afghanistan as their main base of operations” (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004, p.66). This was a time when the Taliban was seen to invite counter forces to come and train in the country. The Taliban was providing a sanctuary to Al Qaeda and its believers.
During the time when the Taliban had a strong connection with Al Qaeda, the United States no longer had a peripheral interest. The national interest had escalated to the level that the CIA was conducting clandestine operations in the country. Paramilitary forces were sent into the country even before the 2001 incident. The operations were clear to locate and capture Osama Bin Laden as a strong person of interest with the Al-Qaeda. However, this was an authority on land. This was in no way under the direct executory orders of the president.