http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1028236160532452080,00.html?mod=Page+One Excerpt: Mr. bin Laden's grandstanding made already-tense relations with the locals worse. A July 1998 letter from two Syrian Islamists who had moved to Afghanistan, written in Arabic and stored on the computer found in Kabul, said the al Qaeda chief "has caught the disease of [TV] screens, flashes, fans and applause." His "obstinacy, egotism and pursuit of internal battles," they continued, had alienated the Taliban leader and strengthened a "corrupt stream" within the Taliban that was keen to do a deal with the Americans. The writers mocked Mr. bin Laden's promises to use his money to build roads and revive the economy. The Taliban "got only promises which the wind blew away," said the two Syrians, Omar Abu Mosaab al-Suri and Abu Khaled al-Suri. "You know the truth." The long letter said that Mr. bin Laden's "troublemaking" had so frayed relations with Mullah Omar that the Taliban had shut down one Arab camp. And "talk about closing down [all] the camps has spread." In short, it said, addressing Mr. bin Laden, "We are in a ship together, and you are burning it." Americans following Afghanistan saw none of this. They sometimes picked up rumors of friction between the Arabs and Afghans but had no way to confirm them, says Mr. Inderfurth. Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who led the 1998 delegation to Kabul, says he tried to persuade the Taliban to hand over Mr. bin Laden and make peace with their foes but got nowhere, even though at the time he called his visit a "breakthrough." "The Taliban basically said, 'We will not turn him over, but we will keep an eye on him for you,' " Mr. Richardson says. "My sense was that there was some kind of collusion between the two." In fact, Taliban/al Qaeda relations were near a breaking point. Two months after the U.S. visit, Mullah Omar had a secret visit in Kandahar from Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of intelligence for Saudi Arabia, one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government. Prince Turki says the Saudi government, angered by Mr. bin Laden's fiery proclamations, had "decided that enough is enough." It asked Mullah Omar to hand over the al Qaeda leader so he could be put on trial in Saudi Arabia for treason, a crime punishable by death. Mullah Omar, the prince says, assented to the Saudi demand, asking only that the two countries first set up a joint commission of Islamic scholars to formulate a justification for the expulsion. A month later, Prince Turki says, the Taliban leaders sent an envoy to Saudi Arabia to reaffirm the deal. In preparation, the Taliban replaced Mr. bin Laden's team of Arab bodyguards with Afghans loyal to Mullah Omar. But shortly afterward, the plan came unstuck when the U.S., in retaliation for the bombing of its embassies in East Africa, fired 79 cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan, Mr. bin Laden's previous sanctuary. President Clinton, then mired in the Monica Lewinsky mess, returned to Washington from a Martha's Vineyard vacation for a televised address, telling the nation: "Our mission was clear, to strike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Osama bin Laden." Even before he spoke, Dr. Zawahri got on the phone to Mr. Yusufzai in Pakistan to declare himself and Mr. bin Laden safe. Mr. bin Laden was not only safe but also more secure -- and an international celebrity, his face and cause suddenly famous from Karachi to Kansas. The U.S. strike helped turn a loose association of Soviet-war alumni and other militants into a magnet for funds and recruits, says Hani al-Sebai, a London-based Islamist. Before, he says, "there was no al Qaeda." Saudi Prince Turki says that, accompanied by the head of Pakistan's intelligence agency, he visited Afghanistan again less than a month after the U.S. raid -- and found the Taliban attitude had "changed 180 degrees." Mullah Omar, he says, was "absolutely rude," insulting the Saudi royal family as American "lackeys" and refusing to discuss Mr. bin Laden. Prince Turki stormed out of the meeting. The deal to send Mr. bin Laden back to Saudi Arabia was off. Also void was Mr. bin Laden's pledge to curb his thirst for publicity. The al Qaeda chief soon held another of his media spectacles, this time with the Taliban's support. The U.S. had used missiles, Mr. bin Laden said derisively, because Americans were "too cowardly ... to meet the young people of Islam face-to-face." Al Qaeda hatched plans to milk the missile attack for propaganda and profit. A promotional video featuring the area damaged by the raid soon went on sale in Islamic bookshops in Europe and the Mideast. Al Qaeda's military chief composed letters to ABC, CBS and CNN offering to sell footage of Mr. bin Laden "openly threatening America." Though the computer found in Kabul contains copies of the letter, it's not clear it was ever sent; the networks say they didn't receive it. Three months after the U.S. retaliatory attack, the Taliban said they had examined the U.S. accusation that Mr. bin Laden was behind the embassy bombings and determined he was "a man without sin." All hopes they would expel him were gone.