Geronimo : What if Osama Bin Laden was killed prior to 9/11?

He'd go cruising around looking for women and he wouldn't take "No" for answer.
He fired a machine gun off in public simply because he was bored, and tortured Iraqi Olympic athletes and members of the national football team whenever they lost a match.

The man was the definition of a wild card.

Which may prove interesting when it comes to what happens to him in this alternate timeline, and terrifying.

He'd be leading the crackdowns on the ground in person given what I know of him. Weird segue, but I'm wonder what Jack Idema 'King of Stolen Valor' is gonna be doing in this universe if he's not in Afghanistan passing himself off as a counterterrorism expert with the rest of 'Task Force Saber Seven.'
Uday sounds goddamn insane. Like, I don’t think it would take long for someone to come up with a reason to invade Iraq just to depose of him.
Uday sounds goddamn insane. Like, I don’t think it would take long for someone to come up with a reason to invade Iraq just to depose of him.
Technically, if Qusay his brother is in power, that would just make Uday an incredibly dangerous private citizen, like maybe there would be an attempt made against his life like he had IRL, but he could easily just be running about Iraq, and maybe becoming friends with shady folks like Epstein or hanging out with the other "Enemies of America".
maybe becoming friends with shady folks like Epstein

Ack! I could definitely see someone like Uday "No means yes" Hussein hanging out with Epstein at his private "Island" and having lots of flights on Epstein's "Lolita Express".

Now in regards to Qusay I know very little about him aside from that he was secretive and didn't cruise around for women like Uday did.
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Ack! I could definitely someone like Uday "No means yes" Hussein hanging out with Epstein at his private "Island" and having lots of flights on Epstein's "Lolita Express".

Now in regards to Qusay I know very little about him aside from that he was secretive and didn't cruise around for women like Uday did.
Guy was still a psycho. He's suspected to have ordered an Iraqi engineer be killed for fear he'd leave the country.
I also heard even Saddam was appalled by Uday's actions. To the point he scolded his son and told him to get his shit straight.
Rumor has it he set Uday's car collection on fire and said he set a bad example for Iraqis trying to get by while living under sanctions.
Another weird thing I got reminded of was the Quiznos 'Spongmonkeys.' Even with all the changes in TTL, I'd wager they still exist.

Part 41: No Retreat, No Surrender
Part XLI

No Retreat, No Surrender

The Philippines

The United States wasn’t the only country to undergo electoral turmoil in 2004. But the American experience of weeks of nail-biting over Ohio’s delegates was tame in comparison to other countries. In the Philippines, President Arroyo now faced a tense election campaign which had been preceded by an unstable period of governance, stemming from her controversial rise to the Presidency.

In 1998, Arroyo ran for and won the vice presidency (under the Philippine system where Presidents and Vice Presidents are elected separately), deputy to the opposition controversial populist, President Joseph Estrada. Estrada’s presidency was one of immense political insecurity as he battled a combative legislature over allegations of corruption. In January 2001, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos rallied against the President and his abuses of power in scenes reminiscent of the ‘People Power’ Revolution that ended the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Estrada’s grip on power slipped away from him until finally, the heads of the Armed Forces and Police withdrew support from him forcing his resignation and allowing Arroyo’s ascendency.

It was a highly controversial incident and to Estrada's supporters it looked more like a coup than a genuine revolution, in response to the former president’s arrest, Estrada supporters packed the streets of Manilla and blockaded the military entry. Protests turned violent as they attempted to breach the Presidential palace and other government buildings, Arroyo declared a state of rebellion and forcibly dispersed the marchers.

Her time in office was as bumpy as her climb to the position, both the country’s economy and its national security were tested under her administration, with hunger levels spiking across the country and analysis revealing that poverty levels had dramatically increased. As the administration feared a debt default, it pushed for tax increases that while necessary, proved politically unpopular.

Perhaps the administration's greatest issue was the rise in political and religious violence. Following the rise of Southeast Asian terror. The Philippine government feared that if left alone radical groups could severely threaten the country and further rupture its economy. Arroyo decided to confront Islamic and far-left militant groups head-on, the conflicts while initially popular domestically and in the U.S. proved costly, and a series of high profile and high casualty tragedies that stretched nationwide occurred in the Philippines, leading to upwards of 2,000 deaths.

The government’s ‘all-out war’ proved especially controversial and provoked popular opposition protests including massive anti-American demonstrations when President Bush visited in 2003. They accused Arroyo of using the state of war to push controversial anti-terror legislation, that was paving the way for her to declare martial law, she retorted "I am determined to build a strong republic by breaking the back of terrorism and criminality," said in a speech shielded by rows of riot police.

As the national elections loomed in 2004, the country looked prepared for change, Filipino Presidents were usually barred from seeking a second term and her growing unpopularity led Arroyo to take herself out of the running to 'dedicate her time to the economy', but she suddenly reversed course in October 2003, and announced her candidacy (legal considering she was previously elected vice-president, not President) saying that she could not ignore the call to serve the country.

In opposition, a series of candidates arose to contest her, the most likely being famous actor and friend of deposed president Estrada, Ferdinand Poe Jr. "In a man's life there comes a time when you have to make a very big decision and that day has come," said Poe, whose movie roles as a Robin Hood-style underdog won him a strong following among the country's millions of poor. But Poe’s relationship with Estrada combined with his lack of political background spooked the markets. To soothe tensions, Poe chose the more centrist former TV anchor Senator Loren Legarda as his running mate, a move designed to unite the opposition under a single umbrella campaign.


(left to right) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Asian Time Magazine cover, and poster for Francis 'FPJ' Poe and Loren Legarda

The campaign became dirty, and many complained of a lack of substance, as the candidates resorted to entertainers and gimmicks rather than discussing the country's deficit or national security. Polls which were once heavily weighted toward Poe began to slide toward the President, a result of a lacklustre campaign where he refused to debate her and Arroyo successfully painted him as a puppet of Estrada. But many opposition figures laid the blame on fraud, claiming that the President was giving bribes for endorsements and silencing critics.

Large-scale violence began to sweep the country, as hundreds of election-related attacks were reported, and when voting finally began to take place election committees complained of being unable to carry out their duties. On the day, Poe maintained a decent polling lead over the President with surveys reporting 33% to 27% respectively. But in the Philippines elections still took weeks to be fully counted, a longwinded process and it didn’t take nearly as long for allegations of electoral fraud to be made, and some Filipinos were dismayed “This election has made us the joke of the world” said one voter. In the wake of the growing violence, the military issued a threat saying it would use “necessary force” to quell unrest if ‘losing parties’ stirred up trouble.

As the results continued to trickle out, a nasty surprise was appearing for the Poe camp, despite the polling advantage, President Arroyo was showing signs of strength across the country and signs pointed toward the election tipping in her favour. Poe, Legarda, and his supporters immediately called for investigations into accusations of vote buying, electoral manipulation and the use of police for voter intimidation. The party’s reaction immediately sent the economy sliding as anxious traders witnessed protests begin to break out in the capital chanting “Gloria Cheats!”, editorials from newspapers began to excoriate the electoral authorities for allowing abuses of power and some openly reported “the clear manipulation of democracy is a scandal for the nation, there is a clear crisis of legitimacy”.

Soon enough, both sides prepared for their own inaugurations while simultaneously appealing for calm. All while the protests steadily grew in the streets, street conflicts got bloodier and effigies were burned.

As more results pointed towards an Arroyo victory the howls of the opposition grew louder, pointing to evidence that the members of the electoral commissions were chosen by the President to favour her, and reports that the administration had scuttled efforts to computerize the election in favour of the slow (more manipulatable) final count process. Internationally these concerns were replicated, President Bush made his own appeal for calm, “the electoral process should be allowed to play through, without interference from either side or extra-legal methods”.

Poe held a major rally in Manilla, where he proclaimed his victory, claiming that the results of the quick count of the election by NAMFREL (the election watchdog group) and representatives of the Catholic Church (a trusted institution in the Philippines) showed that Arroyo had won the election only via fraud, adding approximately 1 million votes to her tally and thus handing her the election. The speech in Manilla was capped by the impromptu inauguration of himself and his vice president. At once, riot police descended on the rally, breaking it apart with clubs and water cannons. The capital was quickly becoming a city under siege, as military and police thronged the streets, with the police director claiming that Poe’s efforts were 'illegal' and "supported by communist forces to unseat the President".

The country was divided, on the day following the ‘inauguration’ on June 25th a powerful revelation was made, when a whistle-blower from the intelligence agency released what he called the “mother of all tapes” to journalists. The tape contained a woman supposedly President Arroyo conspiring with the election commissioner to steal the election, the female voice asks ‘how many votes she will win by’ and the official says ‘your lead will fall, but you will lead when the count is completed’ ending with the phrase “we will do our best”, the revelation spurred further outrage which led to further confrontations with the police flanked by APC’s to secure government buildings. The mayor of Manilla a staunch supporter of the President, announced that all protests and marches would be banned for several days, only for thousands to defy his orders to be met with water cannons.

The whistle-blower report was joined by a sign of support for Poe from the military as hundreds of junior officers defied orders to suppress protests and insisted that Poe be rightfully recognised as President. In reaction President Arroyo went on television and instituted a nationwide state of emergency, alleging that Communists, Islamist and Right Wing factions were completing a coup against her. Her address frightened many, as they feared the Philippines could fall back into martial law, soon enough countrywide protests/riots and firefights broke out, as forces refused to follow orders, and violent mobs ripped through the country now in its most violent throws in decades.

On the afternoon of June 27th, as violence escalated reports that Arroyo had left/fled the capital fed their way through the media, Poe supporters rallied in a supposed victory as Poe announced that he would march through the capital. Further incidents of military infighting occurred as shots were fired in several bases across the country, shocked by the violence the U.S. state department offered a condemnation of the Philippine military for the arrest of opposition politicians and allegations of assassinations saying they were “contributing to disorder”. Arroyo’s administration stood on shaky grounds as protests continued to wreak havoc throughout the country. The President appeared again on television from the island of Cebu where reportedly after fielding a call from the chief of staff in the army, she issued what was essentially her concession speech “This was not a fair or complete process, there has been violent propaganda used against me, but I firmly believe that peace and order must be restored, and it is clear what the full election results will show, the state of emergency no longer exists and I congratulate President-elect Poe and Vice president-elect Legarda”.


(left to right) Unofficial inauguration of Poe and Legarda, protesters confront water cannons, President declares a state of emergency, a truckful of defecting soldiers

The country was still violently divided, at Poe’s official inaugural address numerous now opposition politicians refused to appear considering him illegitimate and the legislature and opposition continued fighting court battles to declare it so. Regardless he took the oath calling, the day, the “Day of the masses and the day of the poor, we are the allies of democracy and we have again proven that our principles and our love for our country cannot be suppressed”.

Poe’s Presidency was a question mark, on the campaign trail he had failed to formulate policies and with a violently dismissive opposition, it was a similar mystery how long he would be able to last in the position. Regardless he announced a broad agenda reminiscent of his friend and forebearer Estrada, including a new tough-on-crime policy, that reinstated the death penalty and increased funding for police and the military for tackling crime in the country and recommitting the government to extensive land reform. As for the economy, the country's policies remained largely adrift and that lack of direction failed to rout inflation or encourage investors, his main financial policies involved modernizing the country's financial and technology as well as securing aid packages from the United States and Europe, peace talks with rebel groups remained stalled and by the years end hurricanes caused hundreds to drown and a string of terror-related kidnappings shocked the country.

It was hardly a roaring success, but Poe remained as popular as ever with his committed supporters, but the country's hectic ride hadn’t quite ended. On December 11th Poe was admitted to hospital after passing out in the Presidential palace, shock crossed the nation and his people rallied both in prayer and preparation for what some assumed could be another conspiracy against them, the news came three days later, on the 14th that President Poe had fallen into a coma and had passed away during the night. Fernando "the king" Poe the country's most well-known film star and briefly its 15th President passed away leaving his wife, friends, allies and millions of the country in mourning for him. The grieving included Loren Legarda, now the nation’s 16th President and the Philippines' fourth in four years. “We all owe him a great deal, he has inspired and given hope to many, and the people of the Philippines will miss him he gave me my passion to serve, and I hope to share that passion with you all.”


(left to right) funeral for President Poe, 16th President of the Philippines Loren Legarda


Wiki box for the 2004 people power revolution
President Kuchma was retiring, he had long explored his options. The courts had determined he was eligible for a third term in spite of the 1996 constitution, but growing opposition to his rule was becoming louder and louder. Accusations of corruption, authoritarianism and the suspicious death of journalists were leading the country to oppose him en masse. His unpopularity had spiked, and he faced an invigorated opposition under former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko polls put Kuchma’s popularity at less than 8%. A victory at the polls would likely require corruption on a level sufficient to trigger a popular revolt or a revolution akin to Georgia.

It was clear he needed an exit strategy, to protect him from the dangers of a potentially vengeful opposition victory. First, he proposed constitutional changes to decrease the power of the Presidency and to push back elections until 2006 but the parliament failed to back the reforms, the only remaining solution would be a handpicked successor, current Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych.

The election was truly competitive, unlike previous ones where the main opposition was the remnants of the decaying communist party, both candidates now offered differing visions of a Euro-centric or Russo-centric model of governance. This competitiveness gave rise to dirty tricks, mainly utilized by the government in favour of Yanukovych. Shutting down pro-opposition radio stations and sporadically cutting off the few independent television stations remaining. They utilized a number of potent attacks calling Yushchenko a fascist, a Nazi or a puppet of the west. And manipulated the electoral system, running ‘technical candidates’ unknown politicians who bought up political advertising to attack Yushchenko, or ran candidates who promoted radical policies only to then endorse Yushchenko.

A pivotal moment in Yanukovych's campaign was the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin in October, a very popular figure throughout the country (and beloved in the east) the President claimed he wasn’t there to influence the election, but the public meeting of the two timed with renewed promises of economic and political unity including the possibility of dual citizenship. It was hard to ignore the number of pro-Yanukovych posters featuring the two together and the tours of Russian popstars promoting “a United Ukraine and Russia” the Kremlin’s influence extended into the campaign where Russian political strategists began advising the candidate.

Rather than the barrage of advertising from the government Yushchenko opted for the personal approach, touring the country to meet as many voters as possible using his charisma, eloquence and charm. Deprived of tv advertising he skilfully used debates and released a biographical film about himself, handing out orange scarves, jackets and ribbons for his supporters to bear to show his true popularity. Numerous westerners publicly backed his campaign, the Bush administration sent emissaries to observe the campaign, and pro-democracy NGOs spent millions in the country.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came when Yushchenko was admitted to hospital due to poisoning in early September, the poison caused noticeable scarring on his face from nerve damage, the suspects were not found but it was suspected that Ukrainian security forces had conducted the action, either to kill or perhaps deliberately disfigure Yushchenko. Meanwhile, Yanukovych’s campaign took a tumble when the candidate was admitted to hospital after a supposed assassination attempt that was revealed by journalists to be merely an egg that struck the candidate's shoulder.


(left to right) Yushchenko before and after the poisoning, President Kuchma, Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Yanukovych meet

The race was close, as the two ping-ponged back and forth in the polls through the autumn with the country split regionally, the west largely supportive of Yushchenko and the east backing Yanukovych.

The results of the first round were mostly unsurprising with Yanukovych finishing first and Yushchenko closely behind him, some Yushchenko supporters were worried and complained of a “falsification machine” giving Yanukovych the advantage but Yushchenko's team were confident that in the second round, the other legitimate opposition parties would support him allowing a clear victory.

The campaign got nastier as both candidates slung their worst attacks "You will not poison us," Yushchenko said to the government at a large rally of supporters in Kiev "You do not have enough bullets and trucks to break us." While the prime minister told voters to “Make the right choice. Don't allow the plunder of the memory of our fathers and grandfathers. Nazism will not win!”. The polls and the country were predicting a tight election and Yushchenko supporters feared electoral manipulation.

When election day came, results showed a victory for Viktor Yanukovych with more than 98% of the ballots counted, he led the election by 53.57% to Yushchenko’s 45.5%. With a supposed insurmountable lead Yanukovych declared victory, but already stunned Yushchenko supporters organised, appealed to international election observers and demonstrated.

In the capital, hundreds rallied in Independence square to claim the election had been rigged and the true results hidden from the public "We will stay here as long as we can to show the powerful and elite that there are many of us," said one protester "To victory!". Yushchenko addressed his supporters and echoed the claims "We express no confidence in the Central Electoral Committee because of its being a passive, or maybe a too-active, participant in falsifications," he said. "We appeal to the law enforcement bodies, to all citizens of Ukraine: Support the nationwide protest!" Minutes later Yulia Tymoshenko a key supporter called for a general strike, and hundreds of young activists draped in orange encamped in the square. The government glossed over the claims "We won and we are going to sleep," said the campaign spokesman and police forces remained largely passive.

But other nations had been paying attention and quickly noticed the numerous flaws purporting to show electoral tampering, the difference between electoral monitors, exit polling and secret ballots showed that Yanukovych gained between a 3% and 5% advantage nationwide, as well unusually high rates of turnout in the far eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. A European delegate called the findings “a stain … it casts a shadow over the genuineness of the election”, and the chair of the foreign relations committee Senator Joe Biden (D) sent to monitor the process said “In my honest opinion there are signs of fraud … this wasn’t a free or fair election”, and Secretary Colin Powell said it was “not too late for Ukrainian authorities to find a solution that respects the will of the Ukrainian people." though President Bush said nothing he sent no congratulations to Yanukovych.

Angry Yushchenko supporters continued to gather in Kiev's square on the morning of the following day, determined to be heard to convince politicians to cast out the results of the election. Already councillors from the west of Ukraine dismissed the results and made their opinion known demanding that the results from eastern districts be annulled due to the supposed fraud. However, election observers sent from Russia including President Putin sent their congratulations to Yanukovych.

The tens of thousands of supporters gathered and opposition leaders strategized on their movements, it seemed as if the country was experiencing a revolutionary moment similar to that of Georgia a year ago where today President Saakashvili openly supported Yushchenko and his efforts. The protests were highly organised, efforts reportedly months in the making as tents, stages and barricades were constructed. There was tremendous uncertainty in the air, President Kuchma had become a withdrawn figure and there was little certainty as to the loyalty of the police and armed forces. As protesters swarmed around government buildings the government became paralysed, at last Kuchma released his statement appealing for calm and asking for everyone to wait for the electoral commission to certify the official results. It was a positive but unsure sign that Kuchma didn’t want the situation to end in violence.

Regardless of the appeal both men took unofficial presidential oaths, and the opposition became enthused when the court ordered the electoral commission to delay its certification until after claims of fraud were investigated. However Yanukovych supporters were not sitting on their hands and counter-demonstrations were subsequently formed, on top of that several eastern governors threatened secession if the results were overturned, as well as that there were signals that orders had been given to the military to if necessary support the police in suppressing the protests in the capital but Kuchma feared the order would not be carried out.


(left to right) Yanukovych, Yanukovich and Yushchenko supporters confront each other, Yushchenko

After a week of protests and stalled negotiations, President Kuchma made an unexpected visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin, afterwards, the two issued a joint statement where though they recognised the possibility of some electoral fraud, they disagreed with the protesters that it was enough to prompt a second election. With still no end in sight the country got colder and darker and the country's economy began to tumble as markets feared a violent outcome to the crisis.

The next day the supreme court decided there was considerable fraud in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and calls for a fresh election, but only in those regions. It was a hugely depressing moment for the activists and the thousands listening live including those just outside the Supreme court building viciously confronted the guards surrounding it, at the same time the opposition bloc in parliament attempted to pass a series of votes of no confidence in the government, the electoral commission and the supreme court decrying them as puppets of Kuchma and Yanukovych.

The mood of protesters had turned from anticipatory and calm, even excitement at times to outrage. Amid fears of a violent response from the police and military, organisers began to call for women and children to leave the picket lines “This is a fraud against us, they have shown that they will never grant us justice or freedom” Said an opposition parliamentarian, the mood on the television was bleak where once there were flickers of light, a veil of total loyalty to the regime had been enforced, the protesters were casually referred to as “criminals” and “conspirators”. Meanwhile, outside of Ukraine, there were protests in neighbouring Poland and the Baltics as sympathetic citizens and ethnic Ukrainians protested the court’s decision.

The police began to enter the capital in force backed by the occasional military vehicles and equipment, to make matters worse the temperature continued to drop and it was abundantly clear that the protesters could not remain encamped forever, some members of the opposition led by Yulia Tymoshenko insisted that swift (possibly violent) action needed to be taken to capture government buildings to force the security forces and Kuchma to change their minds. But others including Yushchenko were more hesitant hopeful that a combination of street action and diplomacy could achieve the proper outcome. Yushchenko derided Kuchma and the parliament’s decision and noted that it was strange that "On the most crucial day for Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma went for advice, not to his own people, but abroad, our freedom cannot be stopped!" His every word echoed by chants of ‘Kuchma out’ and ‘our Ukraine’.

The standoff held steady, as protesters (from both sides) flanked by riot police and military forces, shouted at each other in the freezing conditions. Finally, the partial re-run was held in the disputed eastern regions on the 18th of December as hundreds of poll watchers from across the globe watched, dismayed westerners and ecstatic easterners witnessed as Yanukovych triumphed again, though he had lost nearly a million votes in the re-run, it was still enough to win, the opposition claimed it did nothing to combat the manipulation across the rest of the country and continued demanding a full re-run. Protesters gathered again for another series of demonstrations but it looked like they had lost the momentum, police provided massive protection to government buildings and barricaded the square off as the encampments slowly deteriorated and dwindled.

To ease tensions, and help soothe opposition fears of a Yanukovich presidency, the opposition and President Kuchma came together to pass several reforms designed to reduce the power of the President and increase the power of the parliament, while granting greater authority to regions, opposition politicians accepted, though they still maintained that the elections were false, demanding immediate reform to the electoral system.

The ‘Orange revolution’ a phrase directly borrowed from Yushchenko would not come to pass and instead Victor Yanukovych a candidate of dubious qualities seen by many as a puppet, a criminal and a crook assumed the Presidency. And millions of bitter, angry, exhausted, enthused, delighted, committed, and divided Ukrainians prepared for the post-Kuchma era.


(left to right) Wiki box for the 2004 Ukraine Election, Wiki box for the 2004 Ukraine protests

The operation dubbed Red, White, and Blue by the press continued through the end of 2004. The operation was a consistent series of airstrikes and bombing runs, undertaken by the Russian Federation, the United States and Great Britain against the Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan. From October onwards the nations positioned their military forces in the region to support the operation. Russia and the United States utilized air bases in central Asia to conduct sorties, while the U.S. and U.K. positioned naval forces in the Indian Ocean.

The initial operation was vast and well-coordinated by the three nations involved, following a bombing run by the United States in 2003, and thanks to the work of the Northern Alliance, the Taliban had been left without an effective air force and its air defences were heavily depleted leaving it unable to defend itself from the repeated strikes, the respective defence agencies of the anti-terror coalition nations reported uniform success. "From the feedback which we have had so far, the targets have been hit accurately in Kabul, Kandahar and especially in Mazar-e-Sharif," said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the North Alliance's equivalent of a foreign minister.

The Taliban made its own pleas for sympathy that the actions taken were “brutal attacks as horrendous as the worst terrorist acts in the world. We offered negotiations but instead, the Americans, Russians and the British have chosen a military approach ... the Afghans will rise against the colonialists as they always have." Said Abdul Zaeef the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan and unofficial spokesman.

The international response unlike previous similar actions was reserved and mostly supportive, many saw the actions as entirely justified in the wake of the 9/4 attacks in Russia, especially after the UN Security Council vote condemning the Taliban. Even Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Khatami’s Iran and Ghadaffi’s Libya stayed unusually silent besides a few statements mourning the unfortunate victims. The most prominent critics were a mix of left-wing peace advocates and a few right-wing Russia hawks who criticised Russia’s policies against its neighbours as aggressive and expansionary, Senator John McCain went so far as to accuse Putin of using the attacks to further consolidate his power and expand the Russian army, blaming Russian policies in Chechnya of pushing the citizens to extremism advocating for a peace agreement that would grant autonomy or independence to the region, and warning against the U.S. inadvertently backing the Russian military, which prompted the Russian government to accuse McCain of supporting the Chechen terrorists.

The continued air campaign and the high regional military presence sparked questions from the public and media, about just how far the military intervention intended to go. The formation of the anti-terror coalition as well as the United Nations vote declaring the Taliban to have failed in its commitments pointed the dial toward regime change, but that still had hurdles in front of it.

For a swift regime change, it was believed by military theorists that a large commitment would need to be made, ground troops would need to be sent and a military establishment constructed in the country to support whatever government was in its place, such a large commitment could not be made by the nations at the moment. Russia said it did not have the necessary troops prepared for an operation with Russian defence minister Ivanov in the process of ‘modernising’ the military. While the United States was also not prepared to commit itself to such an expansive mission, reportedly Defence Secretary Rumsfeld belittled the idea of an American invasion of the country fearing it would “constrain the US military” arguing a limited campaign focused on supporting the Northern Alliance would be more effective.

Rumsfeld’s vision largely won out, U.S. and British aerial operations would largely be restricted to assisting the Northern Alliance while all nations opted to expand their current support for the opposition forces. But critically and silently special forces would also be sent to also aid in the training of and assistance to the Afghan opposition. Soon Green Berets, Spetsnaz and SAS (both UK and Australian) were moved into the country to assist the campaign, leader of the Northern Alliance Ahmed Massoud thanked the countries “This is a joint fight for freedom, when you fight for our freedom, you also fight for your freedom”.

The coalition intervention in Afghanistan also meant that the Pakistan tightrope needed to be walked again. Pakistan and its President, General Perves Musharraf walked a fine line on Afghanistan. Musharraf in an effort to jumpstart his country’s economy began offering tentative support to strike at anti-western terror groups in Afghanistan in 2003 while maintaining his country's opposition to regime change in the country, it was well known that the Pakistani intelligence agency was a force unto itself suspected of aiding and protecting valuable and wanted individuals. Musharraf made the same decision again and penned personal letters both to the Russian people and the Russian President sending both his condolences and his condemnations, saying that he endorsed efforts to ‘eradicate international terrorism’ followed by a visit between Musharraf and the Russian Prime Minister where the two nations pledged a ‘new era of friendship’ signalling good things to come in an often-rocky relationship. However, these decisions began to spark some backlash from Pakistan’s Islamist wing, who called the President's moves “A victimization of our allies in an attempt to secure support from abroad” and pledged demonstrations against the decision.


(left to right) Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Massoud, Abdullah Abdulla, Taliban representative Abdul Zaeff, and Pakistan President General Musharaff

The first major sign that coalition operations were successful came in November 2004, when Northern Alliance forces prepared to attack the city of Mazar-i-sharif Afghanistan’s 4th largest city. The city was an important hub for the Taliban and their rule over the city was renowned for its brutality, following its capture their forces spent days indiscriminately firing into anyone unlucky enough to be caught outside, they outlawed their victim's burial and massacred members of the Hazzar ethnic group. The city was the Taliban’s last major point of control in the north of the country, following the fall of Kunduz and served as a hub for trade with neighbouring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, its capture would be a great victory to the opposition providing them major airports to allow coalition and international aid in from. Northern Alliance forces were keen to capture the city knowing that the coming winter amidst the mountainous terrain would make the city nigh impregnable. Northern Alliance Generals, Uzbeki Abdul Dostum and Tajik Atta Nur linked forces south of the city where they were joined by a CIA team of officers and 2 dozen Russian Spetsnaz (making the operation the first time the two powers fought together since World War 2).

The entrance to the city was heavily guarded by mountain fortifications in the south and the city had an approximated 6000 well-equipped Taliban fighters present and 1000 more foreign fighters (mostly Pakistani). Previous battles in Afghanistan had lasted months and sceptical foreigners wondered if even with the powerful support on offer if the Northern Alliance would be able to swiftly defeat their enemy.

On November 15th 2004 it began with a pounding, a barrage of British and American cruise missiles targeting Mazar-I-Sharif, its Taliban headquarters, fortifications and tank forces. With the defenders letting off a flurry of ineffective stinger missiles and anti-aircraft guns in return. After that, the 'real' heavy firepower came in when the Russian bears thundered over, the Tupolev Tu-95 propellered super forts, who unleashed their payloads upon the mountains seeing their first-ever combat usage. The devastating firepower was enough to astound the Alliance commanders; one wonders about the reaction of the Taliban.

The Alliance forces moved against the Taliban’s southernmost defences joined by the Russian special forces, while the CIA officers called in direct lazer guided air support, while the fighting was hard and the Taliban forces likely outnumbered the Alliance the vertical power of their allies proved unbeatable and line after line of Taliban fell backwards capturing key fortifications, the gateway to the city, and the airport. Gaining control of the city’s outskirts.

Taliban forces unleashed artillery, and missile attacks while Alliance forces advanced flying down the mountains aboard trucks and on horseback. As fighting broke out in the city, Taliban forces rallied a Mullah and issued a prayer to fighters “Those who die fighting for God don't die! Those who go on jihad, live forever, in paradise!" blasted through the loudspeakers. The speed of the alliance's advance stunned many, as more and more Taliban scrambled to retreat, but enough stood prepared to fight to the last, forcing the fight to be street by street, block by block. Ruthless Alliance forces eventually after 6 bloody days, managed to clear the city and won a major victory. Most Taliban forces evacuated west with as many military supplies as they could drive or tow away with.

The victory gave the Northern Alliance control of a large swath of northern Afghan territory, including the whole of the Afghan Uzbek border which was promptly opened allowing a clear non-mountainous route for supplies into the country, and providing some of the most valuable farmable lands in the country, local leaders were swift to switch their allegiance and expel Taliban representatives. General Dostum was quick to establish himself in the province as the head of the general council to represent the other ethnic groups with Atta the more faithful Alliance commander his deputy.

The swift victory sparked applause in Washington and Moscow many fears of the coalition betting too heavily on the ability of the Northern Alliance were cast aside by the operation but between the nodding and back-slapping, there were concerns. What would come after the Taliban? How do we keep Pakistan on board? How do we prevent certain powers from exerting too much control over Afghanistan? These were the questions in the depths of Langley. It was easy to distrust your enemies, but it was your ‘allies’ that could surprise you and there had always been distrust between the United States and the Northern Alliance, Massoud had proffered support from a lot of groups. They needed a man they could trust, and they already knew him.

Having fled the country in 1996 an influential tribesman who rejected the Taliban who pursued and killed his father, since then he became an asset of the Alliance, travelling the west in an effort to rally support, working in liaison with the American intelligence agencies, urging the Americans to intervene more and he now insisted on opening a southern front, that the majority Pashtun were ready to throw off the Taliban if given the chance and he provided evidence, his contacts with angry tribal leaders, increased violence between Taliban and local authorities in the country. He was a valued and trusted face, the operators told the managers who told the director who told the President and all agreed. In due time Hamid Karzai would be returning to Afghanistan.


(top) map of Afghanistan as of December 2004 Blue represents Taliban-held territory and red represents the Northern Alliance
(middle row, left to right) General Dostum, a Russian special forces in Afghanistan, Taliban tank in Mazar-I-Sharif
(bottom row, left to right) General Daud, Russian Tupolov Tu-95, Afghan tribal leader, Hamid Karzai

The Netherlands
The centre continued to barely hold together in the Netherlands, after nearly 3 years of fragile government the so-called ‘purple’ coalition of the centre-left, liberal and centre-right parties chugged slowly onwards. Stumped by a dragging economy, the government prepared to pass an unpopular series of budget and welfare cuts.

Labour Prime Minister Melkert said that the proposals were hard but necessary, lamenting that several of the issues he had backed in the past would now be trimmed. But now the Dutch governing method the ‘polder model’ named for the process of reclaiming land slowly and with cooperation was breaking down. This was down to the opposition led by the fiery and flamboyant former television commentator Pim Fortuyn who led the populist far-right Liveable Netherlands party, he gladly took hold of the mantle to rail against the government’s budget proposals as well as its policies regarding Muslim immigration a centrepiece of his campaign.

For months the government failed to reach a deal regarding its welfare reform programme and the bombs lobbed by the opposition sent fractures into his coalition as the centre-right, Party for Freedom (VVD) began to fracture.

In the final months of 2004, everything came to a head, as unions unimpressed with the government offers began to protest and strike, and labour leaders lodged their discontent with the government, meanwhile the prime minister looked weak through the crisis making appearances where he complained he wasn’t being listened to and demanded the unions to act civilly. In November 2004 another moment of bloody anger broke out when a Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (a distant relative of the painter) who recently released a film critical of Islam was shot and stabbed to death on the street of Amsterdam by a Dutchman of Moroccan heritage for religious reasons.

Again the Prime Minister appealed for calm but it didn’t take long for Pim Fortuyn to lay the blame at the government's feet, joined in part by the less boisterous conservative party and the right-wing of the VVD. That anger was displayed in a speech by Pim following the funeral “It is clear that a war has emerged in this country, a sort of fascism has been allowed to emerge and the government refuses to fight it”. He went against the prime minister's call for a moment of silence, saying that that it went against what Theo stood for and called for as much noise as possible “we will not lose our rights”.

The government fractured as the VVD right wing announced they would make a challenge for their party leadership to forcibly withdraw the party from the coalition over the failure of the government to “curtail the arrival of jihad in the Netherlands”. With opposition from the left and right of his coalition Prime Minister Melkert was forced to go to the Queen to request new elections to resolve the crisis after failing to patch together a new government.

The results were the disappointment that the Labour party expected, holding the bag for a declining economy, industrial action, a disappointed left and an enthused right. The ruling parties all lost considerable support as Labour and VVD voters abandoned their parties and the country shifted hard to the right as both the conservative Christian Democratic party and Pim's Livable Netherlands party took home large amounts of votes and seats while the government lost nearly half theirs.

What remained would be the most right-wing Dutch government in living memory, as the traditional conservatives led by Maxim Verhagen were now in bed with a party of political newcomers, rabble-rousers and radicals. Verhagen and Fortuyn each hailed the new era. "I am delighted," said Verhagen "The public has shown clear support for a real change with us". And from Pim "Finally the people have decided enough is enough and will be given what they deserve, a government that is at your service, no one else's"


(top, left to right) protesting and striking workers rallies, Theo van Gough mourners make noise banging pots together
(middle row, left to right) outgoing Prime Minister Melkert, VVD interim leader Gerrit Zalm, Incoming Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen, Deputy Prime Minister Pim Fortuyn
(bottom row, left to right) Parliament before and after the 2004 Dutch Elections
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No Retreat, No Surrender

The Philippines
As a Filipino, thanks for posting this.

I always wondered how the killing of Bin Laden in 1998 and the 9/4 attacks would affect Filipino politics. It appears that FPJ would become the President since Arroyo allegedly cheated with the Hello Garci scandal (similar to the Trump-George State Sec scandal in early 2021). FPJ actually died in the December of that year and it appears to have followed in TTL. FPJ would be remembered as the shortest president of the Philippines.

The island province of Cebu is known to be a vote-rich province that could determine elections. Since Arroyo won by large margin there in 2004, it's not surprise her second inauguration was held in front of the provincial capitol. IOTL, Cebu determined the 1986, 2010, 2016, and 2022 elections.

I'm amazed EDSA IV actually worked here, since EDSA III actually did not even really produce anything significant.

@AstroRangerBeans @Simeon thoughts?
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