In comments to Der Spiegel, German Ambassador Michael Steiner, who is retiring this summer, revealed that the Bush Administration was seriously considering carrying out a nuclear attack against Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, apparently at a loss for what to do.
Steiner was serving as a foreign policy aid to Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, and said he clashed with Schroder on Germany’s decision to provide a statement of unconditional support for whatever the US reaction might be after 9/11, saying it wasn’t appropriate to give anyone that kind of blank check.
Though Schroder went with the endorsement of whatever anyhow, a number of German officials were said to be seriously concerned about a “shocking overreaction” by the United States, with Steiner noting that the US was “playing through” all the different possibilities.
How close the US was to actually nuking a site in Afghanistan may perhaps never be known, and without details we can’t possibly estimate just how many civilians would’ve been killed in such an attack. Ultimately, the US decided on an open-ended military occupation as an alternative, which itself has killed tens of thousands of people over the past 14+ years.