1208 GMT December 09, 2022
Twenty-one years ago at 8:46 a.m. (local time) on September 11, an airliner hijacked by the Al-Qaeda terrorist group crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York. Minutes later, another plane followed the first aircraft’s suit, hitting the WTC’s South Tower.
On the same day, one other hijacked plane, by the same group, was crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia and another one was brought down in Pennsylvania. The attacks, known as the most horrendous acts of terror in U.S. history, gave a big shock to the United States and the entire world.
On the political, economic and military consequences of the attacks, it has been said that they have changed the history of the United States. The consequences and impacts, however, were not limited solely to the United States, having had a set of unfortunate knock-on impacts on other parts of the world, including West Asia, that have continued up to the present time.
Reacting to the terror attacks and aiming to root out terrorism, the then-U.S. president George W. Bush set up a coalition comprising over 40 countries, including all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and ordered a military attack against Afghanistan, officially known as Operation Enduring Freedom, on October 7, 2011.
In those years, Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, which of course had cordial relations with Al-Qaeda. Although Al-Qaeda’s ringleader Osama bin Laden was originally from Saudi Arabia, he led activities by forces under his command from Afghanistan.
The other unfortunate event that unfolded with greater intensity in the United States was the spread of Islamophobia, which created numerous problems for Muslims in the country. The spread of Islamophobia, however, was promoted again years later during Donald Trump’s term as the U.S. president.
One month after the U.S.-led coalition’s attack on Afghanistan, the Taliban fell and the Asian state’s people elected Hamid Karzai as their president in their first ever elections. This, however, failed to be the end of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and terrorism in Afghanistan and the world, as it did not cap U.S. adventurism under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
On March 20, 2003, the world, once again, witnessed the formation of another coalition under U.S. leadership for invasion against another Muslim state in West Asia. Citing the relations between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda and obliteration of weapons of mass destruction in the Arab state as pretexts, Bush issued the directive for invading Baghdad, and the Iraqi government collapsed after a short period of resistance. Based on the announced U.S. plans, Afghanistan and Iraq were expected to turn into democratic and stable countries where no terrorist activities would be conducted. However, what unfolded on the ground was far from the U.S. claims.
Years after the two invasions, neither Afghans, nor Iraqis have yet seen the establishment of peace and democracy in their countries. Instead, they have suffered a great deal of pain and numerous losses, both financially and in terms of lives. In addition, both states remained centers of activities by terrorist groups for years. The occupation of Iraq and the subsequent instabilities, particularly in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis and the weakening of the government in Damascus, prepared the ground for the emergence of a new and far more dangerous terrorist group, known as Daesh.
At present, 21 years after the U.S. so-called “war on terror”, on groups such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Washington’s double standards and paradoxical behavior against terrorism have led to the Taliban’s stronger return to power in Afghanistan and the killing of Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, while Iraq, Syria and Libya are still grappling with political unrest.
Following rounds of so-called peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, the United States eventually withdrew from Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, preparing the ground for the Afghan government’s collapse and the Taliban’s entry into Kabul.
H.R. McMaster, national security adviser to Donald Trump, said, “Our humiliating withdrawal left terrorists with billions of dollars of weapons. Those weapons will be shared among the over 20 U.S.-designated terrorist organizations in the terrorist ecosystem across Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
According to a Pentagon report, “The United States gave a total of $18.6 billion of equipment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2005 to August 2021. Of that total, equipment worth $7.12 billion remained in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal was completed on August 30, 2021. It included aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, communications equipment and other materials.”
Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace recently admitted that the West’s 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan – which cost the lives of hundreds of British troops – ended in failure.”
He also revealed how visiting a war memorial made him fear that the families of the 457 personnel killed would think their sons and daughters gave their lives for nothing.
The U.S. double standards and dual policies against terrorism have benefited neither the people of the country, nor those of West Asia. It seems that the only winners of the 20 years of war and aggression have been U.S. weapons manufacturers. According to a study conducted by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the U.S. military has spent $14 trillion since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, with nearly $7 trillion of that total going to for-profit defense contractors.