Today, the nation remembers 9/11. The attacks were the catalyst for the twenty year War on Terror that is the longest war in US history. The conflict played out across the globe in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter where over 800,000 military men and women served during the two decade war. It’s remarkable that the same Taliban the US defeated in December 2001 is in control of Afghanistan today with billions of US weapons at their disposal left behind in the dramatic withdrawal last August.
History reveals a complex chain of events tied to the 9/11 attacks. On October 7th, 2001- less than a month after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda terrorists- the War on Terror commenced with Operation Enduring Freedom. The aim of the US and British led invasion of Afghanistan was to weaken the Taliban- a group known for extreme human rights abuses against the Afghan people- and root out Al Qaeda terrorists operating from remote regions in the mountains of the country. In just two weeks, the Taliban was defeated on December 17th, 2001 at the battle of Tora Bora, but Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, escaped across the border into Pakistan. The search to capture him endured until he was killed by Seal Team 6 in 2011.
Despite a constant presence of US military in Afghanistan in the subsequent decades, by 2020 the US military retained approximately 8600 troops in Afghanistan with a plan to reduce the number to 5000 by the end of November 2020. Less than a year later, President Biden abruptly removed all troops in a dramatic withdrawal that added 13 casualties to the 3,576 casualties of the Afghan war when 11 Marines, one Navy corpsmen and one Army soldier died at the Abbey Gate attack on 8/26/2021. In addition, 100 Afghan men, women and children died. These casualties are facets of remembrance tied to 9/11. The sacrifice of those who served in the armed forces during this twenty year war is incredible.
9/11 was the worst attack on US soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. 2,977 people died that Tuesday in 2001, and it changed the nation. Today, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, 2 trillion dollars of expenditures to fight a war against an idea that had no national border, extensive casualties and the re-emergence of a Taliban controlled Afghanistan are important outcomes of 9/11.
Remembrance is at the core of nationalism.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905.
“From the U.S. invasion shortly after the devastating attacks on Sep. 11, 2001, to the last U.S. Air Force C-17 that lifted off the Kabul International Airport runway on Aug. 30, 2021, approximately 800,000 American military men and women served in Afghanistan.”