Friday, November 26

The United States turns 20 years since 9/11, in the shadow of the end of the Afghan war

The United States is scheduled to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on Saturday with commemorations at all three sites of the attack: the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The anniversary milestone comes just weeks after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return to power of the Taliban, the faction that protected the terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden that carried out the attacks.

It’s also happening amid ongoing concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 11 times more people in New York City than the nearly 3,000 who died in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

In a video posted Friday night, President Joe Biden lamented the continued losses from 9/11.

“Children have grown up without parents and parents have suffered without children,” said Biden, a childhood friend of the father of a 9/11 victim, Davis Grier Sezna Jr.

But the president also highlighted what he called the “core lesson” of September 11: “that at our most vulnerable point … unity is our greatest strength.”

Biden is scheduled to travel to the three sites of the 2001 attacks.

Former President George W. Bush, the nation’s leader on September 11, must attend the monument of Pennsylvania and his successor, Barack Obama, at ground zero. The only other post-9/11 US president, Donald Trump, plans to be in New York, in addition to providing remarks at a boxing match in Florida that night.

Other celebrations are planned, from the laying of a wreath in Portland, Maine, to a firefighting parade in Guam, in a country now filled with 9/11 memorial plaques, statues and gardens.

Using hijacked planes as missiles, the attackers inflicted the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil, claiming nearly 3,000 lives, bringing down the Twin Towers and ushering in an era of fear.

Security was redefined, with changes to airport checkpoints, police practices, and government surveillance powers. In the years that followed, virtually any major explosion, accident, or act of violence seemed to raise a terrifying question: “Is it terrorism?” Some acts of ideological violence and conspiracies followed, although federal officials and the public of late have become increasingly concerned about threats from domestic extremists after years of targeting international terrorist groups in the wake of 9/11.

New York faced questions early on about whether it could ever bounce back from the hit to its financial center and restore a sense of safety among crowds and skyscrapers. New Yorkers eventually rebuilt a more populous and prosperous city, but they had to consider the tactics of an empowered police department after 9/11 and a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

A “war on terror” led to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, where America’s longest war ended last month with a massive, hasty airlift interrupted by a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 American servicemen and It was attributed to a branch of the Islamic State extremist group. The United States is now concerned that al-Qaida, the terrorist network behind 9/11, may regroup in Afghanistan.

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