Thursday, December 9

The world since 9/11: the last 20 years in pictures


Here “a look in pictures at 20 years since 9/11, tracing the subsequent” war on terror “and its broader impact on world events.

2001: September 11

Coordinated airstrikes against the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon claim nearly 3,000 lives. It is the worst terrorist attack in history.

The response from the United States, under President George W. Bush, was swift. In October, the first attacks on Afghanistan were launched to “prevent the country from remaining a haven for Islamist al Qaeda terrorists.”

A year later, Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the attacks on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The Taliban, who condemned the attacks but refused to hand over bin Laden, put up little resistance.

2002: Concerns arise about the war in Afghanistan

The US government opens the Guantanamo Bay detention center in January to detain and question suspected Islamist terrorists.

The naval base is located in Cuba and Washington is accused of ignoring the rule of law and subjecting detainees to torture and abuse.

Almost 800 people will be detained there in total. Today there are 39.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban government falls within a few months and is then succeeded by a series of interim governments.

2003: Iraq is invaded

US troops invade Iraq in March as part of their “War on Terrorism.” The Bush administration had accused the country’s leader, Saddam Hussein, of being one of the world’s “sponsors of terrorism” and of being part of the famous “Axis of Evil” alongside Iran and North Korea.

Hussein was also accused of harboring terrorists and the coalition said the invasion was aimed at ridding the country of alleged weapons of mass destruction.

2004: Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe

Brutal attacks on commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, kill almost 200 people. It is the first in a wave of deadly Islamist terrorist attacks across the Old Continent, also including London and Manchester in 2005 and 2017, Paris and Nice in 2015 and 2016, and Berlin, also in 2016.

Islamist terrorism also marked Istanbul, Bali, Mumbai, and Colombo.

2005: Afghanistan proves difficult

Despite the relative success of the campaign in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, negotiations with the country’s tribal leaders are difficult. Elections are held four years after the invasion, but the attacks continue on a daily basis.

2006: Saddam Hussein is executed

On December 20, the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is convicted of crimes against humanity by the indictment of his country’s interim government and sentenced to death. They kill him by hanging 10 days later.

2007: 500 killed in attack in Iraq

Ending the previous regime did not end the tensions in Iraq. On August 19, nearly 500 people are killed in Qahtaniya, near Mosul, in a truck bomb attack. The victims belonged to the Yazidi community, a Kurdish sect considered blasphemous by Islamists. The United States blames al Qaeda for the attack.

2008: United States contemplates withdrawal from Afghanistan

Coalition training of Afghan forces is accelerated with the goal of withdrawing by 2014.

2009: Evidence of abuses by international troops

Blackwater’s trial ends when it is discovered that employees of the US-contracted private security company have killed Afghan civilians.

2010: WikiLeaks embarrasses the US

WikiLeaks reveals details of “collateral assassinations” committed by the United States in Iraq through the posts of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables. Private Chelsea Manning is arrested for allegedly being one of the sources of the biggest leak in history.

In addition, WikiLeaks’ Afghan “War Diaries” detail “collateral” deaths of civilians, abductions, torture and Pakistan’s involvement in defending the Taliban.

2011: Bin Laden captured

On May 2, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, announced that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and assassinated.

Washington’s withdrawal from Iraq is completed in December. Terrorist groups take advantage to proliferate including the so-called Islamic State.

2012: Julian Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy

Hunted by the US justice system for treason and espionage, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeks refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

It will remain there for seven years, during which time WikiLeaks will continue to publish compromising documents for governments and businesses.

Assange is arrested by British police in April 2019 upon leaving the embassy after losing the support of the new Ecuadorian government.

So far, the judges have refused to extradite him to the United States due to his psychological condition.

2013: the revelations of Edward Snowden

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), reveal the existence of a vast Internet and telephone surveillance program run by American intelligence.

The program was initially established to counter terrorist threats, but documents suggest that it was soon extended to spy on the leaders of rival or allied countries, as well as individuals and entities that posed no threat to the US.

2014: Islamic State demands a caliphate

The sectarian violence in Syria and Iraq allows the extremist group to recruit, grow and conquer new territory in both countries. IS is also forging alliances with other international terrorist groups such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

2015: European migration crisis

The flow of migrants and refugees from Syria, by then four years into a devastating civil war, continues unabated. The shocking image of Aylan Kurdi, a young boy found dead on the tourist beaches of Bodrum, awakens Europe to the drama unfolding in its own backyard.

The impact of this tragedy provokes several campaigns for European governments to welcome refugees and Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps Germany’s borders open. More than a million people will apply for asylum in Germany that year.

2016: Turkey and the EU reach a migration agreement

Ankara and Brussels reach an agreement to stop the flow of immigrants arriving in the European Union. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agrees to increase border security and recover irregular entries into Greece in exchange for 6 billion euros.

Meanwhile, the migration crisis has impacted European politics with far-right parties across the 27-country bloc gaining momentum, including Alternative for Germany and the League in Italy.

2017: The nightmare of migrants in Libya

As Europe and Turkey tighten entry conditions at their borders, the flow of immigrants trying to reach Europe via Libya increases. Italy signs a new memorandum with Libya, paying the Libyan coastguard to intercept ships leaving its shores for Europe.

NGOs sound the alarm about the detention conditions to which intercepted migrants are subjected while they await voluntary or forced return to their countries of origin.

2018: Afghan withdrawal back on the table

Western leaders discuss a new timetable for the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan at a NATO summit in July. US President Donald Trump, who had criticized America’s engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan during his campaign, wants all troops to be withdrawn before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

2019: IS leader assassinated

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed in Barisha, Syria, in October in a drone operation. The US Department of Defense provides all the details of the operation, including infrared images of the drone that destroyed the house.

2020: United States negotiates with the Taliban

The Trump administration negotiates a US withdrawal from Afghanistan with the militant Taliban group before September 2021. The initial agreement calls for US troops to leave in May and calls on the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a new haven for terrorist groups.

2021: takeover by the Taliban

The Taliban launch a dizzying campaign to take back Afghanistan as foreign troops withdraw. The group’s campaign leaves Western powers scrambling to evacuate their citizens and Afghans who worked for them out of fear for their safety. The withdrawal is completed on August 31 with US troops relinquishing control of the Kabul airport.

The Taliban promise that things will be different from their previous regime in the late 1990s, declaring a general amnesty and announcing that women will be allowed to work. His interim government announced in the days leading up to 9/11 is packed with veterans from his previous hardline regime. Combatants also violently repress demonstrations, including for women’s rights.


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