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9/11 twenty years on: al-Qaida is defeated

But jihadism is here to stay.
The names of those killed in the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center inscribed on bronze parapets edging the memorial pools at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.: George Etheredge, Bloomberg

Twenty years ago, the terrorist group al-Qaida carried out the deadliest attack on US soil the world had ever seen. Overnight, al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden became the most notorious terrorist to date.

Inspired by pan-Islamist ambitions and outraged by US foreign presence and intervention in the Middle East, this was the highlight of al-Qaida’s campaign to shatter the notion of US hegemony and invincibility. Their ultimate aim was to bring back the umma, the community of all Muslims once united by a political authority.

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Al-Qaida first appeared on the terrorism radar in 1998 when it carried out simultaneous bombings on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and wounding more than 4,000. In October 2000, al-Qaida rammed a small boat filled with explosives into the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, killing 17 US navy personnel.

Following the strike on 9/11, so they reckoned, the US would withdraw their military forces from Muslim lands and end their support for its autocratic rulers, ushering in a modern day caliphate.

“I have only a few words for America and its people,” bin Laden declared in the aftermath of the attack. “Neither the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed.”

Bin Laden’s expectations turned out to be a serious miscalculation. Instead of withdrawing military forces, the then US president, George W. Bush, moved swiftly to declare a global “war on terror”, calling on world leaders to join the US in its response.

In October 2001, when a US-led coalition went into Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida and oust the Taliban, who had allowed the organisation to operate in the country since 1996, bin Laden was caught off-guard. There was no strategy in place to ensure al-Qaida’s survival.

Evolution of al-Qaida

The 9/11 attacks turned out to be a short-lived victory for al-Qaida. Within weeks of the Taliban’s collapse, the majority of its leaders and fighters were captured or killed. Those who managed to escape, including bin Laden, went into hiding in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an autonomous area bordering Afghanistan.

For ten years, until he was killed by US special forces on May 2, 2011, bin Laden tried but failed to revive al-Qaida and influence its legacy.

The next phase (and arguably the biggest mistake) of the “war on terror” was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ousting of the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, who had viewed jihadist activity with disdain, led to a political vacuum allowing al-Qaida to rise under terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Upon his death in a US bomb strike in June 2006, al-Qaida in Iraq would become the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and ultimately merge into the Islamic State (IS).

The highly publicised creation of al-Qaida “franchises” in Iraq and elsewhere including Egypt, North Africa and Yemen, among others, seemed to indicate the revival of al-Qaida.

These franchise leaders, all deeply involved in their respective local disputes, had much to gain from acquiring the infamous brand of al-Qaida. The appearance of the black al-Qaida flag in diverse corners of the world sent shockwaves to Washington. Terrorism experts in the west speculated about the reemergence of the group and the severity of its threat with precious little agreement amongst them.

Hidden away, bin Laden and the senior leaders of al-Qaida had little influence over the running of the new franchises. This is evident in terrorism researcher Nelly Lahoud’s careful reading of the “Abottabad letters”, files of internal communications recovered by US special operations forces during their raid on bin Laden’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. In the letters, bin Laden lamented his “brothers” had become a “liability” for global jihad during the last year of his life. The new generation of jihadis, he concluded, had lost their way.

Upon bin Laden’s death in 2011, senior members of al-Qaida vowed to continue the global jihad, promising the worst attacks the world had ever seen.

While the vocal threats put al-Qaida back on the international terrorism radar, action never followed. The group formally continued to operate under the command of its new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. However, it it had no influence over IS, which was beginning to operate with impunity in areas across Iraq and Syria, and orchestrate suicide attacks in Europe.

By 2014, IS – under the lead of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – had replaced al-Qaida as the terrorist group most worrying to the west. Within five years, on October 27 2019 al-Baghdadi was also killed in a US military operation. IS was assumed to be, at least temporarily, defeated. It reemerged spectacularly on 26 August 2021 when IS-K, a local affiliate, claimed responsibility for the Kabul airport attack that claimed the lives of up to 170 people including 13 US service members – the deadliest incident for US troops in Afghanistan in a decade.

On August 30 2021 the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, marking the end of America’s longest war. Less than a week later, the Taliban announced a new government and declared it an “Islamic emirate”. Sarajuddin Haqqani, a US “most wanted terrorist” is the new acting interior minister.

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks al-Qaida might be defeated, but it is clear that jihadism and the ambition to (re)create a caliphate are here to stay.The Conversation

Christina Hellmich, Associate Professor in International Relations and Middle East Studies, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Nah — This is an embarrassing defeat for the USA and partners at the hands on a third world country despite their mighty weaponry and propaganda !!

Shalacked – absolutely defeated and embarrased and brought to the brink of bankruptcy by ‘primitive and medevial goat-herders’. The only poeple who won the Vietnam war if you can believe it at their annual memorial’s are the US, and the only people who won the war in Afghanistan if you can believe their propargand, are the US. But away from the TV and talking heads, the statistics says otherwise, the very people that the FBI is offering bounties of up to $5 mil worth, are sitting in Ka(bull) and heading a government, while the US government is selling pamphlets with their faces with and the political campaigns might as well have their pictures emblezoned on their t-shirts, meanwhile the same government pretends that they don’t know where these ‘wanted terrorists’ are. C’mon now bro. ‘you feel me.’ Its an elaborate scam! Only the Taliban has won hands down, by forcing a super-power to run out with its tail between its legs, and lick their boots!

Considering the outcome 20 years later, the USA was the ultimate beneficiary of this false-flag operation that was absolutely crucial to motivate the Congress and parents to send their children to a war on foreign soil to honour their part of the 1973 agreement to protect the Saudi Royal Family and to back the dollar with oil after the US have defaulted on the Bretton Woods agreement. Nothing else makes any sense.

The War on Terror only makes sense when seen from the perspective of the agreement with the Saudi Royal Family. Anthrax, weapons of mass destruction, Al Kaida, Taliban and even Bin Laden were merely convenient scapegoats or excuses to enforce the petrodollar agreement. This war has been in the making since 1973.

No voter will allow a government to go to war over a monetary issue, but scare them with “evil Muslim terrorists” from the “Axis of Evil” and there will be no budgetary constraints to fund your war.

The war was a great success! The US won the war because oil still trades in terms of the US dollar.

The false flag of 9/11 has been documented in detail with many published and detailed and undeniable accounts. Massive efforts by many professional engineers and Universities have shown that the buildings were imploded after the planes struck. The Pentagon fiasco has been blown to shreds repeatedly. The US Gov Inc simply bulldozed all facts and all logic. The most shameful act of top down insurgency in history. But with such a massive bypass of Congress to declare a never-ending war has provided endless windfall profits for so many needy greedy.

…plus the military expenditure benefitting US defence industry. As you imply, the (maintaining) of the petro-dollar as the world’s reserve currency, in fact pays for the US military industrial complex, whose interests are well represented in US Congress.

Search ‘Who Put Thermite In The World Trade Center’

Are there any conspiracy theories that you don’t subscribe to?

Where the evidence is compelling enough to attract the attention of large numbers of professionals then the conspiracy theory is just another conspiracy fact. The uncovering of truth and exposing of lies has actually happened now and then. The efforts to deceive for ulterior motives has been hotting up for a few decades already. Something very big is afoot.

Are you referring to professionals like Van Romero and Arthur Lerner-Lam both of whom were misquoted? Hopefully not Alex Jones or QAnon.

All I can say is stay away from Antarctica as you may stumble and fall off the edge of the earth.

The USA has joined the ignominious list of empires defeated by Afghans, starting with the British in 1860’s.

AlQaeda has morphed into a 1000 different cells and the only constant is that the USA remains a roughe state.

Al Qaida, Boko Haram, Isis, Taliban. Call it whatever you want, same thing different name. America have never beaten anybody. They ran from Afghanistan and Vietnam. But at least they kept their economy going with their war machine.

Wow, now this is totally confused. “same thing different name”. You could not be more wrong.

Stick to growing mielies.

Explain please. If you do it will be your first proper comment.

He’s 30%..

If the author actually read any of bin ladens writings ud find out he pretty much got what he wanted…..

Bin laden was no fool.

He wanted to get the USa into a fight on the ground in Afghanistan…….

He first bombed the American embassy in Kenya……. Clinton wouldn’t take the bait.

He then bombed the uss Cole.. Still Clinton wouldn’t take the bait…..

He then went back to the drawing board and had to do an attack so deep that the American public would not just let slide…

That was 9/11.

With Bush at the helm he finally got what he had always wanted…… Americans entering into a ground war in Afghanistan. He knew on the body count the Americans would win.. ( he even stated in his writings he expected to be killed by the Americans..) but his goal was to bleed America financially in a costly war that would drag on for years with no real outcome….

Some would say he succeeded.

Same thing – different name? You need me to EXPLAIN why that is completely wrong? You have Internet? Go read a book about it if you don’t. Grow up. They are entirely different organisations with completely different roots, goals, methods, structure, continents, funding and ideologies. OBVIOUSLY. The only thing they have in common is that the US stood up to them.

You are just willfully ignorant to not understand that.

@alleycat – great rational points. Well argued. You must have a ‘proper matric’ right.

Explain you have all the words.
You could have used that energy to explain yourself

They all the same thing funded by the same country. What is so hard to understand? These guys need a lesson in English. Probably afrikaaner

While the US war in the Middle East is winding down, I’m afraid they’d start preparing themselves against BEIJING.

Great global wars are mostly between the larger global powers of the day. All about each one trying to remain at the top, to defend their hegemony.

Interesting where the USA today has formed alliances (post WW2) with Germany (a former enemy) via NATO and Japan (another former enemy), while during WW2 current modern-day threats (Russia & China) were aligned with the Allies.

In the proxy wars of the 80’s, the US supported the Taliban (and Osama bin Laden, a US operative at the time) against the US’s biggest foe, the USSR. Twenty+ years later, the US enemy is the Taliban.

With such historically fragile alliances forming and disolving, Germany & Japan does not threaten the global hegemony of the US, but a rising China. This fact is too huge to ignore…..and the US is NOT going to give away their top global position without a good fight, I fear.

With the rapidly rising naval build up of China, it’s just a matter of time the US is going to be ousted from the South China Sea / Eastern Pacific (after say a naval skirmish which both sides ends in a stale-mate…while China keeps growing numerically & technically superior).

When the US / Western navies have a lesser influence in this specific region, there’s 2 pro-Western countries whose maritime trades routes are at risk of being completely cut off from rest of world, IF they don’t work with China: ….I feel sorry for many Saffas that emigrated to Australia & New Zealand.

The next generation of Aussie-born (or NZ-born) children may end up fighting the Chinese in the next big battle!!

If a nuclear war develops (God forbid) SA with be so economically insignificant, no-one will notice SA on the southern tip of Africa: it could be one of the safest forgotten places on the planet (ironically despite our violent crime) during a major nuclear war. Saffas in Aus may either fight it out standing together with their ‘mates’, and thinking…crap, with the treat of Chinese expansion on Oz’s doorstep, maybe fleeing the blacks in SA was not such a great idea….should’ve stayed.

(An Aussie on a blog recon, if their Govt resist the Chinese, it could be either war…but without US support…as the US won’t risk themselves for Australia….how many times US alliances have changed…being that Oz now have to accept Chinese economic terms, and future Aussies (& Kiwis) will “live on our knees”.)

Any Saffa still planning to move to Oz of NZ, perhaps give another Western countries a consideration closer to the US….say Canada, UK, Europe. Even Mexico could be OK, if you want a lower cost of living…..Mexico is in no danger to be invaded by Chinese, as they and Canada are on the US doorstep for protection. Adios amigos!

The Americans say “Let’s not forget…”

Yet, we forget that a large number (15 out of 19 plane hijackers) were nationals of Saudi Arabia. Dissidents. And financed from within Saudi Arabia. The friends of the US. Was downplayed by both these govts to avoid diplomatic embarrassment.

Did the USA strike back at Saudi Arabia in retaliation? Of course not.

“Is Al Qaida defeated?” That remains an open question.

I see I’ve been “moderated” and deleted again! What’s offensive about the truth? I have been involved in Sufism, an Islamic sect for decades and have some knowledge of these things.

11 SEPTEMBER 2021 @ 2:47 PM
Well, if “their ultimate aim was to bring back the umma, the community of all Muslims once united by a political authority.” Then they have failed dismally and will continue to fail in a society which has been riven by sectarian violence immediately after the Prophet Mohammed died. Google Sunni, Shia and Wahhabism.
And if the residents and followers of Mohammed hate the West so much, why do they flock there in their millions?
Comment on story: 9/11 twenty years on: al-Qaida is defeated

The war on terror
Just like the war on drugs

al-Qaida and Bin Laden succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

End of comments.





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