Osama bin Laden Attack: Today, Saturday, September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the most devastating jihadist terror attack in human history.
Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial aircraft full of passengers and dive-bombed the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, the Pentagon (headquarters of the United States Defense Department) outside Washington DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.
The subsequent wars that America fought in its wake wasted about 900,000 lives, including those of American service men and women. It also gulped an estimated $8 trillion, according to the Cost of War project at Brown University. The complex wars it sparked off still continue in 80 countries.
President George W. Bush dispatched troops to Afghanistan in search of Al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden. He also invaded Iraq apparently in search of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” which later proved to be non-existent. These two wars led to the killing of bin Laden and notable jihadist terrorists, such as Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, Islamic State’s Abubakar Al Baghdadi and Iran’s jihadist general, Qassem Soleimani.
Also, Saddam Hussein was hanged while in Africa; Libyan strongman, Muammar Ghaddafi, was assassinated by US-backed dissidents in the wake of the Arab Spring. The once stable country was utterly destabilized, and this provided the fuel that has sustained the Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadist terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin, particularly North-East Nigeria.
The 9/11 phenomenon has gone down as one of the greatest events in modern world history with its effects perhaps more wide-ranging than any of the World Wars. For instance, it triggered migrations from the Middle East and Africa towards Europe and America on a scale only comparable to the slave trade population shifts.
As American families which lost loved ones and the rest of the country mark this solemn anniversary, we can only brood over the losses rather than any gains from the 9/11 attacks and the reprisal actions. Twenty years after America went in search of revenge, it had to hurry out of Afghanistan for the Taliban even after having defeated their regime and running the country through local proxies.
The sobering lesson for all is that no one and nowhere is safe from terrorism. There is no substitute for eternal vigilance and collective action to contain it before it morphs into unmanageable proportions. Power is not everything – in fact, the American misadventure in Afghanistan shows that raw military power is often overvalued. Differences should be handled with wisdom.
What happened to America is almost identical to our own experience with Boko Haram terrorism which remains a threat after 13 years of expensive war. When we fail to understand the nature and mindset of our enemies, we will only end up fighting expensive wars that avail very little in the end.