9/11 and Afghanistan Withdrawal

Nika Anderson, Reporter

With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy approaching us, President Biden’s complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is showing notable parallels. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are deeply interwoven since Taliban-controlled Afghanistan allowed Osama Bin Laden to found Al Qaeda there and he was able to coordinate the attacks on the World Trade Center. In Oct. 2001, a US-led coalition had spawned a decades-long war that cost trillions of dollars and lives, ultimately ending in a stalemate. With the chaotic retreat of US military and intelligence personnel, the Taliban quickly regained power and invaded Kabul. This frightening instability leaves America worrying whether Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for Al Qaeda once more. The idea of another 9/11 has put this nation’s internal affairs into turmoil and considerably changed domestic politics.

The US Department of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin in regards to the “heightened threat environment” around the anniversary of 9/11. It cites concerns over religious holidays along with the anniversary itself inspiring extremist attacks. DHS will be communicating with law enforcement agencies and closely monitoring online activity for the spread of misinformation, terrorist ideology, or false narratives that can all catalyze violence. Biden has also ordered US Attorney General Merrick Garland to declassify 9/11-related documents to ensure transparency for victims and survivors of this catastrophe. The president himself will be attending memorials including ground zero in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa.

After Biden set Aug. 31 as an evacuation deadline, many American citizens are still in Afghanistan, including green card holders and other at-risk individuals. The recent deaths of thirteen US troops at the Aug. 26 Kabul airport bombing have exacerbated concerns over terrorism. Biden’s controversial planned release of Guantanamo Bay prisoners has been scrutinized after these events. Some fear that inmates released from the detention center will join anti-American terrorist groups, as some have done in the past. To give an example, former detainee Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir has been appointed as the interim Defense Minister of the Taliban and was recently seen in alarming photos celebrating the invasion of Kabul. The situation in Afghanistan has set an uneasy precedent for world affairs and is a concern on the world arena. 

The era of foreign military intervention is waning for the US, so there is little influence America can directly have on Afghanistan. Although this conflict is challenging on both a domestic and international scale, US primacy in world affairs should nonetheless prevail. America can engage in multilateralism and uphold diplomatic relations with rather unlikely countries such as Iran, Russia, or China to ensure stability in Afghanistan rather than violent chaos. Most of these nations do not want refugee crises, drug trafficking, or terrorism, so communication in the international community would be vital. As the US leaves Afghanistan, one fact is certain: there are few interests holding America there, so involvement will be minimal. For now, the US is waiting to see whether to acknowledge the new Taliban government or not based on its actions towards civil society or the severity of a humanitarian crisis.