Reflections on the long-term implications of 9/11 for US policy in the Middle East


20th Anniversary 9_11 Drawing (1)It is a paradox that history often plays that America’s hasty and humiliating exit from Afghanistan took place on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Armed Forces of the country. Twenty years, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars Subsequently, the Biden administration correctly decided that the Afghan-American project should be terminated.

The Bush administration’s decision to respond militarily to 9/11 and destroy al-Qaeda and its host Taliban was justified and successful. But the decision to stay in Afghanistan and try to build effective local government was America’s first major mistake in formulating its post-9/11 policy. It is easy to understand the thinking behind the decision to remain in Afghanistan after the initial military success. Leaving the country to its own devices would likely have ended with a return to the status quo ante. But what could and should be achieved in 2002 and 2003 is that the idea of ​​nation-building in Afghanistan by an outside power is doomed to failure.

The second and biggest mistake was the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. We now know that the claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda is unfounded. We also know that he does not have a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The three key decision makers, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, They were excited Partly from the sense that the military operation in Afghanistan was not sufficient retaliation for the blow to the American homeland, as well as from the expectation that the overthrow of Saddam would trigger a wave of positive changes in the Middle East. We also now realize how detached the vision of importing democracy into Iraq and from there to other parts of the region is from reality.

We also know how heavy it will be for both Iraq and the United States, and we know that contemporary Iraq is struggling to remain a viable nation. The main beneficiary of Iraq’s fatal mistake is Iran. The Iranians got rid of their opponent Saddam, and opened the way for them to project power and influence in the Levant. Tehran’s quest to build a land bridge to the Mediterranean would not have been possible without the US invasion of Iraq.

The third major consequence of 9/11, the boost given to the jihadist movement, was not the result of American miscalculation. Of course, al-Qaeda existed before September 2001. It launched effective attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 and on the US destroyer Cole in Yemen in October 2000. The group sought to harm the hated West and its forces. positions in the Middle East. It also calculated that since it cannot achieve its main goal, which is the overthrow of the existing regimes and order in the Arab world, it should switch to attacking its main external supporter.

As an act of terrorism, 9/11 was a resounding success. The United States responded by eliminating al-Qaeda, but the organization survived poorly. The Syrian civil war and the weakening of the Iraqi state provided new opportunities. Three branches of al-Qaeda – al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State group (ISIS), and Jabhat al-Nusra – came to play major roles in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group contributed to turning the US occupation of Iraq into a quagmire, increasing tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in the country and the region. The Islamic State has used its territorial control on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border to declare a caliphate and launch or inspire deadly terrorist attacks from the region to Europe to North America and the Indo-Pacific region. That “state” has been destroyed by a major international coalition set up by the United States and led, but as we have seen the jihadist group is still with us. And in Idlib province in Syria, a large contingent of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters It controls a large area of ​​land. Meanwhile, 20 years after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, the local branch of ISIS poses a significant terrorist threat, with August 26 attack On Afghan civilians and US forces at Kabul airport appears.

It is clear that jihadist Islam is not the product of Western actions and policies. It feeds on the problems of societies and political systems besieged by poverty, overpopulation, corruption and mismanagement. Reform must come from within, not from without. In any case, the United States has lost the will and perhaps the power to help bring about such reforms. Its deviation from the Middle East stems from several sources, but the huge investments wasted in Afghanistan and Iraq and the recognition that jihadist Islam is here to stay have played important roles.

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