By Shafek Koreshe
On September 11, 2001, four hijacked aircraft smashed into the iconic landmarks of the United States of America – a 90-minute event that triggered a domino effect across the world with its reverberations that continue to be felt even 20 years later.
Over the two decades, the world has seen the threat of al-Qaeda diminish considerably, however, the overall terrorist threat from other emerging players – ISIS and its affiliated ISKP, TTP, etc continues to haunt the world.
After 9/11 Pakistan, being a neighbour of Afghanistan faced the brunt, as it had recognized the government of the Taliban and was considered the main supporter of the regime, who had harboured Osama bin Laden; the key mastermind of the attack.
Swaying between extremist tendencies, mushrooming terrorist strikes and a strong desire for “enlightened moderation” pushed by President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan strived hard to tread the delicate balance between the extremes and find a new direction.
Meanwhile, the military build-up in Afghanistan continued and the NATOs stabilization mission in Afghanistan at its peak had 130,000 troops from 50 countries, while that of the United States to 100,000.
The turning point for Pakistan came with the deadly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, where 150 school children were massacred by six gunmen. With a nation in shock, the country’s political and military leadership huddled and came up with a National Action Plan to get rid of the ills of extremism and terrorism that had plagued the country, after the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Almost a month after the 9/11 incident, the United States invaded Afghanistan. Since its chaotic departure, after almost twenty years, the US spent around US 2.3 trillion dollars, a study conducted by Brown University said.
The Costs of War Project also estimates that 243,000 people died as a direct result of this war. These figures do not include deaths caused by disease, loss of access to food, water, infrastructure, and other indirect consequences of the war, the report said. The total includes 176,000 deaths only in Afghanistan including the US combat troops, contractors, allied troops, civilians, aid workers and journalists.
According to official figures of the government of Pakistan, the country suffered losses of around US 150 billion and suffered over 80,000 casualties.
However, after two decades, the Afghan Taliban – some old guards or sons of the top leaders, and even those on the most wanted list of the US, will again take the oath of office of the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with a pledge not to repeat mistakes of the past and move ahead with a fresh start. What took the United States and its allies twenty years to conquer, fell in only ten days to the Taliban.
The spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law, and added they planned no vendetta against those who opposed them in Afghanistan, and even those who had worked with the American and NATO military forces.
The United States for the first time used one of the 15 Mother of all Bombs – MOAB – GBU 45 (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar’s Achin district against an ISKP target in April 2017 Heavy military operations, propping up of puppet governments, a 300,000 strong army, yet it formally agreed to hold talks with the Afghan Taliban in Doha and inked the historic document.
President Joe Biden at the end of the longest war by the US conceded that the rise of Taliban forces and the fall of Afghanistan’s armed forces happened more rapidly than he had expected.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”
“I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States,” Biden said.
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with the US PBS Hour said “I think the US has really messed it up in Afghanistan.”
“And people like me who kept saying that there’s no military solution, who know the history of Afghanistan, we were called … people like me were called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan.”
“So, the Taliban sit down with the other side and they form an inclusive government — this is the best outcome; there is no other outcome because the military solution has failed,” he said. A point which Imran Khan had been repeatedly saying even before he came into power
The analysts today see the 9/11 incident as a time to evaluate the series of events that started from the U.S. attacks in 2001, however, impacted the region thousands of kilometres away from it.
Defence analyst General (Retd) Amjad Shoaib talking to APP said the people in the US and elsewhere still question the credibility of the 9/11 incident. Even if it was true, then why the US intelligence failed to detect terrorists while they were being trained and flying from one place to the other.
Terming 9/11 an incident that changed the world altogether, he said the countries need to improve their own security and intelligence instead of waging wars on other countries.
“The UN should hold a debate to set a principle to disallow any country attack any other, following any such incident instead of addressing its own intelligence failure.”
The General also echoed what most Pakistani leaders have repeatedly said; the need to “address the root causes of terrorism for a permanent solution and avert recurrence of such incidents.”
He pointed that Pakistan had eliminated terrorism and in pursuance of the National Action Plan and improved its security infrastructure. Pakistan has and should keep up a policy of neither allowing misuse of its soil against any other country nor accept any such action from any other country’s soil, General (Retd) Shoaib said.
Pakistan on its part took several measures to counter the threat of extremism and terrorism. It formally made functional its National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC), the liaison body for the country’s spy agencies to serve as “a platform for Intelligence Coordination, Cooperation for unified and wholesome National Intelligence Assessment.”
While on September 9, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting to review On September 9, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting to review progress made on various components of the National Action Plan and agreed to “fast track implementation of various measures” to counter violent extremism and other issues having a direct bearing on national security”. The meeting came in the backdrop of the recent developments in Afghanistan.
National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf in a recent briefing said; “World has a simple choice: go back to the 90s, make the same mistake again and get the same result… don’t expect a different result from the same policy”.
“If we abandon Afghanistan again, there will be a security vacuum and there will be international terrorists who will find space there.”
“If we abandon Afghanistan again, there will be a security vacuum and there will be international terrorists who will find space there”: Moeed Yusuf
“Please don’t miss the opportunity that the Taliban have basically made the right statement so far. They are actually trying very hard to signal to everybody that they want legitimacy. So that may be a window of opportunity to engage with… result [of this engagement] I don’t know… but that is a window of opportunity,” he pointed.
The embassies of Pakistan, China, Turkey, Russia and Qatar, are still operational in Afghanistan. Apart from the United Nations, humanitarian assistance from Pakistan, UAE, Qatar has also started trickling into the war-ravaged country to avert the looming crisis.
Defence Analyst Air Vice Marshal (retd) Shahzad Chaudhry told APP that post 9/11, Pakistan had assisted the U.S. and NATO forces being a responsible member of the global community with an obligation to support the war against terrorism.
He said with the passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution No.1267 within two weeks of the 9/11 incident, all member countries were given the responsibility to play their role against the global war on terror.
As a springboard, he said, Pakistan provided assistance for necessary air routes for strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan.
Asked to compare Pakistan’s position this 9/11 – the day Taliban chose to officially announce their government in Afghanistan, Chaudhry said, “This is the 9/11, where the U.S. mandate stands no more.”
He termed the Taliban a “new reality” and pointed that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan came as a result of the Doha Talks, where the U.S. had accepted the Taliban as a “valid negotiating party.”
The declaration of the “War on Terror” has since led to the invasion of Afghanistan, then Iraq, and to the rise of ISIS. Its objective of eliminating terrorism however remained elusive as the root causes of injustice, deprivation, bias; particularly in Palestine, Kashmir remain unaddressed.
With additional input from Ishtiaq Ahmed and Shumaila Andleeb