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Twenty years since the day that changed the world

The view of One World Trade Center and lower Manhattan in New York City

It is often referred to as the day that changed the world, but the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks US were felt far beyond the locations of New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

It would reverberate for decades, far beyond the US, shaping its foreign policy, and that of its allies, for many years.

This weekend the world will stop to remember the events of that day 20 years ago, when we watched in horror as the US was under attack.

As it became clear that responsibility for the appalling loss of life rested with Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, Afghanistan became the immediate focus of the US intelligence services.

Smoke pours from the World Trade Center after it was hit by two hijacked passenger planes

Its then-Taliban government harboured Bin Laden and, as such, found itself under attack. Within days, the Taliban found itself swept from power as US and NATO allies made dismantling the al-Qaeda network its priority.

There is a strange synchronicity in the fact that two decades on, Afghanistan is back as a primary focus for the US.

President Joe Biden had wanted all troops withdrawn from the country before the 9/11 anniversary this year, but the chaos and carnage of that withdrawal was not what any US President would want.

Ashley Jackson is author of 'Negotiating Survival: Civilian-Insurgent Relations in Afghanistan' and has written extensively on the conflict in Afghanistan. She says the US has failed to learn many of the lessons it could have from 9/11.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attend the dignified transfer of the remains of fallen service members at Dover Air Force

"We were so deeply entwined in the future of Afghanistan and propping up this post 2001 government, that even as the problems of corruption, even as the Taliban grew after 2006, it was hard to divorce ourselves from this narrative of this democracy ... how could it possibly fail."

"We saw that illusion crumble" year after year, Ms Jackson said, as the Taliban came back, as elections turned out to be fraudulent, as corruption mounted. But the US continued to maintain a narrative of success, a view that did not help it recognise the kind of problems that would arise when the US withdrawal began.


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