On a September morning, there was a commotion in American Airlines Flight 11, scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles. The cause of the commotion: four men led by a man called Mohammed Atta. Five men who would later crash the flight into the North tower of the Twin Towers in New York. In the hours to come, three more flights would meet a similar fate; one flying straight into the South tower of the Twin Towers, the other crashing into Pentagon, while the last crashing in a field in Pennsylvania. The masterminds of the attacks involved al-Qaeda, which had its leadership and its strength concentrated in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. With a loss of around three thousand lives and massive collateral damage, it was inevitable for the US to retaliate against the perpetrators and bring them to justice, no matter where they might be. American retaliation was both swift and sharp, easily toppling the Taliban government, causing al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters to flee to the mountainous terrain between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
What transpired in the years to follow had a lasting impact on not only the USA or the masterminds behind these attacks, al-Qaeda, or the nation that harboured al-Qaeda’s leadership, Afghanistan, but on the whole world. The attacks primarily brought Islamist extremism with Osama bin Laden as its face, in the limelight, while simultaneously ringing a wake-up call for other nations to combat it. It set into course the ‘War on Terror’, in which countries like Pakistan had to reluctantly offer their assistance to the West. Furthermore, it was not only the American forces which faced the elusive enemy, Britain and other NATO countries too were involved in it militarily. What lay before the coalition forces was a war-torn rugged nation, which was to see another decade and a half of war, owing to the 9/11 attacks.
However, the effects of 11 September resounded not only in the foreign policies of nations, but also on a more domestic level, in the form of stricter security measures (occasionally to the point of paranoia), stricter immigration laws or also in the form of Islamophobia. The Guantanamo Bay prison is one such reminder of the extents to which the US is willing to go to gather intelligence or simply incarcerate hardened brainwashed terrorists. However, it is also worth noting that the Guantanamo Bay and its reported abuse of prisoners has also given indoctrinators across the world more reason to hate the West and to attract more people to their vile causes.
The al-Qaeda leadership had originally intended the attacks to lure the USA (or the West, by extension), into a lengthy war of attrition against an enemy virtually indistinguishable from the common populace, in order to sap the West of its resources, and cause it to fall like the USSR had in 1989. And although it can be said that the West has certainly not fallen as radical Islamists had anticipated, it is equally true that violent Islamic movements have spread their tentacles in newer war-zones like Iraq (after Saddam’s fall), Libya (during the anti-Qaddafi protests) and relatively recently in Syria (during the Syrian civil war, as Jabhat al-Nusra).
16 years have passed since the planes crashed, and even today, the threat that is radical Islamist movements in the form of terrorist organisations has continued to exist, if not increased. Although Afghanistan has ‘successfully’ implemented democracy over most of its territory, the Taliban problem is far from over. 16 years on, the world is still learning to live in the shadows of the September 11 attacks, and in the events that formed the world as it is today, the day will continue to remain a black day for humanity.