On September 11, 2001, only briefly after the start of the work day, two planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City, and after some time, the entire buildings fell, covering the city in smoke and ash. One plane crashed in Pennsylvania and another into the Pentagon, making it the biggest terrorist attack in the history of the United States. 2,977 Americans lost their lives, and even more were injured in this horrific attack on symbols of America and of Western civilization more broadly. This attack was planned and executed by a terrorist group named al-Qaeda, whose leader – the infamous Osama bin Laden – US troops killed in 2011 in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda organized the operation in Afghanistan, a terror haven before September 11th. Following the attack, former President Bush called for troops to enter Afghanistan with the intent to destroy the terror threat to our nation and kill those responsible for this attack.
Most of the current UVA student body does not remember 9/11. Unlike our parents and older peers, we cannot recall where we were when news came out that the Twin Towers had fallen. Students rely on the stories of family members and older friends who share their reactions or speak about how they were supposed to be in one of the buildings or on one of the planes. Others tell stories about the family members they lost. Although many UVA students cannot remember the start to the invasion of Afghanistan, we all remember 9/11 as a day of great tragedy for the United States.
For the majority of the lives of people born in our generation, the occupation of Afghanistan had been a constant reality, as it was the longest war in American history. The occupation of Afghanistan lasted under former Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump and current President Biden. Trump began the large withdrawal of American troops from the country, and at the end of his term, there were 2,500 troops – true to his agreement with the Taliban. Biden completed the withdrawal, but did not remove our troops until August – nearly four months after the May 1 deadline agreed upon by Trump and the Taliban in 2020.
Recent events have made the 20th anniversary of 9/11 even more important, as we will no longer be in Afghanistan, and the country has fallen to the Taliban. President Biden recently made a statement saying we will continue to evacuate American citizens, and it was the intent of the United States to have been fully withdrawn by August 31. American troops were in the process of evacuating thousands of people who were stuck in the country up until that date. Both American citizens and Afghans who helped support US troops through translating, information or other ways are still trapped overseas. While most Americans wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan, the plan the Biden Administration executed was far worse than anyone could have imagined.
It has been a policy position of the United States that no American be left behind, and yet, the Afghanistan withdrawal tells a different story – one that is full of moral failures by the Biden administration. Many veterans are working tirelessly to fulfill the promises they made to Afghans who put their lives on the line to help the United States military. We failed to deliver on so many processes, but the greatest moral failure is the Biden administration’s abandonment of American citizens.
Those who served in Afghanistan should be incredibly proud of the work they put in, the relationships they built, and the service they provided to our country. All of those who served courageously put their lives at risk, and we honor those who have sacrificed to prevent any more attacks on our nation’s soil. The Biden administration should be ashamed of the disgraceful exit that has now made the United States a laughingstock on the world stage. They have given our enemies the confidence to gain power, hence the direct threat we recently saw China make against Taiwan.
Many are very concerned with the ever-evolving situation in Afghanistan and the people who are now subject to Taliban rule. This includes women who are required to wear burqas, young girls who are no longer allowed to attend school, and others who have never experienced a country that follows Sharia law. For those who remember the 9/11 attacks as a horrific event, the Taliban takeover was not the ending any American anticipated. On this 20th anniversary, even those who don’t remember all of the details are emotional because it feels like our sons and daughters died in vain.