Nearly a quarter of the American population was not born the Islamic jihadist terrorists of al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. They do not have an up-close-and-personal appreciation of suffering or the loss of almost 3,000 innocent lives. Today, that moment in time is referred to simply as 9/11 – a date when the United States began a campaign of global proportions to seek out and eradicate terrorists of every stripe. After two decades, the War on Terror continues as the organizations striving to take down the institutions Americans hold dear continue their evil work.
What has changed over the 20 years is the face of terror. Al Qaeda still exists and is actively spreading its brand of jihadist carnage, but other equally dangerous and active groups are now targeting the US. More of a current threat to the peaceful existence of freedom-loving countries, however, are the state sponsors of terrorism; principal among them are Iran and North Korea. “Terrorism remains a persistent threat to US persons and interests at home and abroad,” the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) warned in the Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community, published in February 2022.
Leader of 9/11 Attack Welcomed to Afghanistan
Establishing a haven for training and organizing is essential for terrorists to thrive even when they are financially and materially supported by state sponsors. After the chaos of America’s poorly planned, managed, and executed withdrawal from Afghanistan, the door was opened to a Taliban-created safe space. For example, the most sought-after leader of al Qaeda and key 9/11 attack terrorist mastermind, Ayman Al Zawahiri, found refuge and hospitality provided by the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan. Less than a year after the US retreat, Zawahiri set up shop. In the end, the comfortable surroundings provided courtesy of the Taliban became the terrorist’s undoing. The US killed the jihadist leader on the balcony of an apartment provided by one of the Afghan government’s leaders. The incident represented more than just taking out one bad guy. Zawahiri vacationing in Kabul, as high a profile enemy as he was, indicates terrorists are once again taking advantage of the Taliban welcome mat. In many respects, regarding Afghanistan as a terrorist playground, the US is back where it was twenty years ago.
In the intervening years since the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, new terrorist threats have sprung up. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, evolved from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s army and grew rapidly during the Obama administration. The brutal terrorist organization known for beheading people who would not adopt its maniacal version of Islam acquired considerable territory in eastern Syria and western and northwestern Iraq. The ISIS reign of terror ended when the Trump administration made eliminating the group a priority US military mission. Today according to the DNI report on global terror groups, “Consistent US and allied counterterrorism pressure has degraded the external attack capabilities of ISIS and al Qaeda, but they still aspire to conduct attacks in the United States.”
Homegrown Terrorists – A New Threat
A terrorist threat not as prevalent before 9/11 but growing according to law enforcement is the domestic, or “homegrown,” terrorists, many of who are sponsored or influenced by a Foreign Terrorists Organization (FTO). “The FBI assesses HVEs (Homegrown Violent Extremists) are the greatest, most immediate terrorism threat to the homeland. These individuals are FTO-inspired individuals who are in the US, have been radicalized primarily in the US, and are not receiving individualized direction from FTOs,” FBI director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee in 2019. Today the threat from HVEs and FTOs is growing with the open border policies of the Biden administration.
Exacerbating the danger of terrorists sauntering into the US unchallenged are Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ policies constraining the border patrol from stopping the flood of illegal aliens, many of whom are potential terrorists sponsored by FTOs. “Less than 18 months into the Biden administration, the number of illegals on the FBI watchlist stopped at the border is 65, or nearly six times more potential extremist fanatics who sought to attack America than during the four years of Donald Trump,” Liberty Nation reported regarding the danger Americans face at their backdoor.
Though time has passed, terrorism is still the number one acute danger to US citizens. Consequently, remembering the horrific attack on America should be constant and vivid to keep the US government alert. The face of terror may have changed, but the consequence of inattention hasn’t. On the anniversary of 9/11, President Biden needs to up his game.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.