Today marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the United States by Al Qaida, which consequently brought the United States and NATO countries into Afghanistan.
In the early morning on the 11th of September 2001, four commercial airliners were hijacked by 19 Al Qaida members.
The first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, and minutes later the south tower of the center was hit by a second plane. The towers were demolished.
The third plane hit the west side of the Pentagon and the fourth one, which was heading toward Washington DC, was diverted and crashed into a field in the state of Pennsylvania.
Nine days after the attacks, the then US President George W. Bush called on the US military to be ready. He also called on the Taliban to deliver the leader of Al Qaida. “The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate,” he said.
When the Al Qaida leader was not handed over, Bush called for other countries to join with the United States in the war on terror. “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” he said.
The United States with the UK launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in October 2001. Troops were sent in and later various NATO and other allied countries joined.
Over the past 20 years, Afghanistan experienced a massive international presence, both military and civilian.
During these 20 years, the war cost thousands of lives.
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According to AP, as of April 2021, 2,448 American service members were killed in Afghanistan and over 3,846 US contractors. The casualties of Afghan military and police reached 66,000, and other allied soldiers, including those of NATO countries, reached 1,144.
The civilians in Afghanistan have also paid a high price. During the last 20 years, 47,245 Afghan civilians have lost their lives, and 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters have been killed, AP reported.
Civilian casualties, however, were counted only from 2009, because before that year fatalities were not recorded systematically by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
According to the AP report, 444 aid workers and 72 journalists were killed.
Different sources, however, give slightly different numbers.
These figures do not include the attacks on Kabul airport in August in which over 170 Afghans lost their lives as they were trying to leave the country during the evacuation process, as did 13 US soldiers.
The last US soldiers left Afghanistan on August 30, only 12 days before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Although the US and NATO ousted the former Taliban government, the Taliban retook control of Kabul on August 15, after 20 years of war