Small Wars Journal

Nine Years After 9/11

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Nine Years After 9/11:

Assessing the War on Terror

by Colonel Joseph J. Collins

Download the Full Article: Nine Years After 9/11

It has been nine years since terrorists struck the United States in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. Few Americans, especially those of us who were in the Pentagon or near the World Trade Center that day will ever forget it. A modern day Pearl Harbor, 9/11 was a day that radically changed our national security strategy. The smoke, fire, and casualties were stark reminders that the United States had failed to deal adequately with an emerging threat. Nine years of war have followed those attacks. The lives of the agents, police officers, and members of the Armed Forces who fight the war on terrorism --- as well as their families --- have been changed forever.

The costs of this war have been high. Over 5,600 American service members have been killed, and 1,050 of our Western allies have perished. Over 38,000 Americans have been wounded; countless stress and brain trauma injuries must also be added to that human toll. The number of Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani dead --- mostly at the hands of terrorists or insurgents --- dwarfs the Western total. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq alone have directly cost the US taxpayer over a trillion dollars.

This anniversary is an appropriate time to think about where we have been and where we need to be headed in this epic struggle to accomplish the U.S. goal to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and its allies." Much good work has been done, but the nature of the war on terrorism --- the common euphemism for the war against Islamist extremism in its many varieties --- is changing, and the United States needs to chart a new course for the future. It will help any assessment to divide the war on terrorism into four interdependent campaigns: the worldwide campaign, the one on the home front, and the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Download the Full Article: Nine Years After 9/11

Colonel Joseph J. Collins, a retired Army officer, teaches national security courses at the National War College and Georgetown University. From 2001 to 2004, he was deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations. The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the Defense Department, the National Defense University, or any government agency.

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