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American Forces Press Service

Commentary: Revisiting Afghanistan on 9/11

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2009 – On this eighth anniversary of the worst attacks on U.S. soil in nearly 200 years, and with some Americans skeptical of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, it is helpful to remember how the U.S. military commitment there evolved.

Asked by reporters at a Sept. 3 press briefing about the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was unequivocal: “I absolutely do not think it is time to get out of Afghanistan.”

“The fact is that 9/11 represented the first foreign-based attack on the continental United States, with significant casualties, since the War of 1812,” Gates said. “That attack emanated from Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The Taliban did not just provide a safe haven for al-Qaida. They actively cooperated and collaborated with al-Qaida. They provided a worldwide base of operations for al-Qaida.”

If some Americans have forgotten the connection between Afghanistan’s dusty terrorist training camps and the tragedy that was 9/11, the connection is not lost on the countless servicemembers who say they enlisted because of the terrorist attacks. It also isn’t lost on those servicemembers, mostly Special Operations forces, who arrived first in Afghanistan.

Among those early U.S. servicemembers in the Afghan theater, one group stands out. On Dec. 2, 2001, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) raised the American flag at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. It was the culminating moment in a whirlwind campaign that toppled the Taliban and sent al-Qaida terrorists scurrying for their lives.

The Green Berets placed rubble from the Twin Towers at the flagpole. Later, they placed a plaque at the site, which says: “In honor of the victims of 11 September 2001, the men and women who have given their lives in the war against terrorism, and the enduring freedom that will survive.”

The soldiers understood that the reason they were in Afghanistan was because of terrorists in that country who killed 3,000 American men, women and children back home. The terrorists used the ungoverned areas of Afghanistan to plan, stage, train for and finance the 9/11 attacks.

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