CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Sunday marks 10 years since President Barack Obama announced to the world U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, the terrorist and mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The targeted operation was a significant step in the nation’s fight against Al Qaeda. It was years in the making and a mission that turned into American’s longest war.
After 20 years, America appears to be ending that war in Afghanistan. On Saturday, the last remaining 2,500 to 3,500 American troops began leaving, with a deadline to be fully out by Sept. 11 at the latest.
It’s a sign of changes in counterterrorism strategies, and President Joe Biden says American security concerns have evolved.
Javed Ali, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and visiting faculty member at the University of Michigan, says the U.S. is at an inflection point with respect to counterterrorism, and that trend has been developing for a couple of years.
“The president has stated this … and other senior officials have said that, at least with respect to, the terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland, the threat that we had to face after 9/11, that is now no longer an international terrorism threat,” Ali said. “The most prominent part of that threat is the threat from far-right extremism and we’ve seen manifestations of that even before the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol, so that is a major change in the counterterrorism landscape and now you’re seeing policy decisions from the Biden administration reflect that change.”
The U.S. and NATO leave behind an Afghanistan that is at least half run directly or indirectly by the Taliban — despite billions poured into training and arming Afghan forces to fight them. Riddled with corruption and tied to regional warlords, the U.S.-backed government is widely distrusted by many Afghans.
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Washington and its international allies are putting heavy pressure on the government and the Taliban to reach a peace deal. The hope is that both sides realize military victory is impossible and that peace together is the only way forward.
“This is a major risk, hopefully, we’ve fought through the implications of this,” Ali said. “The president has also said … that we’ll still be able to conduct counterterrorism missions offshore or over the horizon; just not the way we had been doing the last 20 years in Afghanistan.”
The best case scenario is some sort of government including the Taliban that can pave the way for drawing up a new constitutional system for the future, including some form of elections.
The very possible worst case scenario is that peace talks fail, and Afghanistan is plunged into a new chapter of its decades of civil war. That new phase could be more brutal than ever, with not only the Taliban but the country’s other, multiple warlords and armed factions battling it out for power.
The past 20 years since the Taliban were ousted have unquestionably seen gains for the Afghans. But they are fragile and risk being wiped away as the Americans step away — whether frittered away under a new government or crushed by continued war.
Read President Biden’s statement.
Ten years ago, I joined President Obama and members of our national security team, crowded into the Situation Room to watch as our military delivered long-awaited justice to Osama bin Laden. It is a moment I will never forget—the intelligence professionals who had painstakingly tracked him down; the clarity and conviction of President Obama in making the call; the courage and skill of our team on the ground. It had been almost ten years since our nation was attacked on 9/11 and we went to war in Afghanistan, pursuing al Qaeda and its leaders. We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell—and we got him. We kept the promise to all those who lost loved ones on 9/11: that we would never forget those we had lost, and that the United States will never waver in our commitment to prevent another attack on our homeland and to keep the American people safe.
Now, as a result of those efforts, as we bring to an end America’s longest war and draw down the last of our troops from Afghanistan, al Qaeda is greatly degraded there. But the United States will remain vigilant about the threat from terrorist groups that have metastasized around the world. We will continue to monitor and disrupt any threat to us that emerges from Afghanistan. And we will work to counter terrorist threats to our homeland and our interests in cooperation with allies and partners around the world.
I want to give my enduring thanks to the service members who executed the raid at great personal risk and the public servants across our government who made our mission a success ten years ago. We will continue to honor all the brave women and men, our military, our intelligence and counterterrorism professionals, and so many others, who continue their extraordinary work to keep the American people safe today. They give their best to our country, and we owe them an incredible debt of gratitude.President Joe Biden
Watch the full interview in the player above.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.