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En una primera lectura, la eliminación de Ayman al Zawahiri, máximo líder de Al Qaeda desde 2011, puede presentarse como un rotundo éxito de Washington en su afán por hacer justicia o vengarse —como cada cual prefiera— de quien solía identificarse como el verdadero padre intelectual del 11-S. Visto así, solo cabría alabar la pericia demostrada por los servicios de inteligencia estadounidenses —los mismos que erraron patentemente en su cálculo sobre el desafío talibán hace tan solo un año—.

Así, en lo que se nos ha presentado como un golpe quirúrgico con un misil Hellfire R9X lanzado desde un dron MQ-9 Reaper, cabría valorar positivamente que no fuera armado con una cabeza explosiva para evitar daños colaterales que pudieran afectar a los civiles que habitan las casas circundantes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shiite Huthi rebels man a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city of Sanaa 15 November 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

In early 2014, I found myself in the sparsely furnished front room of a nondescript breezeblock villa in Aden, a city in southern Yemen that was once one of the busiest ports in the world. My host was a man who once fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and later helped what would become the local al-Qaeda franchise gain a foothold in Yemen.

He was recounting how, in 1993, a distant relative had arrived at his hideout in the mountains of Abyan, to Aden’s east. The visitor, a senior military official who like my host hailed from Abyan, had come from Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, with a message from President Ali Abdullah Saleh.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Air Force ground crew secure weapons and other components of an MQ-9 Reaper drone after it returned from a mission, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, 9 March 2016. REUTERS/Josh Smith

What’s new? The U.S. government is conducting a formal review of its counter-terrorism direct action operations – ie, those that involve kill or capture. But it is not clear that the review will shed light on key questions about the effectiveness of militarised counter-terrorism efforts or recommend major changes.

Why does it matter? The so-called global war on terror deserves greater oversight. Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the U.S. has waged war upon numerous jihadist groups in a dozen or more countries. Decisions to change the conflict’s scope are often taken unilaterally and in secret by the executive branch.

What should be done?…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boards a plane at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 February 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Of the nineteen hijackers on the four planes that crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, all but two were from the Gulf states: fifteen from Saudi Arabia and two from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The attacks and their aftermath upset a status quo of smooth political, economic and security relations between the U.S. and its Gulf Arab partners. As the U.S. turned its overly ambitious gaze toward removing Saddam Hussein and advancing George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda”, it upended finely balanced regional dynamics, increased Gulf states’ sense of insecurity and spurred the slow erosion of their confidence in Washington’s steady support.…  Seguir leyendo »

Future federal air marshals participate in a shooting exercise in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., on March 29, 2017. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Twenty years after the worst terrorist attack in history, there hasn’t been “another 9/11.” By one count, 107 people have been killed in jihadist attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, and nearly half of those were in one attack — the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Any deaths are tragic, but more Americans are dying of covid-19 every two hours than died of Islamist terrorism in the United States during the past 20 years.

You would think this counterterrorism success would be celebrated. Instead, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the “global war on terror” — as it was once called — is widely reviled.…  Seguir leyendo »

A picture taken on 25 November 25 2017, shows the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack. STR / AFP

In the sweep of events following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the low-level, intermittent jihadist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is understandably outside the spotlight. While posing a persistent threat to Egypt, Sinai militants have only occasionally attracted significant notice outside the country, usually following spectacular attacks on tourist or other civilian sites. To a degree, the scant attention is a function of isolation: the Egyptian state has made the northern Sinai, the primary theatre of violence, off limits to journalists and researchers.

Though lack of access has hindered understanding of Sinai events, Egypt’s experiences with Islamist militancy, the broad contours of which remain visible from a distance, can still offer insight into how the 9/11 attacks shaped U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cómo la ciudad de Nueva York puede recuperarse de nuevo

El futuro de la ciudad de Nueva York está en duda. Los barrios perdieron habitantes que se han mudado a los suburbios. Se han cerrado negocios. La gente está preocupada por la seguridad pública. Las familias lloran la pérdida de sus seres queridos.

Ese era el panorama en el otoño de 2001, después de que los terroristas destruyeron el World Trade Center y pusieron a la ciudad de rodillas. Y es el mismo panorama actual, con una pandemia que ha causado estragos y millones de personas que se preguntan una vez más si los días de gloria de esta ciudad son cosa del pasado.…  Seguir leyendo »

«Tenemos varios aviones. Estén tranquilos y todo irá bien». Cuando a las 8.24.38 un técnico del centro de control aéreo de Boston escuchó esas palabras no pudo imaginar que el vuelo del que procedía la transmisión (American Airlines 11), acababa de ser secuestrado por cinco terroristas. Tampoco podía saber que en los próximos minutos otros tres aviones correrían igual suerte. Los responsables de la seguridad aérea no advirtieron a tiempo que los problemas de comunicación con las aeronaves se debían a su captura, y aún tardaron más en averiguar que los secuestradores no pretendían exigir rescate alguno por los rehenes. El plan para lanzar los aviones contra varios edificios representativos del poder económico, militar y político de los Estados Unidos se cumplió casi a la perfección, impactando dos aviones contra las torres del World Trade Center de Nueva York, que terminarían desplomándose, empotrando el tercero contra el Pentágono y fallando únicamente el intento de atravesar el Capitolio o la Casa Blanca con la cuarta aeronave, que terminó estrellándose a las afueras de Shanskville (Pensilvania) tras rebelarse los pasajeros.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman who lost a relative stands next to the plaque bearing the names of those killed in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images.

Osama Bin-Laden’s masterminding of the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998 saw more than 200 people killed – including a friend of mine – in nearly simultaneous truck bomb explosions linked to local supporters of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda.

Living in Nairobi at the time, I had been in the embassy to collect a US visa a couple of days before the attack but my Kenyan friend was not so lucky and was killed. Both US embassies were badly damaged – in Nairobi, a memorial park was constructed on the site with a new embassy built elsewhere while Dar es Salaam got a new highly fortified embassy with a monument to the victims in its grounds.…  Seguir leyendo »

I Wrote the Lead Times Article on 9/11. Here’s What Still Grips Me

Shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, an English teacher in central Washington State assigned her eighth and ninth graders to write poems based on the lead article in The Times. The teacher, Tammy Grubb, said her intention was to give the students a way to process their feelings. The poems were posted in the school hallway and then, since my byline was on the article, Ms. Grubb sent them to me, 77 of them.

With the 20th anniversary of the attacks approaching, I dug up the thick folder with the poems. The format was “found poetry,” which basically means rearranging phrases from another text, and the words were painfully familiar: the “hellish storm of ash,” the planes “gorged with fuel,” the victims leaping from the inferno, the talk of war, the bravado of the moment, with President George W.…  Seguir leyendo »

To ‘Never Forget’ 9/11, We Must Remember Everything

The boy clings to the undercarriage of an evacuation plane leaving Kabul. He is a teenage athlete, a soccer player of some renown in Afghanistan, yet sees no future for himself in a homeland now ruled by the Taliban. His only hope is to leave. But as the American C-17 takes off, the boy falls to his death, a dot in the gray sky. The disturbing footage of his fall, which circulated online last month, echoed the iconic image of the “falling man”, who jumped or fell from the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The boy and the man may be separated by time, place and circumstance, but they are connected by a chain of events that began 20 years ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los dos 11-S

El 11 de septiembre de 2001 me encontraba trabajando en mi estudio. Hacia las 15 horas sonó el teléfono: era el director de EL MUNDO que me pedía con urgencia que escribiera un artículo sobre "Los enemigos de Estados Unidos". No entendí la urgencia del encargo. Pedro J. Ramírez simplemente me dijo: pon la televisión Así hice. Conecté hacia las 15:05. Un minuto después, 15:06 (9:06 en Nueva York), contemplé asombrado cómo un avión comercial se estrellaba contra una de las Torres Gemelas, situadas en el sur de la isla de Manhattan y que albergaban el Word Trade Center. La otra estaba ya ardiendo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian president Vladimir Putin meets US president George W. Bush in the Oval Office at the White House on November 13, 2001. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

On 12 September 2001, Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to call George W. Bush to express his condolences – and to offer him support.

Just the previous year, Putin had said Russia joining NATO was a possibility and it suited Russia to draw parallels between the terrorist attacks on the US and its own ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign in Chechnya at the time.

Even though much of the Russian commentary about 9/11 professed empathy rather than sympathy, in their eyes the US was both a victim – as Russia likes to see itself – and ‘had it coming’ while Russia was blameless.…  Seguir leyendo »

Flowers at the monument in New York for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

In the weeks following the 9/11 attacks, analysts said everything was going to change and they were proved right. Just as the decades following the two world wars were heavily influenced by their outcomes and atrocities, the ‘war on terror’ has been the backdrop and set the tone for most international interactions for the past 20 years.

And yet just weeks before the attacks, two international arms control measures were coming to a head at the United Nations (UN) which – without the impact of 9/11 – could have changed the future history of arms control for the better. But as the world changed course, both measures ended up creating major repercussions still being played out now.…  Seguir leyendo »

It wasn’t hubris that drove America into Afghanistan. It was fear

Americans long remembered where they were when they learned about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The shock and horror of that event, in which a German submarine deliberately sank a British ocean liner with nearly 2,000 men, women and children aboard, produced more than moral outrage. It also reshaped Americans’ perception of the world and their role in it, ultimately leading them into the First World War. But neither their outrage at Germany nor their reconfigured view of foreign policy lasted very long. Ten years later, Americans still remembered the Lusitania, but they did not remember why they went to war — or, more specifically, how they felt about the series of events, beginning with the sinking, that ultimately led them to embrace war as their only remaining option.…  Seguir leyendo »

El verdadero fracaso es Pakistán

Solo hay un aspecto positivo sobre el hecho de los talibanes hayan restablecido el Emirato Islámico de Afganistán a días del aniversario 20 de los ataques terroristas a EE.UU. del 11 de septiembre de 2001: servirá como recordatorio de por qué hace dos décadas hubo que invadir el país y derrocar al gobierno talibán.

Cuando cerca de 3000 personas son asesinadas en tu propio suelo en una operación planificada y ordenada por un grupo terrorista conocido desde un país cuyo gobierno se niega a cooperar para llevar ante la justicia a esa organización y a su líder, no hay buenas opciones.…  Seguir leyendo »

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial on Tuesday, the day before the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

There is something almost magical about New York as summer turns to fall. The changing of the seasons brings a spirit of renewal. People hurry to school and work, propelled by dreams and ambitions. The leaves shift from green to orange. But this beauty is transient. In the evening, when I go on my walks, I look at the two blue lights beaming into the heavens from just south of the old World Trade Center and I try to hold my gaze there. I never last long.

When the Sept. 11 attacks happened, I was an 11-year-old Muslim boy suddenly confused about the world and unsure of my place in it.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image of Jake Campbell above his mother’s name on the south fountain of the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

When I was growing up, the only time I noticed that I was different from other kids at school was when their parents were around. One of my earliest memories is my first day of kindergarten: Among a sea of young parents, my grandparents and I stood out. I was too nervous to let go of my grandmother’s hand.

The rest of the time, though, I felt pretty normal. My thoughts revolved around driveway baseball games with the neighbors and making sure I had my homework done in time to play some video games.

But early September always felt different. I could sense a change in the mood in my home.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why We Should Take Back Americans Who Fought for ISIS

What do we do with Westerners who fought on behalf of, or at least traveled to and joined, the Islamic State? Some like Hoda Muthana, who left college in Alabama to join the Islamic State in Syria, have expressed the desire to return to their native country.

As the Islamic State loses its last safe havens in eastern Syria and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic confront the question of what to do with the Western “foreign fighters,” I thought I could add my voice and unique experiences to the discussion.

I was the first American foreign fighter for Al Qaeda after Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base. Credit James Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »