America After 9-11

The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Iraq

During the Cold War the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and, in response, the U.S. aided the Taliban in their efforts to overthrow Soviet control. Roughly two decades later, the U.S. attacked the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.  For most of the 1980s, the US aided Saddam Hussein in his efforts to defeat his Iranian enemies; just about 20 years later, we attack him as well.  The attack on America that occurred on 9-11-2001 was clearly not an isolated event. Instead, it was the culmination of long developing pattern of antipathy and violence toward the West by radical Islamic elements that date back, at least, as far as the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.  Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network were known to be involved in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; this organization was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 as well.

After the attack, President G.W. Bush declared a world-wide “war on terror.”  Immediately this became an organizing concept for US foreign policy, providing justification for a wide range of actions and policies. Thus, the al-Qaeda perpetrators of September 11 and Saddam Hussein were organized into seamless and coherent chapters in the same account. “The war on terror narrative led directly to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the establishment of an archipelago of detention camps, and to a vast expansion of surveillance systems inside the United States” (Zalman).

Given its strategic proximity, Pakistan became critical to our war in Afghanistan and although relations had been tense, it became an instant ally.  This occurred despite “the way the U.S. defined threats after the 9/11 attacks, [which suggested that] Pakistan might well have been perceived as an enemy from the start of the war on terror” (Payne).  The threats suffered by the West, specifically the US, are not going away in spite of President Obama’s recent statement that the “war on terror” is finished.  The costs of the two long wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq will be felt for decades.  With the continuing chaotic events in this region, the US will face further decisions regarding our involvement. 

This unit examines the events that brought about U.S. intervention in the region and illustrates the connections among our strategies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.  Although our troops have left Iraq and will be leaving Afghanistan soon, the area is by no means stable.  As with other units this one will include a Choices Options Role Play Discussion that looks to the challenges that will continue to dominate our interest in the region.  Along with sources from contemporary journals and materials from the Choices Program, the unit draws on novels by Khaled Hosseini and Mohsin Hamid to deepen students’ understanding of the region.

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