On 9/11 anniversary, Biden recalls American unity, vows vigilance


U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a wreath laying ceremony honoring the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2022. – Reuters/Cheriss May
  • The anniversary comes a year after Biden ended the US-led war in Afghanistan.
  • Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of US troops last year and the country’s rapid fall to the Taliban have drawn criticism.
  • Biden and others have argued that the threat of terrorism has spread across the world over the past 21 years.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the memory of America’s united response to the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks and vowed to “never give up” in the face of terrorist threats during his a solemn commemoration Sunday at the Pentagon.

Biden’s remarks on national unity on the 21st anniversary of the attacks contrasted with his warnings in recent days about dangerous divisions in American society, including that some Republicans who support former President Donald Trump’s agenda constitute a threat to democracy.

Read more: Al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in CIA drone strike, US officials say

“I hope we will remember that in the midst of those dark days, we dug deep. We cared for each other. And we came together,” Biden said, as rain fell on the troops standing behind him, flanking his Secretary of Defense and top general.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, when al-Qaeda hijackers flew planes into the towers of New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, while a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

The passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 defeated the hijackers and the plane crashed into a field, preventing another target from being hit.

The anniversary comes a year after Biden ended the US-led war in Afghanistan, launched two decades ago to root out the al-Qaeda militant group that carried out the 9/11 attacks after the having plotted from Afghanistan.

Read more: Taliban leaders rally after US says Zawahiri killed

Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of US troops last year and the country’s rapid fall to the Taliban drew criticism from members of both political parties.

But Biden vowed the fight against terrorism would continue. “We’re not going to rest. We’ll never forget. We’ll never give up,” he said.

Last month, Biden authorized a drone strike in Kabul that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head and helped coordinate the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The revelation of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul has raised questions about the extent to which al-Qaeda receives refuge from the Taliban.

US military and intelligence officials had warned that a complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan could allow al-Qaeda as well as Daesh to grow stronger and, if left unchecked, possibly plot against the United States.

Biden and others have argued that the threat of terrorism has spread around the world over the past 21 years and that there are better ways to combat it than military deployments and open-ended war.

“Our commitment to preventing another attack on the United States is endless,” Biden said.

First Lady Jill Biden attended a ceremony in Pennsylvania on Sunday morning, while Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff attended one in New York.

In New York, the key moments of 9/11, like the times when each tower of the World Trade Center came down, were marked by a minute of silence after the ringing of a bell.

Read more: Biden says US killed al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan

The families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks have been waiting for years for several of those accused of planning and aiding the hijackers to be brought to justice and convicted, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others imprisoned in the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Sunday, Biden told reporters that “yes, there is a plan for that” – to hold the accused plotters accountable – but declined to comment further.



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