We are still living with the global impact of 9/11
While much has been achieved in the fight against radicalism, its root causes have yet to be tackled
September 11, 2001, was as much a defining moment for the rest of the world as it was for the US. It was the day of the deadliest foreign attack on American soil, when 19 hijackers took over four airliners and crashed them into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre, the Pentagon in Washington and a field in Pennsylvania, with the loss of almost 3,000 lives. But as much as it awoke the US to its vulnerabilities, it also marked the dawn of an era of cross-border terrorism and extremism that each year seems to grow more threatening. Despite the efforts of governments, much still needs to be done to fight radicalism.
Security was the immediate concern in the wake of the attacks. A war on terrorism was launched by the US and successes were quickly scored with the toppling of the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. But it took a decade to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, the Muslim extremist group behind the 9/11 atrocities and numerous subsequent ones, and that victory did not spell an end to the threat. In its place has arisen an even more ruthless and challenging force, the Islamic State.
IS has mastered the use of social media to influence and attract recruits. Even as it suffers battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria, its ideology inspires Muslims disenchanted with those around them to carry out extremist acts. From the streets of France to a train in southern Germany to a gay nightclub in the US city of Orlando to downtown Jakarta to the suburbs of Sydney, followers have in the past year taken hundreds of lives. Islamic extremists have joined its ranks to hone their fighting skills and extend their reach; Kyrgyz authorities claim Syrian-based Uygurs were behind the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek last month.
Governments have done much to identify radicals and share information in the 15 years since 9/11, but they need to work together even more closely. The root causes of extremism have still to be tackled.