The horrors of September 11, 2001, unfolded in just less than 102 minutes. On that day, 2,996 people died in the worst terrorist attack in modern U.S. history.
What followed was 19 years, 10 months, three weeks and two days of the war in Afghanistan, with the Department of Defense counting at least 2,325 American military deaths. No one knows exactly how many civilians were killed.
On September 11, 2021, President Joe Biden will try to draw a line under those twin tragedies, paying his respects at the three sites, whose fiery suffering set alight America’s longest war.
The Global War on Terror, as it was called, stretched well beyond the central Asian country of Afghanistan — reaching into Iraq and other corners of the globe as distant as Africa. In Iraq, the conflict killed nearly 4,500 U. S. service members and hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Since the controversial decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of August, the Biden administration has made decisive moves to put the last 20 years behind it, by declassifying a trove of documents that may shed light on the events of September 11, and by maintaining a studied distance from the hardline theocratic Taliban government that seized power in Afghanistan as Americans withdrew.