Combating Terrorism in the US’s Afghanistan Policy: An Evaluation of Biden’s 9/11 Messages

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The President of the United States (USA) Joe Biden attended the ceremony held on September 11, 2022 to commemorate the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The speech of the President of the United States at this ceremony is very important as it is the first serious assessment made after the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan one year later. Because the messages Biden gave at the ceremony contain important clues about the future of the Washington administration’s Afghanistan policy.

Biden, who stated at the beginning of his speech that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda would never reach his dreams[1], stated that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed the fate of the USA.[2] Although it is seen that this emphasis on destiny contains emotional messages towards domestic politics, it can be said that American foreign policy has changed since that date.

In fact, the attacks of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda targeting the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) and the World Trade Organization Center (Twin Towers) can be considered a milestone in terms of American foreign policy. Because after these terrorist acts, the USA found the “other” it was looking for after the collapse of the Soviet Union and focused on legitimizing American interventionism through the “radical jihadist” counter-terrorism argument.

Biden’s speech indicates that the US President approves the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after the aforementioned attacks. Because Biden declared the soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq as heroes using the following expressions[3]:

“Millions of young men and women across the country have defended our Constitution and joined the largest fighting force in world history, responding with courage and determination to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the years since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers; He served in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other parts of the world to prevent these geographies from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and to protect the American people.”

Biden’s statements point out that the operations carried out by the USA in various geographies of the world over the alleged fight against terrorism may continue. At this point, it can be claimed that despite the withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan, the operations carried out in this country via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will continue. The situation in question is also understood from the following sentences of the US President:[4]

“Despite everything that has changed in the last 21 years, the resolve of the American people to defend ourselves against those who want to harm us and to deliver justice to those responsible for attacks on our people has not once been faltered. It took ten years to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but we succeeded. And this summer, I authorized a successful attack on Ayman al-Zawahiri, Laden’s deputy on September 11, 2001, and leader of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. Because we will not rest. We will never forget. We will never give up. And now Zawahiri can no longer threaten the American people. Even after the end of the 20-year operation in Afghanistan, we remain committed to preventing another attack on the United States.”

To reiterate, Biden’s statements above reveal that the United States will continue to conduct counter-terrorism operations despite its withdrawal from Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, the neutralization of Zawahiri as a result of the UAV operation is a development experienced in the process after the withdrawal. At this point, it is necessary to focus on the future scenarios of the US’s anti-terrorism policy in Afghanistan.

First of all, it should be underlined that there is a serious tension between Washington and the Taliban administration due to the U.S. drone operations in Afghanistan airspace. The Taliban administration describes the presence of American UAVs in the skies of Afghanistan as a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty rights and argues that the White House does not act in accordance with the Doha Agreement. On the other hand, the USA states that terrorist organizations continue their activities in Afghanistan, based on the killing of Zawahiri, and reminds that the Taliban made a commitment in the Doha Treaty that terrorist organizations would not operate in Afghanistan’s territory. Therefore, Biden’s messages herald that the US will continue its operations using Afghanistan’s airspace. This means that the tension in US-Taliban relations will increase even more.

The killing of Zawahiri reveals that the main target of the US air operations in Afghanistan is the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. In this context, it is possible to say that the US’s Afghanistan policy will be shaped by the goal of combating the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. It is also stated that the USA used Pakistani airspace during the operations in Afghanistan.[5] This situation can be interpreted as the USA will improve its cooperation with Pakistan in its Afghanistan policy. In fact, the USA may request a military base from Pakistan for the operations it will organize in Afghanistan. Claims have been made in this direction in the past.[6] Of course, such a scenario indicates that the tension in the Taliban-Pakistan line may escalate.

On the other hand, it can be stated that in the future scenarios of the USA’s Afghanistan policy, the Washington administration may also resort to the argument of fighting the terrorist organization State of Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS). As it will be remembered, on 26 August 2021; in other words, just five days before the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the terrorist organization DEAS launched an attack on Kabul Airport and 13 American soldiers were killed in this attack. In his statement after the attack, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that his country would continue its operations in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism.[7] However, despite this attack, the USA completed the withdrawal process. This has brought to mind the question of what kind of method will be adopted in the fight against terrorism.

At this point, it is seen that the USA carries out its anti-terrorism policy in Afghanistan through intelligence power and UAV operations. In this context, it can be said that the USA may organize the operations against the terrorist organization DEAS, similar to the operations carried out against the terrorist organization Al Qaeda.

As a result, the USA focusedon the activities of two terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. Although the Washington administration has focused its lens on the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in the current situation, the messages given by Austin after the Kabul Airport attack on August 26, 2021 show that DEAS may also be the target of American UAVs. It is understood that the new method adopted by the USA in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan is air operations and the role of UAVs in this context comes to the fore. However, one of the reasons why the USA does not focus its attention on DEAS, at least in the current situation, is that the actions of this terrorist organization serve regional chaos plans by escalating ethnic and sectarian violence. Therefore, the Washington administration may think that DEAS will destabilize actors such as Russia and China, and will serve to relieve the US in the global power struggle. This can be associated with the concentration of operations on the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. In fact, by weakening the terrorist organization Al Qaeda and increasing the pressure on the Taliban through the fight against Al Qaeda, the White House may also want to make room for the terrorist organization DEAS.

[1] “Remarks by President Biden at 9/11 Memorial Ceremony”, White House,, (Date of Accession: 12.09.2022).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Taliban, ABD Dronlarına Hava Sahasını Açtığı Gerekçesiyle Pakistan’ı Suçladı”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 12.09.2022).

[6] “Negotiations on US Military Base in Pakistan Have Reached an Impasse”, New York Times,, (Date of Accession: 12.09.2022).

[7] “جو بایدن در یادبود از ۱۳ امریکایی کشته شده در کابل: دولت من در تعقیب تروریست‌هاست”, Afintl,, (Date of Accession: 09.09.2022).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.