Having spent the past decade working in law enforcement, I hold a special reflection on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11.
On that day, of the more than 400 rescue workers who perished, 343 firefighters and 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority died while responding to the call of duty. Never in American history has our nation’s public safety infrastructure suffered such a tragic day. The nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children who died that day at the hands of al-Qaeda make 9/11 a day of infamy never to be forgotten.
September 11 awakened America to the scourge of terrorism. Radical Islamists, motivated by a twisted interpretation of Islam and inspired by the rabid narrative of Osama bin Laden, demonstrated to the world that there were no bounds to their barbarity.
America took heed of this notice and has responded with a consistent and forceful campaign designed to take the fight to the enemy. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while controversial, have dismantled the once cohesive network of al-Qaeda Central. Lacking the safe haven provided by the Taliban, al-Qaeda leadership has had to move into the desolate, mountainous regions of the Afghanistan–Pakistan border and beyond.
The fracturing of al-Qaeda Central has inhibited the group’s ability to coordinate large-scale attacks against the West. It has not, however, eliminated the broader threat posed by the plague of radicalization.
As al-Qaeda Central was flushed from its sanctuaries in Afghanistan, the virulent ideology it propagated has metastasized into disparate regions throughout the world.
A number of groups, associated with or inspired by the narrative of al-Qaeda, have established themselves as significant threats to both the American homeland and our interests abroad.
Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (led by the charismatic American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Shabaab in Somalia represent only a sampling of the more dangerous movements that have arisen in the past decade and are committed to carrying out jihad against the West.
Since 9/11, at least 40 terror plots aimed at the United States have been foiled while in varying degrees of preparation. Unfortunately, not every plot has been stopped prior to its culmination. The tragic events at Fort Hood, where 13 members of the U.S. military were gunned down by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, reminds us of the terrible costs that can arise when just one deranged individual slips through the cracks.
Although the global war against terrorists has at times been exhausting, and the sacrifices of the American people and armed forces has been great, the anniversary of 9/11 offers a time of not only reflection but resolve.
American will and determination to promote a society where freedom can flourish must continue to outweigh our enemies’ resolve to see such freedoms destroyed. America has defeated the great enemies of freedom in the past, and I have no doubt that it will continue to meet the extraordinary challenges before it.
Article originally appeared in The Foundry