Why 9/11 was inevitable

Published: September 11, 2011

Tribute in lights in New York, September 11, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Anyone who was paying attention to the news coming out of Afghanistan and Central Asia in the late 1990s and the early part of the decade could tell that something had to give.

Collecting the world’s most hardened militants in one country and allowing them to train together was never going to go on for too long without something breaking and some powerful country getting very upset.

To be sure, nobody predicted 9/11, not even Ahmed Rashid who probably studied the subject of militancy in Central Asia more closely than anyone prior to that event. But the alliance of al Qaeda and the Taliban was very clearly getting on a lot of people’s nerves and it was only a matter of time before they went from being an annoyance to being perceived as a more serious threat.

It seems difficult to remember just what al Qaeda had created in Afghanistan. The entire world had essentially decided to dump all of its radical religious young men onto Afghanistan, and the government of Pakistan was quite happy to let them play in our backyard so long as our ‘strategic’ allies kept Indian influence in Kabul at bay.

While it seems inconceivable that the government of Pakistan would be complicit in attacks on countries other than India, it was also probably naive to think that it could contain the extremist passion of well-armed, well-financed young men with illusions of grandeur. Add to that al Qaeda’s business model of providing training to radical militant groups around the world – and Afghanistan (and by extension, Pakistan) was bound to make more than a few enemies.

Russia had been making threats about taking military action against Afghanistan, and even made allusions to possible military strikes against the Pakistani tribal areas in the couple of years before 9/11. Even China gave some diplomatic but stern warnings to Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban.

So when al Qaeda ended up actually attacking the US, it should not have surprised anyone in Pakistan. We played with the world’s most dangerous fires in the 1990s, thinking that we could deploy them against India. It was inevitable that our government would lose control.


Farooq Tirmizi

The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (twitter.com/FarooqTirmizi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com/ Zaid Hamid

    Israel had planned it decades ago to wage a war against Muslim WorldRecommend

  • Talha

    Excellent analysis, all this was built up by Reagan’s government and Zia’s holy men.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice article you have correctly pointed out that the problem did not start ten years ago on this day but almost 10 years earlier when in Feb 1989 the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Americans along with us were so caught up in the euphoria of that moment that they failed to realise that they had no follow up plan for Afghanistan or the mujaheddin who fought their war and they just packed their bags and left. That was not just a mistake it was a disastrous mistake.Recommend

  • Salman Arshad

    Thanks. The reminder was necessary.
    We Pakistanis normally have a memory of not more than one month. Recommend

  • Ali Noor

    Well said sir….well saidRecommend

  • http://Toronto Nadeem Ahmed

    Excellent article. Couple of years before 9/11, one of my friend took me to a mosque where a prominent scholar had come to speak. After his speech, we sat with scholar who, not long ago had visited Afghanistan and was guest of OBL. The scholar told us about OBL’s organisation. That was the first time I heard about him and his organisation. The Pakistani media was silent about these matters. Actually later this silence and lack of information became very usefull to confuse people. When our Generals and prominent jounalists deny the existance of Al-Quaida, then what common people can do. Interestingly the same scholar in his speeches and newspaper article denied everything he had told us couple of years before 9/11. I must say that our Generals, religious scholars and journalists have been very dishonest to the nation.Recommend

  • http://troll Call me Troll

    Certainly my comment will come across as Pakistan “basher”. But the problems for Pakistan post 9.11 became more inevitable after Pakistan supported and strategically formed Taliban to capture and rule Afghanistan. And as most analyst would agree and thankfully the author here pointed out it was a strategic calculation that Taliban would be used against India as a return of favor by Taliban to Pakistan for it’s support. Too bad Pakistan did not see 9/11 coming and that kind of changed the game for bad for Pakistan. Pakistan had to cut off it’s umbilical cord with Taliban and forcefully join US in war of terror and train it’s guns “highly reluctantly” towards it’s own creation. So for quite many Pakistani’s who like to play victim of terror , what they don’t understand is that they are victim of their own creation. And world is victim of Pakistan’s own monster. Monster conceived by America and Pakistan and nurtured by Pakistan after Russian lost Afghanistan war. What is more unfortunate that quite many Pakistani’s strongly fail to see what is generally accepted across the world including their best friend China that the support by their ruling government and armed forces to terrorists in name of “moral support” is just makes it look like heaven for wanted terrorists around the world. No doubt likes of Bin Laden, Bali bomber, Dawood Ibrahim etc find courage to live freely in such countries. Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    Why are you blaming Pakistan for 9/11? We had nothing to do with it. 9/11 was an event masterminded by a group led by a former Saudi and an Egyptian and based in Afghanistan. Why does Pakistan have to be blamed for everything? 9/11 was a terrorist act in response to perceived injustices on the part of the US across the world. We’re innocent.Recommend

  • Tabish

    True, Farooq. For me, as I stay in India, every now and then, we just get to hear Taliban, Al-Aqaeda and now Pakistan… Here, they talk about these 3 names unanimously. Its such an irony to hear all this and consequently, Islam is blamed, which is highly misunderstood.
    The worst part is, where will this lead to… Can just pray to Allah, to clear this mess.Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    Mustafa, we weren’t ‘innocent’, we aided and abetted the taliban governmen because they happened to be ‘our boys’, according to an erstwhile interior minister…..and of course our generals became millionaires and billionaires embezzling money from the US backed war effort to arm the ‘mujahideen’…Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    ‘We played with the world’s most dangerous fires in the 1990s, thinking that we could deploy them against India.’

    1 – You don’t even know the difference between Al-Qaeda and Taliban? Taliban were the host to Al-Qaeda, the masterminds of 911. Taliban were not involved in it.
    2 – ‘The entire world had essentially decided to dump all of its radical religious young men onto Afghanistan‘ So Pakistan should not be the one ONLY blamed for it right? Pakistan could have influence over Taliban – not Al-Qaeda.Recommend

  • Ibrar Ahmed

    A game was planed years before. Taliban and Al-Qaida were not bad when US was supporting them against Russia.Recommend

  • Abhi

    @Ibrar Ahmed
    I think they were bad for USSR at that time. US never thought that they will hit back at them.Recommend

  • Rsingh

    After reading this article i must say there are still some sane people left in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    FAROOQ Tirmizi for Vice President!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Chaudhry Allah Daad

    One M.B.B.S. doctor and a very famous religious scholar use to mention in his speeches and articles two terms Mard-e-Kuhsar ( Man of Mountain) and Mard-e-Sahra ( Man of Desert).. His TV religious program was popular during Zia era. He was very proud that men of both qualities have gathered in Afghanistan and soon they will bring Islamic revolution not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they will also bring whole Umma under one banner. After Taliban took over Afghanistan, his hopes got new heights. He was very proud of his vision’s success. I saw him very happy and celeberating at his mosque few days after 9/11. Soon his right hand man, who was also a doctor and frequent visitor of Afghanistan was held for questioning by FBI. God knows what happened afterwards, whole plot to bring revolution and destroy enemies turned out to be Jew’s Sazish. Now there was no mention of Mard-e-Kuhsar and Mard-e-Sahra, the only name I heard from his mouth and from his articles was Jews…Recommend

  • Adnan


  • Khan

    Farooq, you missed a few critical components, as a matter of fact, I would say your analysis is lacking too simplistic:

    More than a million ‘mujahidein’ died fighting USSR and Ronald Reagan claimed a moral victory by calling them ‘Freedom Fighters’. Defeat in Afghanistan was so severe that USSR broke, establishing US as the ‘status quo’.
    When those ‘Freedom Fighters’ turned around and asked for similar ‘freedoms’ in their communities (all the Arab states of 90s governed by dictators and royal puppet regimes, Chechnya, Kosovo, Kashmir, Palestine, etc.) they were brandished as ‘terrorists’ even back then because now they weren’t fighting USSR, they were fighting the ‘status quo’.
    And these ‘Freedom Fighters’ reacted the only way they knew how, by calling ‘Jihaad’. They were well-trained ‘Soldiers of Allah’ after all, they weren’t some cheap manual labor.

    The writing on the wall was obvious, and if anyone claims to be surprised, then you were simply too young at the time or ignorant to make sense of things. Welcome to the world.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    This was no plan or conspiracy of the west; rather it was our neglect of the severity of the situation.Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Fight to free one’s land from foreign occupation is understandable ………. moreover you don’t ask for freedom ………… everyone of those ‘mujahideen’ or whatever name you give them, ought to go back to their countries and try and work for whatever ideals they believe in ………… it does not justify attacking other lands and people ……….. killing and destroying aimlessly ………. none of those ex-fighters / terrorists have achieved anything except a bad name for themselves ………… they have created hell, death and despair all around them and elsewhere in the world ……….. they ought to stop and quietly go back to where they came from ………. we will deal with our own home varieties ourselves.Recommend

  • http://www.centcom.mil Maj TG Taylor

    The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were the deadliest ever on mainland America. Do you not recall that over 3000 innocent people were killed? The United States had to stand and defend itself from these stateless actors who had taken refuge with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Today, ten years later, the world is free of some of the biggest tyrants and enemies of humanity. The cost of war has been tremendous, both in treasure and human lives, but consider what has been achieved. Do we not see a democratic and free Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we not see young Afghani boys and girls fulfilling their dreams of getting an education?

    We are not in the business of killing innocent civilians, but you must realize that we are fighting a ruthless enemy who use women and children as shields. The fact remains that Al-Qaida and Taliban have killed more innocent Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    The events of 9/11 changed our worlds, but we are working to stabilize the world for future generations. Recommend

  • Nate Gupta

    Mr. Author,

    I would strongly recommend you reading a book titled “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, if you have not already. Your assessment of 9/11 event is a perfect example of how we try to justify random incidents after they have happened, as explained in that book.

    I have to admit, I am a bit disappointed by this article of yours. In my personal opinion, you are capable of better work!


  • http://troll Black Swan

    @Maj TG Taylor: I respectfully disagree with you Mr Taylor. Your intentions may be great but the end results are not. If your intentions were to free people from tyranny, why just Iraq ? Why did not you free North Korea ? Or save Somalia ? It’s an open bitter fact that later two countries have nothing to give to USA, no strategic asset to exploit. Don’t take me wrong I am completely with you and I feel bad for soldiers fighting in these harsh region for their country. But I am certainly against the likes of leaders who mislead their own people for wrong cause. Also your strategy of finding root of terror in Afghanistan is such a huge miscalculation which is not expected from a country with well oiled intelligence infrastructure. Everybody knows the root cause has always lied in Pakistan. But just cause it’s coined as “friend” and because you are afraid to attack country with nuke, you chose a tribal region. The answer to your near failure in war in terror is that you are just shooting around the bush. Arab finances them, Pakistan trains them. That is the fact which is commonly acknowledged around the world including the mighty USA. I am sure you may have enough strategic reason behind it. But this reason is causing grave loss of life, and wealth and peace.Recommend

  • Ali Noor

    @Maj TG Taylor:

    Some points:

    “Today, ten years later, the world is free of some of the biggest tyrants and enemies of humanity.” – And so many more have replaced them. Also last I checked George Walker Bush is still a free man.

    “Do we not see a democratic and free Iraq and Afghanistan?” – No.

    “Do we not see young Afghani boys and girls fulfilling their dreams of getting an education?” – No.

    “The fact remains that Al-Qaida and Taliban have killed more innocent Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” – Yes.Recommend

  • http://x-bts.blogspot.com Amin Hussain

    I read the headline and thought… really? someone with the balls to come out and say it – US policy had to have a backlash coming….

    obviously, i was mistaken!Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    @Waqqas Iftikhar:
    So did the US. And they were also carrying out injustices the world over (Iraq’s half a million children dead, Cuba’s embargo), does that mean they deserved 9/11 or that justice was served? Also, remember, the Taliban weren’t the perpetrators behind 9/11, Al Qaida was. So aiding the Taliban doesn’t make 9/11 Pakistan’s fault in any way. And I don’t think Pakistan ever supported bin Laden or his twisted organization anytime during the 1990s.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    @Maj TG Taylor:
    Firstly, less than 3000 Americans were killed, the number was 2973. But that is beside the point.
    Who are the biggest tyrants and enemies of humanity who have been removed? bin Laden was a terrorist, but he was never in power to be a tyrant, nor can he be called one of the biggest enemies of humanity. And to say that Saddam was an enemy of humanity is just ludicrous. He was a tyrant, but he also had reasonable support. He was a killer, but it was him, rather it was the defenders of freedom and humanity, the United States, that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children in the 1990s (which, if you will recall, Madeleine Albright called a price worth paying to teach Saddam a lesson). Probably the worst effect that bin Laden had was in the 1990s when, in response to one of his terrorist stunts, the United States bombed half of Sudan’s medical supplies.
    Have killers and murderers been brought to justice? Cheney walks free, so does Ms Albright and the mastermind of the bloody escalation in Iraq, the so-called ‘Surge’, General Petraeus is still in public office, and seems a possible candidate for presidency sometime in the future (on the success of his bloody Surge in Iraq).Recommend

  • Deb

    Excellent blog. With people like you and some commentators here I feel there is still hope for this nation. Recommend

  • http://none Bangash

    But our Army thinks it was doing a great job in Afghanistan and has continued its policy of strategic depth with Haqqani and Afghan Taliban.Recommend

  • AAhmed

    And what makes Islam highly misunderstood sir?Recommend

  • hamzad

    @Zaid Hamid: ( the IMPERSONATOR)
    OYE phony westoxicated Zaid Hamid..you are so so stupid that you don’t even realize that very very few click on your IMPERSONATED site…nevertheless your comments are NOT taken for their supposed sarcasm but as real…THANKYOU for your unintented yet benefactory help to muslims….Recommend