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13 years after 9/11 and the war on terror is getting bigger

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The September 11 attacks triggered the invasion of Afghanistan by the US and its allies, with the aim of dismantling al-Qa'ida's base of operations and toppling the Taliban regime. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The September 11 attacks triggered the invasion of Afghanistan by the US and its allies, with the aim of dismantling al-Qa'ida's base of operations and toppling the Taliban regime. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The September 11 attacks triggered the invasion of Afghanistan by the US and its allies, with the aim of dismantling al-Qa'ida's base of operations and toppling the Taliban regime. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Thirteen years today since the September 11 terror attacks, and this was supposed to be a season of relief.

On Capitol Hill the thinking was with Iraq managing on its own and most US troops finally ending their combat duty in Afghanistan. The reality is that Americans are bracing for another upsurge of military engagement in a region where one war blurs into another. Across the world, a generation has now grown up amid this continuous conflict, and there's no end in sight.

"The Cold War took 45 years," said Elliott Abrams, a longtime diplomat who was top Middle East adviser to President George W. Bush. "It's certainly plausible that this could be the same. ... It's harder to see how this ends." As President Obama expands operations against Isis who have overrun large swaths of Iraq and Syria, his administration has cautioned that the effort could take several years.

Short-term, Mr Obama has public opinion with him; a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found 71pc of Americans supporting airstrikes against the Islamic State fighters, compared to 45pc in June. Longer-term, a Pew Research Center-USA Today poll last month suggested that most Americans view the world as becoming more dangerous and expect militant forms of Islam to grow in influence rather than subside. Since the autumn of 2001, America, with its allies, has been at war against factions of Islamic militants and terrorists, including the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, as well as offshoots in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.

Indeed, some analysts say the conflict dates back further, citing such incidents as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the 1983 bombing that killed 241 U. servicemen at a barracks in Lebanon. Military historian Max Boot suggests the starting point was the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the US Embassy in Tehran was seized and its staff held hostage for 444 days.

"For the first time, we understood the threat by armed Islamist extremism," said Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former adviser to Republican presidential campaigns. "We didn't face up to it - we tried to ignore it as long as possible. But after 9/11, we couldn't ignore it anymore."

The Sept. 11 attacks triggered the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies, starting in October 2001, with the aim of dismantling al-Qa'ida's base of operations and toppling the Taliban regime. The Taliban, though quickly ousted from power, has been waging an insurgency ever since. In 2003, the U.S. spearheaded an invasion of Iraq, citing various justifications but nonetheless categorizing the conflict as part of "the Global War on Terrorism." Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured, tried and executed, yet an insurgency arose against the U.S.-led coalition waged by various factions, including al-Qa'ida affiliates and Sunni militants who were precursors of the Islamic State group. Mr Obama's plans for an expanded mission against Islamic State fighters will include intensified airstrikes but no major deployment of ground troops, along with a heavy reliance on allies. The role of Middle East nations could be pivotal, said Wathiq al-Hashimi, director of the al-Nahrein Center for Strategic Studies in Baghdad. "The United States failed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but this time round may be different since the Islamic State is posing a serious danger to close U.S. allies in the region.."

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