Why 9/11 was inevitable
We played with the world’s most dangerous fires in the 1990s, thinking that we could deploy militants against India.
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.