How the 9/11 wars changed the world

  • IASbaba
  • September 20, 2021
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  • GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations. 
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

How the 9/11 wars changed the world

Context: After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. went to Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban regime. 

Critical Analysis of USA’s actions post 9/11

  • Unmet US Objectives: Twenty years later after 2001, when the U.S. exited Afghanistan, the Taliban, which never fully severed its ties with al-Qaeda, was back in power in Afghanistan.
  • Diminished Presence in the region: US has not only lost its base in Afghanistan but its alliance with Pakistan, which goes back to the Cold War, is over.  Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries also refuse to host an American base. This diminished presence of US in the region will impact its intelligence operations.
  • War on Terror weakened: US says that its war on terror will continue. Howeever, if U.S. wants to carry out a drone strike against terror groups in Afghanistan, it will have to fly the machines from the Gulf, which is not an effective counter-terrorism strategy.
  • Misuse of Global Support for regime change: After the 9/11 attacks, with global support and sympathy, there was a legal and moral argument in favour of its military action against al-Qaeda. However, US launched regime change wars to remake the Muslim world. 
  • Iraq war provided a new base for al-Qaeda: The invasion of Iraq, based on false intelligence that Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, diffused the U.S.’s focus in Afghanistan. This war in Iraq created condition for growth of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq.
  • US Clueless on Instability caused: In subsequent years, US brought down regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. However, it remained clueless about how to tackle the instability that followed. The chaos and lawlessness that followed these regime change created conditions for Jihadists to thrive.
  • US actions indirectly spread terrorism: The repeated attacks on Muslim-majority countries by US and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of locals, mostly Muslims, in these wars helped strengthen the jihadist narrative that the ‘Christian West’ is launching ‘a crusade’ against Muslims. This helped in recruiting young Muslims into terror groups & spread of terrorism
  • Divided World: On one hand, Anti-Americanism emerged as a dominant political theme across Muslim-majority countries. On the other hand, terror attacks in different parts of world led to the strengthening of Islamophobic politics in West.
  • Humanitarian Crisis: The wars by US also triggered a massive outflow of refugees from the affected countries to neighbouring nations.
  • Rise of China: The most unexpected setback that the U.S. suffered was in geopolitics. When the U.S. was busy in the Muslim world, China was steadily rising. America’s withdrawal and the perception of its weakness has also emboldened its rivals like Iran, Russia and China. 


  • This doesn’t mean that the global hegemony of the U.S. is over. The U.S. suffered setbacks in the past and bounced back. 
    • The 1970s were particularly a bad decade for the U.S. during the Cold War – US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, Communists assumed control of Afghanistan in 1978 and US lost Iran in 1979. 
    • Yet, by 1980 US was back in action, thanks to the USSR intervention in Afghanistan.
  • Currently, the U.S. might wait for its rivals, especially China, to commit blunders — like the Soviets did in 1979 with Afghanistan — or it might grab other strategic opportunities.

Connecting the dots:

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