Who attacked us?
Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden, organized and carried out the attacks from their base in Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to hunt down al-Qaeda and its leader bin Laden, but also to overthrow the Taliban, the group brutally ruling the country. The Taliban, are an extremist Islamic group, like al-Qaeda, that took control of Afghanistan by force in the 1990s. While both are violent and extremist, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have different reasons for existing. Al-Qaeda is an organization bent on terrorizing the U.S. and our supporters in an effort to change policy in Arab countries and the U.S. The Taliban are isolated to Afghanistan and operated as a ruling regime. The Taliban are a local group that overthrew the government in Afghanistan in order to install a theocracy. The Taliban's efforts do not extend beyond Afghanistan's borders, unlike the efforts of al-Qaeda. This is why the U.S. deals with the two groups differently. Because the Taliban and al-Qaeda share a vision, the Taliban gave refuge and support to al-Qaeda beginning in the late 1990s, allowing them to train and hideout in the country. The U.S.'s secondary goal to hunting al-Qaeda was to overthrow the brutal Taliban regime and support the creation of a democratically elected government. The U.S., and now the democratically elected Afghan government, continues to this day to fight remnants of the Taliban who are attempting to reassert control over the country. Under the Obama administration in 2011, bin Laden was found and killed while hiding out in neighboring Pakistan. The fight against al-Qaeda continues, but unlike with the Taliban, it is a global fight as this group and its members can relocate just about anywhere.
What does Iraq have to do with all of this?
In 2002, during the already begun war in Afghanistan, Bush directed attention to Iraq. Bush shared a growing concern that Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, was building weapons of mass destruction, and may already have them ready for use. Bush made the case for U.S. action against Iraq to both the United Nations and to the U.S. Congress. Of the two, only the U.S. Congress supported any military action against Iraq. Unlike with Afghanistan, the United Nations and much of the world community was opposed to any overt military action in the country, believing there was no reason for it since Iraq had not engaged in international aggression since 1991. On March 17, 2003, Bush warned Hussein and his government via a live Presidential address to leave the country immediately or face action. The U.S. then invaded Iraq March 20, 2003 on the basis that Iraq had WMDs that they could use against neighbors in the Middle East or even the U.S. It was found in the few years following the invasion that Iraq had not had a weapons program since the 1991 Gulf War, although this was used as the primary basis for the invasion. Iraq is only indirectly related to the 9/11 attacks, while there is a direct relation between the 9/11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan. It is likely that the U.S. never would have invaded Iraq had it not been for the fear that gripped the nation as a result of September 11. In assuming Iraq posed a large threat, Bush saw an opening with the WMD concern for transforming the entire region of the Middle East. In the administration's view a democratic transformation would make it less likely that dictators, extremists and terrorist organizations would grow and thrive in the region, leading to another 9/11 scale attack on the U.S. It should be noted that after losing 3000 Americans in the September 11th attacks, we have since lost a number of Americans that is more than double that figure in both of these wars (over 2,200 in Afghanistan and nearly 4,500 in Iraq).
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