There has been considerable debate over the causes and motives of Al-Qaeda. Two significant factor contributing to the terrorist attack are the US hegemony and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks had extensive economic effects on the US and their response has increased anti-US sentiment.
On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked with the intent of attacking America’s economic, military and political power and were flown into the two World Trade Centre towers in New York. The attacks led to the United States and the Bush administration declaring a ‘War on Terrorism’ to eradicate Al-Qaeda. The 9/11 attacks marked the beginning of a new era of conflict, in which the US stated that they had the right to attack pre-emptively because they had the potential to threaten the US because they were supposedly harboring terrorism. This led to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and later the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US by declaring they were at war they were able to use their power to attack the terrorists and those who supported terrorism.
One of the prime causes of the 9/11 attacks is undoubtedly the anger towards US hegemony. The United States has immense economic and political power but it also has an extensive military. Al-Qaeda’s views the US power as oppressing Muslims is highlighted by Sally Neighbour’s statement “What is happening in the Gulf is part of a larger Western design to dominate the whole Arab and Muslim world”. The US placed sanctions on Iraq in response to Iraq’s refusal to comply with the UN weapons inspection. Osama Bin Laden stated that the US was responsible for killing innocent people in Iraq with their sanctions. In the early 1990s, Bin Laden emphasized his desire to secure the withdrawal of the US and other foreign troops from Saudi Arabia at all costs. Bin Laden criticized the Saudi royal family and alleged that their invitation of foreign troops to the Arabian Peninsula constituted an insult to the sanctity of the birthplace of Islam and a betrayal of the global Islamic community. For Bin Laden the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia was “the greatest disaster since the death of Prophet Muhammad.” His efforts were rejected by Saudi leaders and Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia and his anger became focused on the United States. Bin Laden issued a declaration of jihad against the US in 1996. Bin Laden condemned the US military presence in Saudi Arabia, criticizing the international sanctions regime on Iraq.
Another contributing faction of the 9/11 attacks is the rise of Muslim extremists due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the mid-1980s the United States along with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom among others supported the Afghan resistance movement. The US viewed the conflict in Afghanistan as a fundamental Cold War struggle and the CIA provided assistance to anti-Soviet forces through the Pakistani intelligence services. Once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the US interest in the country faded. The US decided not to help with reconstruction of the country and instead handed over the interests of the country to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Pakistan took advantage of the opportunity and forged relationships with the Taliban, to secure trade interests and routes. The conflict in Afghanistan gave Islamist extremists an assembly point and training fields. Young Muslims from around the world flocked to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a ‘holy war’.
The effects of the 9/11 attacks have been profound. The attacks had an extensive economic impact for the United States of America. The US government gave New York City US $20 billion as costs for the clean up and another US $5 billion was given to the families of the victims. In addition to this, the ensuring ‘War on Terror’ has cost the US government approximately $3 trillion as Economist Josepn Stiglitz stated in 2008. Despite these significant economic impacts for the US, their response to the 9/11 attacks increased anti-US sentiment.and the US government’s retaliation to the September 11 attacks by invading Afghanistan and later Iraq caused widespread discontent. In 2007 the Pew Institute’s Global Attitudes polls showed that the US was viewed unfavorably by majorities in Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, most Western European countries and all Muslim Middle Eastern countries except for Kuwait. This poll alone shows just how much anti-US sentiment exists around the world and a large majority of the negative sentiment stemmed from the US’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Anger towards US power combined with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan have been major causes for the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, which in turn has had an economic impact on the US and has amplified anti-US sentiment around the world.