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Issue Guide: Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

Author: Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor
Updated: September 2, 2011


The September 11 terrorist attacks marked a watershed moment for U.S. foreign policy, as the country sought to measure its response to an unprecedented assault from an emerging transnational threat. Ten years later, Washington continues to grapple with some of the fundamental policy questions that define the new security environment, including the war in Afghanistan, counterterrorism, homeland security, civil liberties, and immigration. The following materials provide expert analysis and essential background on some of these central issues facing U.S. policymakers. [Also see CFR's video series: "9/11 Perspectives."]

The AfPak War Front


How Afghanistan Is Rebuilding Itself

As concerns grow over Afghanistan's ability to govern, USAID's J. Alexander Thier discusses development successes and challenges, singling out infrastructure and energy as critical areas for investment.

Task Force Report: U.S. Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan

This CFR Independent Task Force report supports the U.S. investment in a long-term partnership with Pakistan, but stresses it is only sustainable if Islamabad acts against all terrorist organizations on its soil. In Afghanistan, the United States should encourage political reform, national reconciliation, and regional diplomacy.

Foreign Affairs: Afghanistan's Ethnic Puzzle

Afghanistan expert Thomas Barfield writes that the United States should deemphasize Afghanistan's ethnic fault lines and push for more devolved and inclusive governance.

Foreign Affairs: Washington's Phantom War

Since taking office, the Obama administration has ramped up the U.S. drone program in Pakistan. But unless the drone strikes become more transparent and are transferred from CIA to military control, they won't help Washington win the larger war, write Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann.

Interactive Timeline: U.S. War in Afghanistan

This interactive timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the conflict.

Expert Brief: The 'Conditions-Based' Afghan Loophole

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should be in line with the Obama administration's political goals of defeating al-Qaeda rather than devoting resources to long-term nation building, says CFR's Gian Gentile.

Crisis Guide: Pakistan

Examine the roots of Pakistan's challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country in this award-winning CFR Crisis Guide.

Op-Ed: The Difference Two Years Make

Domestic politics still clashes with strategic imperatives in U.S. Afghan policy, writes CFR's Stephen Biddle. This makes it hard for U.S. authorities to press for crucial reforms in Kabul. The more Americans talk about withdrawal dates "rather than outcomes on the ground, the more Afghans and Pakistanis are encouraged to hedge," he writes.

Policy Innovation Memo: Next Steps for Pakistan Strategy

This Policy Innovation Memo by CFR's Daniel Markey argues that the United States should move quickly to convert the post-bin Laden crisis into an opportunity for significant reform of Pakistan's security and intelligence services.

Backgrounder: Pakistan's New Generation of Terrorists

Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups--including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants--that threaten the stability of Pakistan and the region.



It Is Western Muslims Who Will Beat al-Qaeda

CFR's Ed Husain says that a decade after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the need for Islam to come to terms with modernity is greater than ever.

CFR Global Governance Monitor: Terrorism

This monitor finds that counterterrorism efforts worldwide are still insufficient and uncoordinated, and offers options for strengthening the global counterterrorism regime, such as building capacity in developing countries, supporting international technological and law enforcement cooperation, strengthening nuclear security, and more.

Issue Brief: The Global Regime for Terrorism

This issue brief takes a broad-sweeping look at international efforts to combat terrorism. This is part of the CFR Global Governance Monitor, an interactive feature tracking multilateral approaches to several global challenges.

CFR Report: War About Terror

Ten years after 9/11, there is still no durable framework for effectively securing the United States against terrorism while also upholding its values. This Working Paper by Daniel B. Prieto calls on President Obama and Congress to engage these issues in a bipartisan fashion and craft comprehensive long-term counterterrorism policies.

Op-Ed: 9/11 in Perspective

Richard N. Haass argues that 9/11 was a terrible tragedy by any measure, but it was not a historical turning point that heralded a new era of international relations in which terrorists with a global agenda prevailed, or in which such spectacular terrorist attacks became commonplace.

Expert Roundup: What's Next for al-Qaeda?

Osama bin Laden's death is a blow to al-Qaeda, and its stature in the Middle East is already diminished by the pro-democracy movements in the region, but the group remains lethal. Seven CFR experts discuss.

Backgrounder: al-Qaeda

The international terrorist network that the United States has singled out as the most serious threat to U.S. national security is weakened but still lethal.

Foreign Affairs: Al-Qaeda's Challenge

On 9/11, the global jihadist movement burst into the world's consciousness, but a decade later, thanks in part to the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is in crisis, writes analyst William McCants.

Foreign Affairs:9/11 in Retrospect

The 9/11 attacks did not fundamentally change U.S. foreign policy, writes historian Melvyn P. Leffler. A quest for primacy and military supremacy, a readiness to act proactively and unilaterally, and a focus on democracy and free markets are longstanding features of U.S. policy.

Council Special Report: Congress and National Security

CFR's Kay King offers recommendations to reset congressional rules, practices, and procedures to address today's dysfunctional Congress and restore it as a full partner to the executive branch in advancing U.S. national security interests.

Contingency Planning Memo: Terrorism and Indo-Pakistani Escalation

This Contingency Planning Memo by CFR's Daniel Markey examines the factors that would condition India's response to another major terrorist attack by Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, and the consequences for Washington of military retaliation and the Pakistani response.

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Interview: Revisiting a Stale Counterterrorism Law

Within days of the 9/11 attacks, Congress authorized U.S. military and intelligence agencies to kill and detain terrorists. It is time to revise that authority on matters like detentions and drone attacks, says CFR's John B. Bellinger III.

Interview: New Spotlight on Guantanamo's Flaws

Classified military documents leaked by WikiLeaks suggest the Obama administration's changes to Guantanamo policy can't improve a system that was flawed from the beginning, says international law expert Karen Greenberg, who argues that better risk assessments of prisoners are needed.

Interview: Obama's Guantanamo Shift

With the March 2011 executive order on Guantanamo, President Obama acknowledged that the controversial detention center will remain open for some time, says CFR's Matthew Waxman, but provided improved protections and review processes.

Backgrounder: Closing Guantanamo?

President Obama vowed in January 2009 to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Two years later, the White House continues to face challenges to that promise, leaving critics to suggest the facility will remain open for the foreseeable future.

Interview: The Legal Case Against WikiLeaks

The State Department will likely push for WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange to be prosecuted under all available statutes, including the Espionage Act, says CFR's John B. Bellinger, who notes the releases harmed sources and foreign relations.

Homeland Security

Homeland Security

Expert Roundup: Ten Lessons Since the 9/11 Attacks

Which policies have worked and which ones need work ten years after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history? CFR experts examine ten issues that have preoccupied U.S. planners.

Interview: Radicalization and U.S. Muslims

The Muslim community has played an integral role in U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims risk polarizing a considerable asset for law enforcement, says expert Mark Fallon.

Expert Roundup: Is a Mosque Near Ground Zero a Bad Idea?

Five experts address the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near the 9/11 attack site in New York, the foreign policy implications, and how the issue should be resolved.

Council Symposium: UK and U.S. Approaches in Countering Radicalization

This April 2011 CFR symposium brought together leading officials and experts from the United Kingdom and the United States to exchange best practices and develop fresh ideas for tackling Islamist radicalization.

Backgrounder: Threat of Homegrown Islamic Terrorism

An increase in terror incidents involving Islamic radicals who are U.S. citizens is vexing law enforcement officials and posing new questions about the roots of their radicalization.

Backgrounder: Militant Extremists in the United States

Violent acts by homegrown militant extremists in the United States have declined, but "lone wolf" attacks are on the rise. The post-9/11 legal and political landscape poses new challenges to law enforcement authorities seeking to prevent such attacks.

Backgrounder: Confronting the Cyber Threat

Foreign governments, non-state actors, and criminal networks are targeting the digital networks of the United States with increasing frequency and sophistication. U.S. cybersecurity has made progress, but relies heavily on the private sector to secure infrastructure critical to national security.

Council Special Report: Internet Governance in an Age of Cyber Insecurity

Cybersecurity expert Robert Knake recommends the United States use international forums to promote mechanisms that address security concerns in cyberspace while ensuring the Internet remains open for the free exchange of ideas across national boundaries.

Backgrounder: The Debate over Airport Security

New screening measures at U.S. airports are being called overly intrusive by some passengers and civil rights groups. National security experts advise using a system that relies more on intelligence, behavioral profiling, and empowering passengers.

Foreign Affairs: Recalibrating Homeland Security

U.S. homeland security has failed to harness two vital aspects: civil society and the private sector, writes security expert Stephen Flynn.



Task Force Report: U.S. Immigration Policy

This CFR Task Force report offers a strategy for maintaining America's political and economic leadership by attracting skilled immigrants, a program of legalization for those living in the United States illegally, and steps for securing the country's borders in an effective and humane way.

Foreign Affairs: Are U.S. Borders Secure?

Washington claims that the country's borders are more secure than ever, but the truth is that no one knows for sure, writes CFR's Edward Alden. The U.S. government has never defined what border security actually means or how to measure it.

Op-Ed: America's National Suicide

CFR's Edward Alden discusses how the United States' opaque system of visa checks undermines its ability to attract and retain skilled immigrants.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more context on the 9/11 anniversary, download the new Foreign Affairs eBook, The U.S. vs. al-Qaeda.

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