The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center burning before they collapsed on September 11, 2001. National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


If you had told me twenty years ago that this is where we’d be today, I would have been surprised, to say the least.

A search on Amazon under the term “American decline” illustrates the depth of our frustration and funk. More than fifty volumes on the theme have been written in recent years. If you search under the term “American rise,” you’ll find many histories, but not a single book written in the past twenty years. “China’s rise,” by contrast, returns almost as many volumes as “American decline.”

When twenty years ago today terrorists killed 2,977 innocents on American soil in a heinous shock attack, I was like every other American blind with rage. I had many questions that day, but one thing I did not ask was whether the United States had the power and the will to respond to this attack with ferocious fury and resolve. I felt astonishment: Who could have thought this a good idea? Did the authors of this attack not realize we were a superpower? That they had signed the death warrant for their pet cause, whatever it was, along with all of their ilk? Al Qaeda had awakened a sleeping giant: I did not doubt we would fight them to the gates of hell.

I must say, I’m surprised by the way things have turned out.


The Taliban have announced their new government.

Afghanistan’s new Prime Minister, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is a globally designated terrorist. Among his other qualifications for high office, he supervised blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas. As a Taliban military commander, he was known for psychopathic ruthlessness, even by Taliban standards. His previous achievements in government include banning the education of women, enforcing gender apartheid, and mandating religious dress.

When the Taliban was last in power, Afghanistan’s new deputy Prime Minister, Mullah Ghani Baradar, was in charge of whipping, beating, and executing women. (He was released at Trump’s insistence.)

A wanted poster of Afghan warlord Sirajuddin “Siraj” Haqqani (alias “Khalifa”). U.S. Department of State, Rewards for Justice Program, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Four members of the Haqqani clan are now among the government. The Haqqani network, one of the most lethal insurgent groups in Afghanistan, sent wave after wave of suicide bombers into Kabul, murdering hundreds of their fellow citizens. They are the liaison between the Taliban and al Qaeda. For years, they gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. “Ties between the two groups remain close,” the UN Security Council’s Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Committee reported in 2021,

based on ideological alignment, relationships forged through common struggle and intermarriage. … it is impossible to assess with confidence that the Taliban will live up to its commitment to suppress any future international threat emanating from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda and likeminded militants continue to celebrate developments in Afghanistan as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global radicalism.

The Haqqanis specialize in complex suicide bombings and in packing cars and trucks with massive amounts of explosives. They’re responsible for some of the most bloodthirsty and barbaric crimes of recent decades, including the June 2011 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a September 2011 truck bombing in Wardak Province that wounded 77 US soldiers, a 19-hour attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters in Kabul that killed six children, a June 2012 suicide bomb attack against Forward Operating Base Salerno that wounded more than 100 troops, and a twelve-hour siege of the Spozhmai Hotel in Kabul in June 2012 that killed 18 Afghans, including 14 civilians. In 2013, they tried to blow up a US base in Paktika Province with a massive truck bomb. The device failed to detonate, but it nonetheless earned them First Prize in the terrorism Olympics for “largest truck bomb ever built.”

They’ve killed and maimed thousands of US, coalition, and Afghan soldiers. They’re also known for their excellence in extortion, kidnapping, and drug smuggling. (As for the Taliban and ISIS-K being sworn enemies? Nonsense. Also nonsense is the State Department’s claim that the Taliban and the Haqqani network are “separate entities.”)

Afghanistan’s new Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is a globally designated terrorist and member of al Qaeda’s wider leadership. He was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 in March 2008. The FBI has offered a reward of US$ 10 million for information leading to his arrest. Among his other qualifications for high office, he organized the suicide bombing of a police academy bus in Kabul in 2007, killing 35 police officers. He’s believed to have been the mastermind behind the attack on the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel. He was also responsible for an attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 that killed 58. He tried to assassinate Afghanistan’s former Prime Minister. He’s famous for commanding death squads and releasing videos of mass beheadings. He moonlights as an occasional contributor to The New York Times’ editorial page. So, he’ll be in charge of law and order in Afghanistan.

His uncle, Khalil Haqqani, will be Afghanistan’s new Minister for Refugees. He too is a globally designated terrorist who has “acted on behalf” of al Qaeda, according to the UN. According to their listing, he was responsible for detaining prisoners captured by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. There’s a State Department reward of up to US$ 5 million for “information that brings [him] to justice.”

Najibulla Haqqani will be Afghanistan’s new Minister for Communication. He’s been an internationally designated terrorist since 2001.

Sheik Abdul Baqi Haqqani, Afghanistan’s new Minister for Higher Education, is the only member of the family who hasn’t been designated a terrorist by the UN Security Council. He’s been sanctioned as one by the European Union, though.

Mullah Taj Mir Jawad will be Afghanistan’s deputy intelligence chief. He led the Kabul attack network, which organized various jihadi groups, including al Qaeda, in and around Kabul.

Amir Khan Muttaqi will be the new Foreign Minister. He too is on the UN terror list.

Mullah Abdul Manan Omari will be the Minister of Public Works. He’s Mullah Omar’s brother.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoob, is the Minister for Defense. His special achievement in governance is plotting airline hijackings.

Former Gitmo detainees include Khairullah Khairkhwa, Afghanistan’s new Minister for Information and Culture; Abdul Haq Waseeq, the new intelligence chief; and Mullah Noorullah Noori, the new Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs.

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly sounded surprised by the lineup. “Among the other things that caught my eye,” she said to her guest, the journalist Ahmed Rashid, “you mentioned there are no women in this interim lineup. They also appear to have done away with the Ministry for Women’s Affairs.”

No kidding, Mary Louise.


From our reader CDR Salamander, an Australian account of the last days of our war in Afghanistan. “I don’t think the US press has done anything like this, yet,” he writes. “In a way, perhaps this is best. To get a good view of our great national humiliation, you really need to have a third party provide it.”

Since 9/11, American life has become cheap. In the past two days, 4,008 Americans have died of Covid19. This is no longer unusual, so it isn’t headline news.

According to the Economist’s estimates, between 760 and 850 thousand Americans have died of Covid since January of 2020. But we are so politically divided, and our minds have been so profoundly scrambled—by mistrust, disillusionment, misinformation, domestic and foreign propaganda, and partisan rancor—that many refuse to be vaccinated against the disease.

In response to Biden’s plan to address this catastrophe by means of vaccine mandates, the governor of South Carolina vowed to fight the President of the United States “to the gates of hell.”

If you had told me twenty years ago that this is where we’d be today, I would have been surprised, to say the least.

It just isn’t how I expected things to go.

Claire Berlinski is a co-founder and editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.

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