9/11 Anniversary Time to Reflect on Failed U.S. War on Terror Says Ex–Russian President

The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should focus minds on the failure of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism, a goal which requires "the entire international community," former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has said.

He described the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan as following a "blood for blood" principle backed by the United Nations during which over 20 years $1.5 trillion was "buried" in the country in an outlay that was "absolutely pointless."

In an op-ed for Gazyeta.ru, the Russian president from 2008 to 2012, said the U.S. "did not achieve the main goal that President George W. Bush announced after the September 11 attacks—to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan.

"Due to numerous miscalculations of the United States, including in its Middle East policy, terrorists continue to operate on the territory of the country," he said, noting the particular threat of Islamic State militants in the region and further afield.

Medvedev, also an ex-prime minister who now serves as the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, said that Washington had taken pains to portray the U.S. exit last month as a voluntary one because the Biden administration wanted to save the reputation and credibility of NATO.

Ex-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev
Deputy Head of Russia's Security Council and ex-president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, in Moscow on August 24, 2021. On the anniversary of 9/11, he took aim at the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

"The U.S. Administration refused to admit defeat. Instead, it began to use the formula 'we are not expelled, we are leaving of our own accord,'" he said.

He referred to comments by President Joe Biden that the withdrawal meant only the end of the Afghan campaign, but also "ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries."

In Medvedev's view, Biden's words were "an open recognition by Washington of the collapse of a strategy to assert its ubiquitous military-political presence."

"All of the U.S. military-building efforts in Afghanistan literally turned to dust overnight," he added.

Medvedev's comments echo the criticism from Moscow of the U.S. withdrawal from a country that ended in 1989 its own ill-fated campaign. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. had achieved "zero" in Afghanistan in a campaign he later labeled a "catastrophe"

The U.S. State Department responded to the criticism, telling Newsweek earlier this month it was "unfortunate that Russia is exploiting the human suffering in Afghanistan to take shots at the United States," adding, "that is not what responsible powers do."

Unlike most countries, Russia has retained a diplomatic presence in Kabul as it positions itself as a key player in the future of Afghanistan.

Moscow has reached out to Afghan factions, including the Taliban, which while it terms it a terrorist organization, wants to see it integrated into the international community. Medvedev said that building Afghanistan "should be done by the political forces of the country themselves."

Medvedev also said the aim of combatting terrorism required "the entire international community" and said that "of particular importance is the deepening of cooperation between Russia and the United States" in this fight.

"However, to do this, our partners need to give up their illusions about their own exclusivity. No nation, no single alliance can solve this problem on its own."

"Twenty years of a failed U.S. intervention in Afghanistan has given us enough time to reflect on it."

Newsweek has contacted the State Department for comment.

The graphic below provided by Statista give a snapshot of terrorism and violence levels in Afghanistan.

Statista graph on how Afghanistan has deteriorated
Quality of life measured on selected terrorism and violence indices in Afghanistan, as obtained from the Institute for Economics and Peace and graphed by Statista. INSTITUTE FOR ECONOMICS AND PEACE