Exactly two decades ago today, the US was shaken to the core by the boldest and deadliest terror attack on its soil.
The visually terrifying events of 9/11, which unfolded over a few hours, ended up shaping the course of America’s war on terror for the next 20 years.
Trillions of dollars have been spent in post-9/11 conflicts and nearly a million people killed. Global terror has impacted several nations across the world. Thousands of American-Muslims continue to face widespread discrimination. And the geopolitical tug of war has intensified further.
These 10 charts show how the events of 9/11 shaped the 20 years that followed …
Staggering costs of war: In lives and dollars
According to various estimates, the toll and physical damage cost of the 9/11 attacks totalled up to around $55 billion. Yet, the amount hardly compares to the money US spent to ensure that another 9/11 doesn’t take place again.
Data compiled by the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that America has spent close to $5.8 trillion since 9/11 to fight global terror.
Nearly half of this amount has been spent in Afghanistan alone, which helped and aided al-Qaida — the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The cost of war is so staggering that the daily average comes to roughly $800 million. Moreover, the project estimates that US will have to spend an additional $2.2 on veterans’ care for the next 30 years, bringing the total to a whopping $8 trillion.
The Costs of War project estimates show that almost a million people were killed in post-9/11 conflicts.
Of this, almost 3 lakh terrorists and 3.75 lakh civilians were killed. The US lost over 15,000 of its own military personnel and citizens to the wars.
While Afghanistan was America’s longest and costliest war against terror, it was Iraq that suffered the heaviest casualties.
A majority of US military personnel were killed while fighting in Iraq while the second-highest American casualties came in Afghanistan.
Global terror on the rise
Post 9/11, America unleashed a relentless global war on terror and invaded countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Back home too, it took unprecedented measures to fortify itself against a 9/11-like attack. It overhauled its domestic security measures, indulged in excessive government surveillance and made key foreign policy changes.
As a result, over the last 20 years, the US has suffered just 107 casualties to “jihadist” attacks on its soil, according to data compiled by think-tank New America.
However, globally, terror attacks have killed and injured people by the thousands.
A look at some of the deadliest attacks that took place in other countries since 9/11 shows that terror has clearly remained a major challenge in the last 20 years.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2020 report said that Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL and Al-Shabaab are the four deadliest terror groups in the world today.
According to GTI, these groups were responsible for 7,578 deaths from terrorism, representing 55 per cent of total deaths in 2019. Taliban, which are now in power in Afghanistan, were the deadliest terror group in 2018 as well.
The unchecked rise of Taliban in Afghanistan and the protection they gave to terror groups like al-Qaida had prompted America’s longest war on terror.
The threats within
The US may have spent billions of dollars to fight terror on foreign soil but studies indicate the real threat is closer to home.
In its report ‘Terrorism in America after 9/11′, New America found that a large number of jihadist terrorists in US have been American citizens or legal residents.
At the time of charging, 83% of the terrorists were US citizens.
Moreover, it shows that a majority of jihadists since 9/11 have been converts.
“The large number of converts and even non-Muslims among those accused of jihadist terrorism challenges visions of counterterrorism policy that rely on immigration restrictions or focus almost entirely on second-generation immigrant populations,” the report said.
Yet another cause for concern is the inadvertent role played by the internet in aiding terror.
The report found that over half of all terrorists caught in the US were radicalised online via social media platforms.
In fact, since 2001, the internet has been used extensively to disseminate propaganda and connect people to extremist groups.
The anti-Muslim sentiment among the American people ratcheted up post-9/11 attacks and exists even today.
The hate crimes against Muslims rose sharply in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, with 481 such incidents reported in 2001, up from 28 in 2000.
In the last 20 years, Muslims have remained among the targeted communities in the US. The FBI has recorded over 3,400 incidents of hate crimes against the community since 2001.
A study by Pew Research shows that American views against the community have also hardened in the last few years.
Most US citizens, both Republican as well as Democrat supporters, believe that Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence, according to the survey. The latest Pew survey found that half of all the respondents held this view on Islam.
Pew surveys of US Muslims from 2007-2017 found an increasing proportion of respondents saying they have personally experienced discrimination and received public expression of support.
Funding the anti-terror fight
Besides causing a deep and lasting emotional toll, the 9/11 attacks also had a significant impact on the US economy.
Immediately after the attacks, the US and global stock markets plunged, the airlines and insurance sectors took a major hit and oil prices shot up.
Overall, the terror attacks caused a whopping $1.4 trillion loss in market value.
However, over the long term, the US shrugged off the economic setback caused by the attacks and enjoyed strong economic growth. In the last two decades, the S&P 500 index has risen nearly four-fold and the economy has doubled in size to over $20 trillion.
This also allowed the US to sustain its relentless fight against terror.
According to a Stimson Center study, from 2002 to 2017, the US spent 16% of its entire discretionary budget fighting terrorism.
The study shows that US spending on counterterrorism peaked in 2008 at $260 billion and then dropped to $175 billion in 2017.
However, the war still weighs heavy on the US taxpayers.
While the US financed the post-9/11 wars with debt, taxpayers have helped pay nearly $1 trillion in interest costs on trillions of dollars of debt used to finance the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Watson Institute at Brown University.
These interest costs are expected to shoot up to $2 trillion by 2030 and to $6.5 trillion by 2050.