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As Taliban Sweeps Into Power, Look Back at How the U.S.-led War Began

17 Aug 2021
As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban seizes control of the country, an excerpt from FRONTLINE’s upcoming film “America After 9/11” reveals how the roots of defeat go back two decades.

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The night of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, then-President George W. Bush addressed the United States. He said, “Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature.”

Within the U.S. government, a plan took shape to go after the figure behind the attacks: Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden. He was operating out of Afghanistan, harbored by the extremists running the country — the Taliban.

A small CIA strike force arrived in Afghanistan two weeks after the 9/11 attacks and used money to buy the cooperation of the Taliban’s enemies, rival militias and warlords. American aerial bombardments allowed Afghan fighters to push the Taliban out of the country’s capital, Kabul. But bin Laden, the CIA’s primary target, disappeared.

The post-9/11 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan would embroil the United States in what would become the longest war in American history.

Premiering on PBS and online Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, "America After 9/11" traces the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks and devastating consequences across three presidencies.

From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the January 6th insurrection, “America After 9/11” exposes the legacy of September 11 – and the ongoing challenge it poses for the president and the country.

Watch "America After 9/11" in full starting Sept. 7, 2021.

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FRONTLINE is produced at GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Park Foundation; and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation and additional support from Koo and Patricia Yuen.
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