The nation will pause tomorrow to mark the 20th anniversary of the evil terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent victims in New York City; Shanksville, Penn.; and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001. More than 400 first responders, firefighters and police officers, were also killed in the aftermath.

That date has come to be known as 9/11 but is officially known as Patriot Day thanks to Rep. Vito Fossella, R-NY, and a bipartisan team of 22 Congressmen who introduced a bill on Oct. 25, 2001, declaring Sept. 11 as a national day of mourning.

This year’s observance will undoubtedly be particularly sad for the families and friends of the victims -- and for the nation -- not just because it marks the passage of two decades. But, perhaps, because it happens at a time when America’s heroic effort to avenge the infamous terrorist attacks of 20 years ago has come to an abrupt and dishonorable end with a hasty retreat from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Yes, we caught and executed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in a Pakistani lair along with a cadre of his al-Qaeda henchmen. But al-Qaeda and its Taliban partners pressed on with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history, which took the lives of nearly 2,450 American soldiers, 3,846 U.S. contractors, 1,144 European allied soldiers, 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 47,000 Afghan civilians and hundreds of aid workers and journalists. In addition, some 21,000 U.S. service men and women were wounded in action as were nearly 3,000 allied personnel.

For all intents and purposes the withdrawal of American and allied forces from Afghanistan amounts to surrender -- an unconditional surrender that leaves the world and the U.S. vulnerable to a new wave of terror.

The Taliban tells us that we have nothing to fear but the fact of the matter is that al-Qaeda is already up to its old tricks. And now, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have new partners in crime, an offshoot of ISIS known as Islamic State Khorasan, and together they have already picked up where they left off, starting with the devastating last-minute suicide attacks killing 13 American service men and women and hundreds of innocent civilians trying to leave the country during the Biden withdrawal.

Meanwhile, several hundreds of Americans were left behind and “advocacy groups said as many as 60,000 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who assisted the U.S. military, CIA and U.S. diplomatic personnel over the years, along with their families, remain in the country, at great risk of retribution from the Taliban,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s difficult, at best, to predict if, when and what the future, near-term and long-term, holds for us as the likelihood of new terrorist atrocities that may be in store for the U.S. and the rest of the world. We can only hope and say a prayer whenever possible, starting tomorrow on Sept. 11, 2021, for the victims of the original attack, for the first responders who heroically came to the rescue, too many of whom lost their lives in the process, for the lives given up in 20 years of war and for those who died and those left behind during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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