Vol. 55, No. 4

In this edition

by LOU ZICKAR With the Taliban once again in control of Afghanistan and America marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, The Ripon Forum examines “The Lessons of 9/11” and what has been learned — and not learned — from that tragic and fateful day.


On September 11, 2001, 10 members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for breakfast at the Pentagon. This is their story.

We Cannot Create a Safe Haven For Terrorists

President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan allows, and even accelerates, the nation returning to the conditions that permitted the 9/11 terrorist attack to happen in the first place.

We Cannot Be Complacent in the Face of New Threats

Twenty years after the horrific attacks of September 11th, we are once again facing an Afghanistan that will serve as a refuge and training ground for terrorists.

We Cannot Change the Past, but We Must Learn From It

The American people know that what happens over half a world away can have a direct impact on their safety. It happened on 9/11, and it can happen again.

We Must Always Honor Our Commitments to Our Allies and Friends

President Biden’s ill-advised, disorganized, and dishonorable flight from Afghanistan makes America less safe, and raises questions about our resolve and credibility around the world.

We Must Never Again Underestimate Our Enemy

We downplayed the threat of terrorism 20 years ago and Americans paid the price with their lives. This is a mistake that we cannot repeat if we hope to prevent future attacks.

We Need to Be Unified Against All Threats, Both Foreign and Domestic

America came together in the weeks and months following 9/11, and we need to do the same in the face of continuing threats overseas and increasing threats here at home.

Measuring the Effectiveness of the War on Terror

Are we eliminating more terrorists than are being created? Unfortunately, no one seems to know.

From Unity After 9/11 to the Threat of Homegrown Terror Today

by JAVED ALI The terrorist threat in America has evolved in a way that seemed unimaginable 20 years ago.

Preparing for the Next Biological Threat

Despite the threat, funding for some of our key biodefense initiatives overseas atrophied.

Ripon Profile of August Pfluger

The first-term Congressman from Texas’s 11th District discusses his service in the military, his new career on Capitol Hill, and how the attacks of September 11, 2001 affected both.

We Must Always Honor Our Commitments to Our Allies and Friends

Twenty years ago, millions of Americans watched in shock and grief as the world changed forever. Our nation mourned the unimaginable loss of thousands of our countrymen in the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, and we resolved that the United States would never again experience a 9/11.

In service of this objective, the United States made immense sacrifices. American servicemen and women, including my eldest son, Raymond, deployed to the other side of the world to ensure the Taliban understood they could not under any circumstances allow Afghanistan to serve as a haven for terrorists bent on attacking the United States. Because of the courage of these men and women, vulnerable populations became safer, and women and girls won markedly improved rights to work and go to school — a remarkable consequence of our mission to deny a homeland for terrorists.

In addition, the United States took a long, hard look at the critical weaknesses that left us vulnerable to attack by al-Qaeda and undertook serious efforts to correct its shortcomings. U.S. intelligence agencies knew well before September 11, 2001, that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike the United States, but failed to share information effectively and work in tandem to prevent an attack. Today, the United States has restructured its intelligence community and interagency processes to facilitate closer teamwork and more seamless information sharing.

We have also revolutionized our counterterrorism capabilities, at home and abroad. The Department of Homeland Security was established for exactly this purpose in 2002, and counterterrorism became a key mission of law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies developed the ability to find and eradicate terrorist threats at their source. These capabilities were only won through long years of hard work, courage, and sacrifice by U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces.

President Biden’s ill-advised, disorganized, and dishonorable flight from Afghanistan makes the world, and America, less safe.

Our immense achievements are difficult to square with the tragedy unfolding in the wake of the Biden Administration’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The fall of Afghanistan was undeniably a colossal failure of intelligence, planning, policy, and leadership. How can Americans trust President Biden’s promise that “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism capabilities will keep them safe when the Administration appears to have spectacularly misunderstood the reality on the ground?  How can our allies, who have fought bravely alongside us for two decades, retain faith in our resolve to defend them as well as ourselves?

President Biden’s ill-advised, disorganized, and dishonorable flight from Afghanistan makes the world, and America, less safe.

Our coalition allies stood with us against the Taliban because our homeland, not theirs, had been attacked. They asked the United States for more time to safely withdraw their troops and personnel, and the Administration ignored their pleas. As our work to contain and combat the influence of the People’s Republic of China grows ever more urgent, it is imperative we demonstrate to the world that we stand in lockstep with our allies. Anything less hands China and Russia an opportunity to paint the United States as an uncertain and unreliable partner.

Even more concerning is the heightened terror threat and tragic casualties resulting from the chaotic U.S. withdrawal. Contrary to the President’s assertions, al-Qaeda has not vanished from Afghanistan. The United Nations reports that significant numbers of al-Qaeda fighters and extremists, including much of al-Qaeda’s leadership, remain in the country. As both the Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Treasury have documented, these terrorists retain close ties with the Taliban and enjoy their protection. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Taliban will allow al-Qaeda and ISIS the space and impunity to again use Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks on U.S. targets.

How can our allies, who have fought bravely alongside us for two decades, retain faith in our resolve to defend them as well as ourselves?

By the admission of President Biden’s own CIA director, William Burns, the spy network painstakingly built during U.S. and coalition forces’ service in Afghanistan will wither away in our absence, leaving us effectively blind to terrorist threats emanating from the country. And we cannot simply relocate our counter-terror forces to a nearby country to ensure we retain the ability to attack terrorist threats at their source. The United States has not operated a base in Central Asia since 2014. Other powers in the region, Pakistan most egregiously, have demonstrated that they prefer to work with China, Russia, and even the Taliban over the United States.

I fear the current Administration has forgotten the most important lesson of 9/11: the necessity of sending the clear and unequivocal message to our adversaries that attacks on the United States, its people, and its allies will be met with forceful consequences. Instead, President Biden communicated that saving the lives of American citizens and the brave Afghans who fought alongside us mattered less than meeting a deadline set by the Taliban.

As Vice Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am working with my colleagues to send the messages that the Administration will not. The United States does not tolerate threats to the American people, and we will always honor our commitments to our allies and friends.

Ann Wagner represents the 2nd District of Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves as the Vice Ranking Member on both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Committee on Financial Services.