US troops in Afghanistan mark 9/11
Kabul: US soldiers paid solemn tribute on Sunday to victims of September 11 at bases across Afghanistan, where the war is still raging 10 years to the day after the Twin Towers attacks.
Underlining the violence wracking much of Afghanistan, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a bomb-laden truck near the entrance of a combat post in a central province, injuring nearly 90 people, about 80 of them US troops.
From giant hubs such as Bagram in the north and Kandahar in the south to dusty remote outposts on the frontline against the Taliban, US soldiers paused in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people who died a decade ago.
The United States invaded Afghanistan a month after 9/11, toppling the Taliban who had sheltered al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. But the Taliban later rebuilt and are now leading a bloody insurgency.
At Forward Operating Base Fenty in the eastern city of Jalalabad, hundreds of troops rose at dawn to attend a ceremony of prayers and memories, as the US flag and brigade colours flew at half mast.
"It started here and it`s gonna finish here alright," Command Sergeant Major Andrew Spano told the crowd, reading out the names of US troops killed in the area during the deployment.
He requested a moment of silence later in the day to mark the time the first plane hit the World Trade Centre, "and brought us to this moment we`re at right now. Since that moment, our lives changed forever, and we`ll never forget."
The ceremony was followed by a five-kilometre (three-mile) memorial run around the base.
One of those who joined the run, Staff Sergeant Terry Staber, said: "I`ll probably work like a regular day but it`ll still be in my mind: where I was at, not knowing where my sister was at and this big lump in my throat knowing this is gonna be big... We`re gonna be in this for a long time."
At the US embassy in Kabul, General John Allen, the US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker joined dozens of embassy staff and troops for a ceremony which included the lowering of the American flag, prayers and speeches.
Allen told the event that while the last 10 years of war had been tough, the war effort was on the right path.
"The last 10 years have not been easy, both the international coalition and Afghans have endured much hardship," he said.
"We have suffered setbacks and difficult moments. To be sure, there are challenges ahead. But today, on this sacred day of remembrance, I can say with confidence that together, we’re on the path to success in Afghanistan."
Crocker acknowledged that many in the US were "tired" after 10 years of war and increasing US casualties -- more than 1,750 have died so far.
"Some back home ask, why are we here? It has been a long fight and people are tired. The reason is simple: Al Qaeda is not here in Afghanistan, and that’s because we are.”
"We’re here so there is never again another 9/11 coming from Afghanistan’s soil."
So far, the war has cost America USD 444 billion.
And according to Brown University in the US, 33,877 people -- including foreign and Afghan troops, civilians and insurgents -- have died.
There are currently around 130,000 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, 100,000 of them from the US.
Limited withdrawals have started in recent months and all combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014.
Saturday`s suicide bombing that wounded 50 US troops in Wardak was the latest in an increasingly deadly Taliban campaign. Suicide bombing is a common tactic that the rebels have been using in their insurgency.
Separately, two Afghan security guards were killed and three US military personnel were injured when insurgents fired mortars and small arms at the giant Bagram Airfield, the foreign military’s hub for eastern Afghanistan, late Saturday.
Two Afghan guards were also hurt, US Army spokesman Master Sergeant Nick Conner said.
Following the attack, a planned 9/11 memorial run for troops over 9.11 kilometres around the base on Sunday was cancelled.
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