I remember September 11, 2001: I was a newly minted one star general posted to the US Embassy in Kuwait as the Director of the Office of Military Cooperation. The Ambassador, the station chief and I were huddled in a quiet place in the embassy when an aide burst in to tell us to come to the TV. The first tower was burning. We looked at each other, and the chief said “Al Qaeda.” One of us said “this means war.”

And so it was.

Two weeks later I was in the Pentagon with orders to stand up a new office on the Joint Staff, and with a new job: Chief of the Global War on Terrorism planning cell. I was to brief in the Tank in two days on possible next steps for America to respond to the 9/11 attacks. In between times I needed to find an office and a staff.

The next two years were long, exhausting, rewarding. I left the planning cell in mid-2003 to join the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. Before I left we published the National Military Strategic Plan for the Global War on Terror. The plan was an effort to coordinate, collaborate, and measure a long term effort to reduce transnational terrorist groups capability to attack America and Americans, as well as our allies.

Twenty years later, many of us are disturbed by the way our endeavors in Afghanistan have collapsed, seemingly within weeks.

So let us remember what we did accomplish in the past two decades. We prevented another 9/11 on American soil. To ensure that outcome, so many of us in uniform and out of uniform gave much: for some it was their lives; for others, it was wounds that healed and some that may never fully heal. For that, I know our fellow citizens are grateful.


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