WASHINGTON (AP) – Like his two most immediate predecessors, United States (US) President Donald Trump marked the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Pentagon and, like them, still unable to end America’s longest war, in Afghanistan.
Trump’s 9/11 speech on Wednesday came just five days after he called off US talks with the Taleban, abruptly ending nearly a year of hopeful negotiations by a State Department envoy who said he was on the “threshold” of a peace agreement aimed at ending the conflict.
It has been 18 years since al-Qaeda hijackers commandeered four US commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the largest attack on American soil.
Like Presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, Trump remembered the victims, first responders and US troops who have battled in Afghanistan, where the Taleban hosted al-Qaeda leaders as they plotted 9/11.
“For the families who join us, this is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss,” Trump said. “It’s the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over. The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, ‘I love you.’”
“Then the attack, the anguish of knowing your family member had boarded one of these flights or was working at the World Trade Center or serving right here at the Pentagon,” he said. “You waited. You prayed. You answered that most dreaded call, and your life changed forever.”
Trump said he went to the scene of the downed twin towers and saw the first responders working.
“I went down to ground zero with men who worked for me to try to help in any little way that we could,” Trump said.
“We were not alone. So many others were scattered around trying to do the same. They were all trying to help.”
Some of Trump’s statements about his 9/11 experiences cannot be verified, including claims that he sent construction crews to help clear the site, that he had “hundreds” of friends die at ground zero.
The moment of silence at the Pentagon is traditionally observed at 9.37am, the time when a plane was flown into the building.
But this year, the anniversary was observed 10 minutes late, at 9.47am, with Trump running behind schedule.
In his speech, he had tough words for the Taleban following the end of peace talks.
“If anyone dares to strike our land, we will respond with the full measure of American power and the iron will of the American spirit,” Trump said. If, for any reason, they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are and use power the likes of which the US has never used before, and I’m not even talking about nuclear power,” Trump said without elaborating on what he meant.