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Trump vows to hit Taliban 'harder' than ever on 9/11 anniversary

It has been 18 years since Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four US commercial airliners.

Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has said that a US military assault against the Taliban in Afghanistan is to continue just five days after he scrapped peace talks.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Trump said that over “the last four days” US forces have “hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before and that will continue.”

Trump said the assault was ordered after he canceled secret peace talks with the Taliban over the weekend in retaliation for a bomb attack that killed one US soldier last week.

It has been 18 years since Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four US commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Like Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Trump marked today with the war still ongoing. 

In a proclamation marking the anniversary as “Patriot Day”, Trump reflected on how many Americans recall the moment when the terror group conducted the largest attack on American soil, killing nearly 3,000 people.

“A beautiful September morning was marred by stark disbelief, agonising sorrow, and profound suffering,” Trump said in a statement. “America’s strength, courage, and compassion, however, never wavered.”

Moment of silence

With the American flag flying atop the White House at half-staff, Trump participated in a moment of silence on the South Lawn with first lady Melania Trump and dozens of members of the executive branch. He then headed to a commemoration at the Pentagon, where he laid a wreath and observed another moment of silence.

The moment of silence at the Pentagon traditionally is observed at 9.37 a.m., when one of the hijacked airliners was flown into the headquarters for the US military.

Trump told families that “this is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss,” and he said that their loved ones “will never ever be forgotten.”

Members of Congress held their own moment of silence on Capitol Hill. Vice President Mike Pence was to deliver remarks at a commemorative service in Shanksville.

Less than a month after the terror attacks, Bush announced on 7 October 2011 that US and British troops had begun striking Afghanistan for harboring the Al-Qaeda terrorists blamed for 9/11.

The massive air campaign initially targeted troops, training camps and air defences of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 and hosted Osama bin Laden as the masterminded the Sept 11 attacks.

For nearly a year, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been negotiating with the Taliban on issues including a US troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees to keep Afghanistan from again becoming a launch pad for global terror attacks.

Those talks came to an abrupt halt last weekend when Trump tweeted that he had cancelled talks with the Taliban and members of the Afghan government at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

It’s unclear if the US -Taliban talks will resume, but Trump has said he wants to withdraw about 5,000 of the 14,000 US service members still in Afghanistan. More than 2,400 American service members have been killed in the conflict.

Ground Zero

In New York, meanwhile, the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11 2001 were remembered in a solemn ceremony at Ground Zero where hijacked Al-Qaeda planes brought down the Twin Towers.

Relatives of victims, police officers, firefighters and city leaders gathered at the National September 11 Memorial to mark the anniversary of the deadliest single attack on US soil.

They held poignant moments of silence at 8:46 am and 9:03 am, the precise times that the passenger jets struck the North and South Towers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and his predecessors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani were among those who attended.

In what has become an annual tradition, relatives began reading out the long list of those who were killed, saying a few words about those who died, in a ceremony that takes almost four hours.

“We love you, we miss you and you will always be America’s heroes,” said one woman after reading out the names of her brother and cousin.

Relatives hugged and consoled each other and left roses at the memorial. Some held up placards with images of their loved ones who were killed.

Bagpipes played as police officers walked into the ceremony carrying the US flag before the US national anthem was played.

With reporting from Associated Press

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