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Washington started its counterterrorism campaign because its homeland was attacked. Yet the irony is that after four presidents and 20 years, the United States is still grappling with terror threats on its own soil.

by Xinhua writer Sun Ding

BEIJING, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the United States launched its "War on Terror" on a mission that sounds noble: to root out global terrorism.

Two decades on, this sprawling war has largely fallen short of its original promise. Terrorism is still haunting the world as a grave common challenge after all the battles fought, money poured in, blood shed, and lives lost. The war that purported to guarantee global security has been warped into Washington's self-serving tool for global supremacy.

Washington started its counterterrorism campaign because its homeland was attacked. Yet the irony is that after four presidents and 20 years, the United States is still grappling with terror threats on its own soil.

Although no 9/11-style attacks have ever hit the United States since 2001, "lone wolf" incidents plotted or perpetrated by homegrown terrorists are surging, and domestic extremism is ballooning over the years. Many inside the country believe that the Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol this year marked the culmination of right-wing extremism.

Terror groups of global reach have not been defeated either, let alone totally destroyed. The Islamic State (IS) militant group and its affiliates are still active in various countries and regions, despite a sharp decrease of their territory. Concern is also growing that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, would make a comeback. In fact, the emergence of the IS group in Iraq and Syria back in 2011 when the United States withdrew from Iraq is a case in point.

Furthermore, the root causes of terrorism are still outstanding. Many countries and regions drawn into post-9/11 wars are still trapped in political turmoil, economic instability, systemic poverty, social unrest, and religious conflicts.

In America's overseas military interventions over the years, Washington has done little to help address these chronic problems, which are widely acknowledged as a breeding ground for terrorism.

Take Afghanistan. The United States spent 2 trillion U.S. dollars fighting that war, but pitifully achieved little in improving the well-being of the Afghan people.

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Moreover, by expanding the "War on Terror," the United States has kept manipulating the narrative to its own agenda while meddling in regional and international affairs, seeking to profit from chaos, division and disorder. It has even tried to monopolize and weaponize the rights to define who is a terrorist or not.

Expectedly, America's military intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere under the pretext of freedom and democracy has failed to bring peace and stability to war-torn countries, and only exacerbated their woes and further distanced them from recovery, rebuilding and revival.

Washington's naked display of arrogance and contempt for others' sovereignty as well as international law has also backfired, leading to a palpable rise of anti-America sentiments in those countries the United States has invaded.

Over 20 years, America's "War on Terror" has cost itself at least 8 trillion dollars and resulted in approximately 900,000 deaths, including more than 363,000 civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, according to the latest report from the Costs of War project at Brown University, a leading U.S. research university.

That is too staggering a price to pay for a mission that has hugely foundered so far.

As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which have changed the United States and the wider world in many ways, Washington should thoroughly reflect on the "War on Terror," its interventionist approach, and the destruction and deaths the United States has inflicted upon the world.

"The beginning of wisdom in human as well as international affairs was knowing when to stop," Paul Kennedy wrote in his book "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers."

Apparently, America's decision-makers who started the war machine and those who abused it lack such wisdom. As a result, Washington's hegemonic obsession has only left the United State less secure, and the world a more dangerous place.

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