On 9/11, Trump consoles victims, has tough words for Taliban

WASHINGTON (AP) — Like his two most immediate predecessors, President Donald Trump marked the anniversary of the Sept. 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 U.S. talks with the Taliban, 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-Qaida hijackers commandeered four U.S. 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 U.S. troops who have battled in Afghanistan, where the Taliban hosted al-Qaida 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 kiss. 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 and that he witnessed television coverage of Muslims in the U.S. cheering the destruction.

The moment of silence at the Pentagon is traditionally observed at 9:37 a.m., the time when a plane was flown into the building. But this year, the anniversary was observed 10 minutes late, at 9:47 a.m., with Trump running behind schedule.

In his speech, he had tough words for the Taliban 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 United States has never used before, and I’m not even talking about nuclear power,” Trump said without elaborating on what he meant.

Despite Trump’s verbal threats, his envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been sitting across the table from Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, for months discussing a U.S. 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 canceled a proposed meeting with the Taliban and members of the Afghan government at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Many Afghans fear his canceling the talks will mean more carnage as the U.S. and Taliban, as well as Afghan forces, step up their offensives and civilians die in the crossfire.

Trump said he canceled the talks after the Taliban detonated a car bomb on Sept. 5 and killed two troops — one American and one Romanian — and 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Trump’s continued reference to ending the talks after one American service member was killed has upset many Afghans, who witness near-daily attacks.

As America mourned 9/11, weary Afghans are watching their own toll from the aftermath continue to rise exponentially. The Taliban and U.S. and Afghan forces are all to blame.

For the first time, more Afghan civilians have been killed by international and Afghan forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, the United Nations said of the first three months of this year, with thousands more wounded by insurgent attacks.

Several hours after Trump left the Pentagon memorial, Bush, who was president during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, visited for a separate, private wreath-laying. Bush was joined by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was in his Pentagon office when the plane hit the building.

___

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from New York's Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from New York’s Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
A visitor to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., views the Wall of Names on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A visitor to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., views the Wall of Names on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., participate in a sunset memorial service on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., participate in a sunset memorial service on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
The Tribute in Light rises above the lower Manhattan skyline, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in New York. Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks against the United States of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
An American flag is unfurled at sunrise at the Pentagon in Washington on the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
A U.S. Flag hanging from a steal girder, damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2019 as the sun rises behind One World Trade Center building and the re-developed area where the Twin Towers of World Trade Center once stood in New York City on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. (AP/J. David Ake)
New York City firefighters take a position in front of a memorial on the side of a firehouse adjacent to One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial site during ceremonies commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
New York City firefighters stand at attention in front of a memorial on the side of a firehouse adjacent to One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial site during ceremonies commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
People gather for a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
People gather for a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
A couple sits quietly prior to the start of a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
Donald Trump
Melania Trump
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
A flag hangs on the Pentagon before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
Flowers rest on a bench bearing a name in memory of retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Gary Smith before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
A flag hangs on the Pentagon before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
A woman stands next to the north pool prior to a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
Louis Gonzalez makes a rubbing of his sister’s name at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. Aida Rosario was killed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
A woman wipes away tears as she stands next to the north pool prior to a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
Flowers and an American flag rest on a bench bearing a name in memory of Khang Ngoc Nguyen before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
The names are read of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
Family members hold up photos during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
Members of Congress gather at the Capitol to observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on America, in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. On front row, from left are Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump place a wreath and will participate in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at the Pentagon. (AP/Evan Vucci)
A man holds a photo of a victim during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
The morning sun strikes the East Front of the Capitol as the flag flies at half staff to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on America, in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
People walk past an American flag at the start of a work day, at the Oculus, part of the World Trade Center transportation hub in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks. (AP/Wong Maye-E)
Chris LeClair, second from left, of Woodbridge, Va., visits the grounds of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial with his children Emily, age 12, from left, Melody, age 11, and Ash, age 3, before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. LeClair’s late father-in-law, U.S. Navy information systems technician Gregg H. Smallwood, was killed inside the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
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New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
New York Fire Department members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The firefighter from New York's Long Island who died in the World Trade Center attacks is being remembered for a second time on the eve of the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Friends and family gathered at the memorial service for Haub on Tuesday in Franklin Square. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at ground zero. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
A visitor to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., views the Wall of Names on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., participate in a sunset memorial service on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation prepares to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Donald Trump
Melania Trump

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