John Howard reveals he feared SYDNEY would be attacked next after 9/11 as he defends Afghanistan war
John Howard reveals he feared SYDNEY would be attacked next time after 9/11 – as he defends decision to send Australians to Afghanistan with US
- Australia supported the US war in Afghanistan, a conflict that killed 41 Australians
- Troops entered the country after the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001
- Former Prime Minister John Howard said he feared Sydney would be attacked
- He stood by the decision to go to war in the name of liberty and political liberty
John Howard has defended his decision to send Australian troops to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks 20 years ago and said he feared Sydney could be the next target.
The former prime minister was in Washington DC to meet with President George Bush when two planes hijacked by terrorists flew into New York’s Twin Towers.
Three days later, Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty – an alliance between the US, Australia and New Zealand signed in 1951 – and pledged to support America.
John Howard has defended his decision to send Australian troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago after the September 11 attacks (pictured)
Allied forces entered Afghanistan in October 2001 to prevent the country from providing a safe haven for more terrorists.
Over the next two decades, 41 Australians and 2,372 Americans lost their lives in the country — and now the Taliban, an Islamist militant group, has regained power, leading critics to question the decision to go to war.
Howard said it would have been “unthinkable” not to join the US and revealed when the attack took place that he feared Australia could be the next target.
“There was a lot of thought that morning about whether the next attack will be on London or Paris or Tokyo or even Sydney,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
Former Prime Minister John Howard
“You have all kinds of thoughts running through your mind.”
Howard, who led Australia from 1996 to 2007, stuck to his decision to go to war with the country.
“I have never regretted the decision I made to invoke the ANZUS Treaty and send Australian troops to Afghanistan,” he said.
“And when you make a decision like that, you don’t really know how things will turn out. Life is never like this.’
Asked if he shouldn’t have sent Australian troops in retrospect, Howard said it would have been “unthinkable” not to support the US.
“Given our relationship with the US and our common commitment to a set of principles based on liberty and political liberty, it was absolutely the right choice.
“Based on the information I had, the decision I made at the time was the right one.
“It would have been unthinkable under the circumstances — given the nature of our relationship, the historic partnership between Australia and America — if we had not joined the Americans in entering Afghanistan.”
Howard said that when the attack took place, he feared Australia could be the next target. Pictured: The Sydney Opera House
On the possibility that Australia could have pulled out of Afghanistan after a few months instead of staying for 20 years, he said: ‘It just doesn’t work that way.
“This was not an opportunity for Australia to be 70 or 80 per cent ally, it was an opportunity to be 100 per cent ally.”
Australia took part in the war in Afghanistan in November 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the worst terror attack in history.
The Taliban was accused of prospering the al-Qaeda terrorist group that carried out the attack.
The US-led coalition quickly overthrew the Taliban government before the end of the year, but Western forces had stayed 20 years since.
At the height of the war, Australia had 1,500 troops in Afghanistan and a total of 39,000 Australian Defense Force personnel deployed to Operations SLIPPER and HIGHROAD.
Since late 2013, Australia has maintained only a small training force in Afghanistan rather than active combat troops.
In February, the US said it would withdraw in May. The Taliban returned to power in August when Allied forces evacuated the Kabul airport.
Major Tim Glover, part of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, guards Kabul airport in August as the West evacuated troops and civilians from Afghanistan