An American flag is draped over the Pentagon where it was hit by an airliner 15 years ago, September 11, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP
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While 9/11 failed to bring America to its knees as Al-Qaeda hoped, it ushered in an era of instability, especially in the Middle East, that Islamic extremists have skilfully exploited, analysts say.Founded in the 1980s, Al-Qaeda was gravely weakened after being expelled from Afghanistan in 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion of the country that had harbored the terror group's leader Osama bin Laden.Among the consequences was the damage done to America's reputation by the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the camp opened by George W. Bush at a U.S. base in Cuba to hold "enemy combatants" captured around the world.The U.S. presence in Iraq made it a magnet for extremists, with Al-Qaeda in Iraq becoming a major force in the post-war insurgency that later morphed into ISIS.Obama's reticence to commit the U.S. to a new battle in the Middle East reflected the caution of a nation scarred by Iraq, where thousands of U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians died during the post-invasion insurgency.
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