Biden calls for national unity and defence of democracy as he marks anniversary of 9/11 attacks

President says US intelligence believes al-Qaeda threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan is at ‘historic low’

US president Joe Biden addresses service members, first responders, and their families on the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

US president Joe Biden urged Americans to stand united, defend democracy and reject “the poisonous politics of difference and division” as they marked the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Speaking on Monday, the president said the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers in New York, the pentagon in Washington and who hijacked an aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania “thought they would bring us to our knees”. He said they were “dead wrong”.

He said terrorists could not touch “the soul of United States”.

Mr Biden made his comments in Alaska, on his journey back from the G20 summit in India and a visit to Vietnam.

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The president faced criticism in recent days from his Republican opponents for marking the 9/11 anniversary in Alaska rather than in New York.

Many of those who carried out the attacks on September 11th, 2001 were from Saudi Arabia and the president has also been criticised by some relatives of those killed on that day for meeting Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit.

Vice-president Kamala Harris as well as Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis joined mourners at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. The former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani was also present.

Speaking in Alaska, the president said US intelligence believed that the threat al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan had reached a historic low.

He said all this had changed over the past 22 years.

The resolve of the American people had proved “we never bow, we never bend, we never yield”.

The president said “our longest war [in Afghanistan] is over” but the commitment to prevent another attack on the US and its people and allies would never rest.

“We will continue to track terror threat in all forms where ever it may be. We will continue to disrupt terrorist activities where ever we may find it and I will never hesitate to do what is necessary to protect the American people.”

Mr Biden said terrorism including ideological and political violence was “the opposite of all we stand for”.

He said the US was a nation “that settles our differences peacefully under the rule of law”.

The president said that the 9/11 anniversary “reminds us we must never lose that sense of national unity”.

Mr Biden told the audience of military personnel, first responders and their families that they could look across the country and around the world and see anger, fear and a rising tide of hatred, extremism and political violence.

“It is more important than ever that we come together around the principles of American democracy regardless of our political backgrounds.

“We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division and never allow ourselves to be pulled apart by petty, manufactured grievances.

“We must continue to stand united. We have an obligation and duty and responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent