With hindsight, we can understand anything and everything. Theoretically, on 9 September 2001, the western world received a clear message that al-Qaeda was about to perpetrate a major criminal happening. On that day, in the isolated northern Afghan province of Takhar, 48-year-old Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by a pair of al-Qaeda suicide bombers who had been posing as journalists.
Massoud was the hero who, at the head of his mujahideen warriors, had played a major role in driving Soviet troops out of Afghanistan in 1989. When the Taliban appeared on the scene in 1996, Massoud opposed them in his role as chief of the so-called Northern Alliance, a stalwart of western democracy.
Today, we know that the assassination of Massoud had been programmed to take place within a time slot that would end on 9 September 2001. Beyond that date, it would no longer be possible for al-Qaeda to execute stealthily a friend of the West such as Massoud… for the obvious reason (as we now know, with hindsight) that the terrorist organization would be making a spectacular "coming out" two days later, in New York.
To my mind, in the domain of romantic 20th-century guerrilla heroes, Massoud was a far greater figure than Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Massoud was an authentic revolutionary, fighting for causes that we all cherish today. This photo shows Australian vehicles in 2009:
The memory of Massoud symbolizes the combat of young soldiers of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) [display details] who are still fighting and dying today in Afghanistan.