Exactly five years ago on the same day today, Sept. 11, 2001, a couple of passenger planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, leaving more than 3,000 people dead in seconds, but the United States has yet to arrest the chief culprits behind the attacks.
The Doomsday scenario which shocked the whole world had exposed the security lapse of the United States and prompted President George W. Bush to point fingers at the most isolated regime of the world, the Taliban, and its guest al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a hasty decision to invade Afghanistan.
From the very beginning of the crackdown dubbed as "Operation Enduring Freedom," Bush promised his nation that he would soon capture and bring to justice bin Laden and his comrades for the attacks on the symbols of the economic and military might of the Untied States.
To achieve this goal, the president mustered the world's support, formed a military alliance under his leadership, and attacked the Taliban regime and al-Qaida network on Oct. 7, 2001, in Afghanistan, a poor mountainous state in Central Asia thousands of miles away from Washington.
The Taliban regime has gone, and al-Qaida operatives have been dislodged and diminished. But their leaders, the Taliban's supreme commander Mullah Mohammad Omar and his Arab guest bin Laden, the suspected architect of the 9/11 attacks, are still at large.
Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the 23,000-strong U.S.-led coalition forces have been combing the post-Taliban Afghanistan to nab the two kingpins of terror, but have failed to even locate their whereabouts.
Taking war on the Taliban has claimed the lives of thousands of people, including militants, U.S.-dominated foreign troops and aid workers, as well as religious and social figures who supported the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S.-led coalition forces, according to the western media reports, have lost 475 soldiers during Operation Enduring Freedom in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida network over the past nearly five years.
Contrary to expectations and the U.S. military predictions, militants loyal to the Taliban and al-Qaida have become more organized and more violent as more than 2,300 people including over 100 foreign troops have lost their lives in Taliban-linked insurgency so far this year in the post-Taliban nation.
The reemerging militants have also extended the fundamentalist movement's influence to its former stronghold in southern Afghanistan, as skirmishes between them and security forces have claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people, most of whom are militants, since mid-May.
Despite the transfer of command to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the troubled southern region, strengthened security and round-the-clock patrols in cities, the militancy is on the constant rise as the rebels mounted at least five bomb attacks in less than two weeks, killing more than two dozen people, including three foreign soldiers.
Meanwhile, in video and audiotapes attributed to bin Laden and Omar, they have repeated their firm resolve to fight the U.S. and its allies, and called on Muslims to join them in their Jihad, or holy war.
In a recent interview with CBS, President Bush stressed that it was important to capture bin Laden, saying: "Of course it matters, it is the head of al-Qaida."
Washington's successive failures to track down the twin suspected terror leaders have been haunting Afghans over the past five years, as many people have lost their confidence in the U.S. ability to overcome the challenge.
The United States "has spent billions of U.S. dollars, used hi-tech military and well-equipped intelligence services, but failed to even spot the whereabouts of Osama and Omar while Saddam Hussein has already been put on trial," said a retired Afghan army brigadier.
He also described the ongoing crackdown on Taliban and al-Qaida operatives as a "cat and mouse game," saying the "endless game" would last for years unless the U.S. and its allies took serious steps in eliminating the root cause of militancy, militants and their supporters.
But Tom Collins, spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, rejected these views and said the al-Qaida chief would be captured and brought to justice one day.
"We don't know where Osama bin Laden is, we don't know when we will catch him, but I'm confident that one day he will be brought to justice," Collins told Xinhua.
But, as many more Afghans believe, if the status quo of the "cat and mouse game" continues, the phenomenon of al-Qaida and Taliban phobia will not only haunt the United States, but the whole world for years to come.