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President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City.
President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City.
President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
A U.S. Navy sailor speaks with a New York Fire Department firefighter on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A U.S. Navy sailor speaks with a New York Fire Department firefighter on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
President Donald Trump greets family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, survivors of the attack on the Pentagon, and servicemembers after speaking at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 -- the 18th anniversary of the attacks.
President Donald Trump greets family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, survivors of the attack on the Pentagon, and servicemembers after speaking at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 -- the 18th anniversary of the attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
A U.S. Navy sailor rings a bell as names of 184 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon are read aloud on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 during a ceremony marking the 18th year since the attack.
A U.S. Navy sailor rings a bell as names of 184 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon are read aloud on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 during a ceremony marking the 18th year since the attack. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
Attendees arrive Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Attendees arrive Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. servicemembers stand among the trees and benches of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
U.S. servicemembers stand among the trees and benches of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City.
President Donald Trump speaks Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon during a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there and in New York City. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Melania Trump applaud during a ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Melania Trump applaud during a ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 at the Pentagon commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes as President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrive at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 for the annual 9/11 commemoration.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes as President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrive at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 for the annual 9/11 commemoration. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, touting America’s military might directed against the Taliban, which gave sanctuary to the masterminds of strikes against New York and Washington.

“The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before. And that will continue,” Trump said during a remembrance ceremony at the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial. “And if, for any reason, they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are, and use power — the likes of which the United States has never used before. And I’m not even talking about nuclear power. They will never have seen anything like what will happen to them. No enemy on Earth can match the overwhelming strength skill and might of the American armed forces.”

Trump pointed to the large military budgets during his presidency to the crowd of survivors and family members of those killed in the attacks. He also claimed the U.S. military had increased its campaign against the Taliban greatly since he abruptly canceled peace negotiations with them Saturday.

Pentagon officials on Wednesday did not confirm whether the U.S. military in Afghanistan had increased its offensives against Taliban insurgents substantially in recent days. However, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command, told Reuters this week that increased combat efforts were likely now that Trump has canceled negotiations.

The ceremony at the Pentagon was held in its memorial grove, where 184 trees and benches inscribed with the victims’ names face the facility’s southwest wall, where an airliner was crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001. With a massive American flag marking the point of impact, officials held a moment of silence Wednesday and the names of the victims of the attack were read aloud.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked those who responded that day and those who served in the military since 9/11. He vowed the American people and the troops sworn to protect them will never forget the attacks.

“The terrorist attacks were meant to challenge our way of life and they sought to break our spirit,” Dunford said. “But their purpose was never realized. That day made us stronger, more determined, and more resolved to protect our nation and for that for which it stands.”

Trump thanked the first responders and those who joined the military in the wake of the attacks. He spoke of individuals killed in the attacks who used their final moments to save other lives, and their family members, some of whom were in attendance.

“We offer you all that we have, our unwavering loyalty, our undying devotion and our internal pledge that your loved ones will never ever be forgotten,” Trump said, calling 9/11 a “dark and wretched day.”

Trump recalled learning of the first attack while watching television news before watching the second plane strike the South Tower “at tremendous speed.”

“It was then that I realized the world was going to change,” he said.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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