MR. IGNATIUS: Hello. I’m David Ignatius, a columnist at The Washington Post.

Today my guest on a special commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1997 to 2007 and who experienced these events in a way that few people outside the United States did. Today Prime Minister Blair is the head of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

This week, we're commemorating not simply the events of September 11, 2001, but the events that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we're lucky to have someone who was in many ways, as I said earlier, America's closest partner, Prime Minister Blair.

Welcome, Prime Minister, to Washington Post Live.

MR. BLAIR: Thanks very much, David. Thank you.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me begin with the day itself, September 11, 2001. You were, I've read, at a trade conference in Brighton, England. What do you remember of first hearing the news? What did you do immediately? Just bring that moment back for our viewers.

MR. BLAIR: So I was due to give a speech, actually, to the main trade union grouping which meets every year, and for the labor prime ministers, at least, it's an annual event to go and speak at it.

Shortly before I was due to speak and as I was just preparing my speech, my staff interrupted me and said, "You have to see what's happening in America, in New York," and I went through and then we started to see the pictures of the planes going into the buildings, and from that moment on, everything, everything in the world, changed, really.

The main thing, I think, in retrospect, when you go back to those times and you relive them again--and I know this has been most traumatic for the families of those who lost their loved ones in that attack, but "trauma" is the right word to describe how everyone felt on that day. I mean, now because it's 20 years on, thankfully, there has not been a further attack of that nature. So some memories fade. I doubt the memories fade of those who were most intimately involved on that day, but it was a traumatic event. It did seem that the whole of the world had changed in one moment of carnage and terror and tragedy.

MR. IGNATIUS: Prime Minister, you're from a country that famously survived a terrible bombing by the Nazis during World War II. The Battle of Britain images of brave people in the streets of Britain are carved on all of our memories, and I think most of us would say Britain responded well with a feeling of commitment and solidarity that lasted through those war years.

How do you think America responded? We hadn't had an attack like this before where you had. How would you judge us as an outsider?

MR. BLAIR: I think America responded well to it, I mean, both in the extraordinary bravery shown by the people who actually were having to deal with the attack and its aftermath, but also, I think the country came together. I was very anxious to make sure the world stood with America since this was obviously an attack on America, of course, but it was an attack, in a sense, on our way of life, on the values that we presented, on the West, if you like. And it was really, really important that the world came together, and I think you did that and did that well.

I think the most important thing, David, for all of us was that--I mean, over 3,000 people died that day, but for us as political leaders, we were conscious of the fact that had they been able to kill 30,000 or even 300,000, they would have, and so this was the thing. It was not really the shock of the attack, but it was the fact that this was an indiscriminate attack against completely innocent people, not on the field of combat, but directed towards causing the most amount of death and destruction right in the heart of one of the major cities in America. So this was why, of course, for the people actually involved in suffering from it and the victims of it that they are the people most obviously affected, but for those of us who were in positions of political responsibility, I mean, literally, we did not know what to expect next. And it was the nature of this attack and its brutality, callousness, disregard for any form of humanity that was most shocking because we couldn't tell whether this was the last of such attacks. We thought we may get more, and then, of course, as I say, we realized that the scale of it was only limited by the means they had at their disposal, not limited by any sense of decency or regard for human life.

MR. IGNATIUS: And, Prime Minister, just a historical footnote, on that day of September 11, then moving into the next day, were you concerned that Britain itself might be attacked? As you headed back to London from Brighton, did you have concerns? Did your security people have concerns that your country might be a target?

MR. BLAIR: Absolutely. Yes. We shut down the airspace. We held a whole series of emergency meetings about what we were going to do in respect to public transport and respect to the security around the capital, and then for a long period of time afterwards, I used to have, I mean, really some of the most difficult decisions I had to take in those--in the months following it was when we would get threats against, for example, the London Underground, our subway system. And you'd be faced with a decision as to whether to shut it down or not, and the question is, well, were those threats realistic? Could we protect against them? Because if you kept shutting down the network, obviously, you were going to start doing enormous damage. You would cause huge feelings of insecurity.

I remember being involved--this was a little bit later--when a plane flew into our airspace without--they, for some reason, lost contact between the air traffic control and the plane. We got to quite an advanced stage of whether we needed to bring the airliner down. So these were very, very difficult days, but you just--you didn't know what might happen next.

MR. IGNATIUS: Bob Woodward, my colleague, has written that the day after 9/11, on September 12th, President Bush back in the White House now called you, Prime Minister of America's closest ally, and that you talked. Bob quotes President Bush as having said to you, "I want to get moving," meaning I want to get moving towards some kind of retaliation. I'm curious, Prime Minister, what your counsel was to President Bush that night, September 12, a day after this terrible attack.

MR. BLAIR: The first thing I wanted to do was to reassure him we were going to be with him, and I can't remember exactly when I used the phrase "shoulder to shoulder" first, but that was the import of what I wanted to say to him.

Secondly, that we should proceed with care, would analyze exactly what we should do and could do, where the threat was really located. It was pretty obvious it had come and been organized out of Afghanistan, which was in the control of the Taliban. So we discussed even at that early time, as I remember, how we had to make sure that our people came together and thought through what would be the right strategy to deal with that.

MR. IGNATIUS: And another sign of just how close the two countries and you and President Bush were, it's written that you came to Washington a week after that on September 20th, as President Bush was preparing to announce on public television what his intensions were in terms of attack. You met with him. He's quoted as having said to you, "I know exactly what I need to say to the country, how to say it, and what to do." Again, I'm interested in how you remember Bush's resolve and whether there were any cautions at that moment. Sometimes in the heat of anger, people make decisions that can be unwise. Do you remember any discussion back and forth about how to measure the response?

MR. BLAIR: Well, I can't recall exactly whether at that moment or not, but in the days following the attack, the question was did you launch an attack on Afghanistan immediately, or did you give the Taliban an ultimatum? I was in favor, I remember, writing a long note to President Bush being in favor of saying to the Taliban, "You've got to yield up the leadership of al-Qaeda, or you will be regarded as harboring our enemy and therefore liable to remove it yourselves." So there was a whole set of discussions about how we proceeded, and it was really as a result of those that there was that gap between the attack on September the 11th and then when military action was finally taken, although it was fairly clear from the beginning that the Taliban were not going to accede to the demands that had been made. But that, that was really the basis of the discussions there were at that time.

And then I was also trying to make sure that we pulled together other countries so that you had a large coalition because right from the outset--and I think there's reverberations of this still today--I thought it was really important that America both felt that it wasn't alone but also that it shouldn't act alone, so that there should be some sense of the world coming together.

At that point in time as well, it was not--I mean, Russia, for example, was reasonably amenable to action. I remember having a very good call with President Putin at that time. So, you know, it was about how you proceeded but also about making sure that it was done on the basis of as broad a coalition as possible.

MR. IGNATIUS: As we moved into the actual invasion in October 2001, it's been written now in many books that there was an extraordinarily unlikely force of CIA officers, special operations forces, Afghan allies, and some of those accounts have suggested that Britain was alongside with its own similar complement of intelligence, special operations personnel in that campaign that led to the fall of the Taliban. Can you tell us anything about the role that Britain played on the ground in those weeks?

MR. BLAIR: Always in a situation like this, the sheer scale and weight of the American assets and personnel predominate, but, yes, we were alongside them and played a very active part. And we'd taken a clear decision as a government that we were going to be with America and help them, and so right from the very outset, the interaction between the American and British military was very, very close.

MR. IGNATIUS: Prime Minister, I've read, as a student of that part of the world, accounts of Britain's own adventures over--misadventures often over two centuries in Afghanistan, three Afghanistan wars, difficult results at best, and disastrous results on your first invasion of Afghanistan. I'm just wondering whether you and your colleagues knowing that history of Britain in what has been called the "graveyard of empires," Afghanistan, had any concerns about not going too far, not doing too much, not getting stuck in what your own country's history showed was a difficult problem.

MR. BLAIR: Yes. There were concerns about that, but it was difficult, given the nature of the Taliban regime and their relationship with al-Qaeda, with the terrorist group.

I always used to say to people, though, that those previous adventures or, as you said, misadventures of Britain were in the context of the British Empire and in the context of us ensuring that the country stayed under British rule. It's a very different thing, obviously, when you intervene and you remove a government that's not there by the choice of the people and then you--as we did in Afghanistan, you give people the chance to elect their own government. So, even though, of course, anyone who knows anything about Afghanistan knows the trickiness of the terrain and the tribal tensions and different ethnicities and so on, all of that is clear, and indeed, you had just as clear an example of that with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in much more recent times. But we felt, rightly or wrongly, that what we were engaged in was something that wasn't a colonial adventure or an attempt to suppress the country but, on the contrary, an attempt to liberate it and give its people some chance of a better future.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me press you on that. Even from the early times after 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, you expressed the hope that this invasion, the new government that was formed in Bonn, might create a functioning democracy in Afghanistan. I'm curious, now 20 years later, a terribly difficult experience there, whether you think that hope was naïve, that it simply wasn't possible in such a tribal and traditional society.

MR. BLAIR: Yeah. No, I've said before that I accepted before that we did approach this with a certain naivety.

On the other hand, what I think is really important, because it's going to be important for the future as well, is to understand the reason why it became very difficult in Afghanistan, difficult to make the democracy work, difficult to build the right institutions, difficult to allow the country to develop, and therefore, give people something bigger than tribal difference to mobilize behind, the reason for the difficulty was not the absence of will on the part of the people, and I think this is an absolutely crucial point that we have to understand going forward, because it's the same in many other parts of the world. The reason for the problem is that you have extreme internal elements often supported by external elements who are trying to destroy literally as you build. So, as you're trying to build a road that can allow the country to develop or build power capabilities that allow people access to electricity or you're trying to allow people to go and vote, these people are there blowing up the road, killing the contractors who are engaged in constructing the electricity, and threatening anyone who dares to go and vote.

So, when we look at the difficulties we got into in this nation building, yes, we should be very careful of being naïve, but we should also be careful of going to the other--what I would say is the other end of the spectrum and saying, well, the reason you can't do this is because the people, for reasons to do with their culture, their tradition, their ethnicities, their tribe, they just--they can't handle something as complicated as democracy. I think it would be unfair to them and a big mistake for us because it misdescribes what the nature of the problem is that we face there.

MR. IGNATIUS: I'm going to come back to that question of what is possible in the Islamic world a bit later, but before we leave this initial period, the invasion of Afghanistan, I want to ask you about one particular bit of history, and that is Osama bin Laden's flight to Tora Bora and the failure of U.S. and coalition forces to pursue him and get him there.

General Mattis, now former Secretary of Defense Mattis, has written in his memoirs that he was fervently requesting authority to pursue bin Laden into those mountains, but it wasn't granted.

Did you have any role in offering advice at that time, and as you think about bin Laden's escape, do you think that was one of those hinge points in the story that, as we look back, we should be troubled by?

MR. BLAIR: Yeah. I think when you look back on it, you can--you know, as General Mattis has said, you can certainly make that case. It's not something that I have a deep recollection of at the time.

But you can also say, by the way, that there were moments in these next years when we probably could have pulled the Taliban into some form of negotiation, which we chose not to do. So I think when you look back on this, you can see all sorts of points of criticism or reflections that you can make as to why things could have been done differently.

But here's, David, what I would say because I think otherwise people are being unrealistic about what the nature of the challenge is. Even if you had taken some of those decisions differently, you would have still have had a huge problem, and even if you removed bin Laden at that point, I don't think you would have removed the problem because--and this is what gets to the question of what is this--what is it that we're dealing with and this, I think, really necessary debate that Western policymakers at the moment kind of shy away from for reasons I understand, which is what is the nature of this threat? Is it simply a set of disconnected terror groups? Or they may share some common themes, but, you know, is it helpful to look at this as a global movement in the way that I describe it of radical Islam, or is that actually a false way of looking at it and leads you to the wrong conclusions about how to deal with it?

But my view is that even if we managed to kill bin Laden at that point, I don't think it would have altered the basic problem that we had with this movement, and therefore, I think one of the things, again, I think is important here when we're looking back over the whole of the 20 years is my anxiety now, frankly, is to get to the point where we learn from our mistakes, but we also learn from the mistakes of those that came afterwards and try and get to some what I would call "sensible strategy" for dealing with this problem, learning all of those lessons. If we don't do that, we're likely to be in a situation where this threat will reemerge and reemerge in, I think, a pretty strong and dangerous form.

MR. IGNATIUS: On way to engaging that fundamentalist show, I want to talk about the next step in this post-9/11 story, and that was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. You had been talking about this with President Bush since at least the summer of 2002. You described your decision to join the U.S. and the invasion of Iraq as the hardest, most momentous, most agonizing decision of your life. I'd ask you to tell us just briefly, because this could be a consuming discussion, why you made the decision, despite concerns about international support, other issues, to join so vigorously with President Bush, even as you were being criticized very sharply at home for that support.

MR. BLAIR: It was a really difficult decision then, and let me just explain my reasoning. I go back to what I said right at the very beginning in answer to your first question. Our fear was--and I think this is still a legitimate fear, by the way, with this terrorism today. Our fear was that because, as I said, these people would have killed many more people if they'd been able to, the worry was always that they got their hands on chemical, biological weapons that could do--or even some form of nuclear device where they could do vast damage, and the reason why Iraq was in the frame in respect to this was, of course, because Saddam Hussein had developed these weapons and used these weapons, used them in the Iran-Iraq War, used them against his own people, and so that was the reason for it.

However, obviously, there was a much less strong international coalition, and, you know, yes, it was an extremely difficult decision, and as I said at the time before doing it, this was not going to be Afghanistan and certainly not Kosovo, which had been the earlier military engagement that I was involved in.

The only thing I would say to you, again, looking back now, which is because obviously the controversy about Iraq will carry on for a long period of time, is that, ultimately, I have to decide is the world going to be safer or less safe if we remove Saddam Hussein. And I came to the conclusion, maybe wrongly, but my conclusion was that on balance it was safer to remove him because of the destabilizing fact that he had been and because of the possibility that you could combine these two, these two issues, chemical, biological weapons and terrorism.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask you about the weapons of mass destruction part of this rationale for the invasion of Iraq. George Tenet, who was then CIA director, is famously quoted as having told President Bush that the intelligence about WMD was a "slam dunk." Tenet says that those words were in a somewhat different context, that the actual national intelligence estimate was more hedged.

But I'm curious about your own view of that issue and that of your colleagues who were your intelligence advisors. Did you think that the evidence was strong that Saddam was pursuing actively a nuclear weapons program at that point? Did you think that the WMD case, in effect, was a slam dunk?

MR. BLAIR: Well, nuclear weapons, the evidence was less there in the intelligence, chemical, biological weapons. Yeah, look, this--I mean, this has obviously been gone over many, many times, and I think we've had six inquiries about it in the UK. And just to say to you shortly before the invasion of Iraq, I actually wrote a very short question to my intelligence people, which is "Can we be sure this WMD threat is there?" and the answer was yes. And I don't criticize them for that. That's what they believed and thought, and they thought, of course, on the basis of what he had done over a long period of time.

But, you know, when we look--because, obviously, we're still dealing with Iraq today, and again, the point I think that is important to recognize even there is that the difficulties we got into were difficulties that originated when you had al-Qaeda and ISIS elements within Iraq linking up with those outside, and of course, then when Iran, who might have been expected to be pleased that Saddam Hussein had been removed, then started operating within the country in order also to destabilize it.

And so, David, I think what I'm saying, because, again, you can go into--you know, there's huge arguments about all of these things. When you look at the difference between our experience in Afghanistan, our experience in Iraq, and let's say the experience of the earlier intervention I did when President Clinton was in power, I think Kosovo, the difference is not that in one the planning was good, in another it was bad, and not in one that we didn't make mistakes and then the others that we did. The central problem was the presence of these radical Islamist forces, some on the Sunni side, some on the Shia side, who combined together to try and destroy any progress the country was making, and the reason it's important to make that point is, one, in those circumstances, therefore, when you look at any possible future interventions, how are you going to resolve that challenge? Because for sure it's going to come to you. And, secondly, if you feel that that's, therefore, just too much, it's too big a commitment, what are the consequences if you fail to intervene at all? And I think these are still questions that are essentially unresolved.

And my plea to Western policymakers today is look at the whole of the 20 years and see if it's possible to come out with a much more nuanced, effective policy which combines security, military measures with nation building but does that on the basis of learning the lessons of the past so that we don't repeat the mistakes that were made. Okay, you can say that in the aftermath of 9/11, but you don't also end this in a situation where we're in today where we've now gone out of Afghanistan and returned the country back to the Taliban.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let's go to that issue which is the nub of the question as we look back on this twentieth anniversary. Last month, President Biden withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, and the Taliban seized Kabul in victory, something that would have been hard to imagine when this story began. You had some very blunt comments about Biden's decision in an op-ed last month calling it--and I'm quoting here--"tragic, dangerous, not in their interest or ours," and you said the decision was made "in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending 'the forever wars.'" It's rare that former prime ministers are that blunt. You feel it deeply. Unpack that for us. Explain what you mean about the unnecessary tragic nature of this decision.

MR. BLAIR: Let me, first of all, say to you that having been in a position of being a decision-maker, I've got every sympathy with the people sitting in power today and having to take difficult decisions, and although I disagree with President Biden about this particular decision, President Biden is someone I like and respect. There are lots of things that he's doing on climate change, on COVID, across a range of issues of which I'm in full agreement and support.

The reason I spoke so strongly about this is that I genuinely believe there was another way forward, that we could have continued to support the people of Afghanistan. I agree that he was left in a very difficult decision because of the agreement of February 2020 between the previous administration and the Taliban, but I think it was of genuine strategic importance for us to recognize that despite all the problems, there actually had been real progress in Afghanistan. And many of the stories you hear after about Afghanistan today are a tribute to the fact that there actually was real progress there, and, you know, I think the consequence of turning the country back to the Taliban, especially when you have the presence of al-Qaeda there, you have the presence of the ISIS Khorasan group there, I fear for what that means in the future.

So I do this--my criticism, you know, we were 20 years there, the British with the Americans. My criticism is, on this issue, it doesn't betoken any disrespect to the president. I understand how difficult it is, but I really worry about the consequences of the decision.

Now, the most important thing now because it's happened, I think the biggest single question now is, what is the future of our policy towards the issue of this radical Islamism and, secondly, towards the creation of alliances in order to defeat it? And, in a way, it's more productive now for me to concentrate on those two questions.

MR. IGNATIUS: I do want to just ask you to stick with the themes you expressed a moment longer because you posed a fundamental question for all of us which is, has the West lost its strategic will to fight? Obviously, you're concerned that that's so. Address that question, if you would. A nation, the United States, and its partners that are exhausted by war does have difficulty summoning the will. Why should they?

MR. BLAIR: They should because the people were up against, those people, not just the proponents of radical Islam but China, Russia, others. We should be concerned because they take a long-term view, and this is my worry. When you look at, for example, the Iranian regime in relation to nuclear weapons, they take a long-term view. For them, 20 years is not forever. Twenty years is a short time, and those countries that don't have to look at short-term election questions, the midterms, the four-year presidential terms or, in our case, every four, five years, you have a general election, countries like China, Russia, and so on, they take a long-term view.

Now, my point is if we believe that our countries are under threat from these terrorist groups, if we believe we do face a battle of values, not just interests but values, with the rising powers of the world who are outside of our alliance, if we take a purely short-term view, we're going to lose. So we've got to have the patience and the determination and the consistency and strategy and purpose in order to stay with it. So this is about staying power because--just to go back to Afghanistan for a moment, for all the problems, there was a poll at the end of 2019 that showed the Taliban with 4 percent support. Okay. The difficulties within the country were immense, but we had gone to, since 2014, a train, advise, and assist mission. It was possible for us, difficult but possible for us to stick with that mission.

Now, my worry is when we don't, it's a signal, and it's a signal that in the end, the short-term politics that our political leaders for perfectly obvious reasons have to pay attention to has incapacitated us from long-term strategic thinking, and that is a dangerous thing because the West needs to recover a strong sense in its own values, because people in the end--let's be under no doubt at all. In the end, when free people are free to choose, they choose freedom. Our value system is a good value system. We make a lot of mistakes. We don't always live up to our own values and behave in the way that we should, but in the end, what we have in our systems is worth defending. But you can't defend it against people who take a long-term view if your short-term politics is pulling you in inconsistent directions, incoherent strategy, and undermining the essential staying power that allows you to prevail.

MR. IGNATIUS: Just to stay with this for a moment, because it's absolutely central, I think among the very broad group of critics, as we look back after 20 years on this period of war, it's not that we're lacking will, they would say, but that we need to change the way in which we express that will, the simple phrase that people use, "If you're in a hole, stop digging." The more sophisticated versions, Prime Minister, were expressed by two of our best essayists this week. I'll just read the headlines to you. Garrett Graff, a young writer in The Atlantic, wrote an article, "After 9/11, the U.S. got almost everything wrong." My colleague, Carlos Lozada, who is our principal book critic, wrote last Sunday in the Post, "9/11 was a test. We failed." And that's expressing something that I think you'd find from many Americans, a sense that the course we embarked on didn't lead us where we wanted, and it's not that we want to stop moving forward, but maybe we want to change direction somewhat.

I'd be very curious about what Prime Minister Blair's--the headlined on your intellectual essay on these times would be.

MR. BLAIR: Yeah. So I get it completely, and things like that are said obviously in the UK debate as well.

Here's my answer to it. Post-9/11, we had to try and protect the world against a further such attack. Thankfully, there has not been a further such attack. I don't think it would have been remotely acceptable for us to have left al-Qaeda in place with the Taliban in government in Afghanistan. Once you go and you remove them, you are inevitably in the situation where you are trying to--the phrase is now used "remaking a country." To a degree, you're in nation building.

And the implication behind a lot of the criticism is that if we only stopped doing what we have been doing these last 20 years, this problem would disappear, but it wouldn't. 9/11--prior to 9/11, the only thing--military action I'd had anything to do with was Kosovo, where we had gone in to protect, by the way, Muslim ethnic Albanians from genocide from what was at that time a Serbian government under Milošević in a Christian country. 9/11 came out of what? It came out--and this is where the report just done by my institute recently--I really recommend people read it by Emman El-Badawy, and it's all about the roots of Islamism and how this violence came about.

What you see is that this is a global ideological movement. We are, as well as those Muslim leaders that cooperate with us, the target. It's not because of something we've done. It's because of what we represent, and so, yes, it's been really difficult post-9/11. But that's because the people that we're fighting have not given up, and now you see them in different parts of the world.

My institute does a lot of work, for example, in Africa. I would say this is now possibly one of the two or three biggest inhibitions on development in Africa today are the presence of these Islamist groups killing people, destroying infrastructure, destabilizing governments. What are we supposed to do?

Now, we, Europe, by the way--this is--we should be thinking about this now. What are we going to do? You've got those countries that have got exploding populations, poor institutions, large territories, and an immense amount of radicalization going on. So we do nothing? We just sit back and we let that develop? I can tell you what will happen in a few years' time. We will get waves of extremism and migration.

So I don't know what the people who obviously think we got everything wrong post-9/11, what they would have done, but if they're telling me that what they would have done is some counterterrorism measures, I'm telling you it wouldn't have worked. And it won't work today, by the way.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Prime Minister, we have just a couple minutes left, and perhaps we could close this discussion by talking about the future; in particular, the future in our dealings with Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now controlled by the Taliban, a government that does not have a modern face that I can see, now heads the country, and one of the debates that we're having as Americans is whether and how the United States should deal with that government. You have a similar question facing Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Britain. What's your own feeling about relations going forward with this former adversary? How would you go about thinking about that?

MR. BLAIR: You just got to take a series of tactical decisions in the best interests of the country and of your own engagement. I mean, if you look at that new Taliban government, I wouldn't--anyone who was looking for a broad-based government is going to be sorely disappointed. I mean, these people are hardline Islamists.

Now, at the same time, they're going to try and govern a country. They're going to find it immensely difficult. Twenty years has produced--remember half the population is under the age of 25 and has never known the Taliban. You've got a whole lot of people with education now. You've got a whole lot of people using smartphones and technology. They're going to find it very tough. I think we should just engage with them as--you know, as we need to, but the single most important thing is that we work out how we're going to defeat this radical Islamist movement globally because that also will impact Afghanistan.

And if I can finish with one piece of what I think is relatively good news, in some of the polling work that we'll publish at the institute in the next couple of days, you will see that right across North Africa in the Middle East, despite everything, there is a strong liberalizing tendency growing, larger and larger numbers of people who want democratic freedoms, who want equality for women, and who believe in putting religion in its proper place and not turning it into a political ideology or a method of government.

And, in the end, yes, we'll have to deal with Afghanistan and with the Taliban in whatever way we can. We're going to have to be very conscious of whatever China does and Russia does and Pakistan and Iran. It's going to be very, very difficult. We'll have to do the best we can with it, but we need to look at this longer-term question, how we build a strong alliance to defeat the ideology that gave us the Taliban, that gave us al-Qaeda, that ultimately gave us 9/11.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Mr. Prime Minister, our thanks to you. It's good on this somber anniversary to close on a somewhat hopeful note about the way attitudes are changing. Thank you for joining us for this recollection to 9/11, 20 years ago. Thanks for being our guest.

MR. BLAIR: Well, thank you very much, David. I know it's a hugely difficult subject, and I apologize if my views today may have offended some people. It's pretty hard to talk about this without offending someone, but my thoughts, at any rate, at this moment are with those people who were the victims of 9/11 and their families, our armed forces who did such an amazing job in the post-9/11 world, and whatever the differences over these issues, I still believe your country and my country working together is a good combination and one that should endure for the long term.

MR. IGNATIUS: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

Please check out what we have coming ahead, including additional discussions about this anniversary. I'll be talking tomorrow at three o'clock with Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, about her recollections.

Please head to to register and to find out more about all of our upcoming programs. Thank you for being with us today.

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