War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Part of the larger War in Afghanistan, and
the Global War on Terrorism
2001 War in Afghanistan collage 3.jpg
Clockwise from top-left: British Royal Marines take part in the clearance of Nad-e Ali District of Helmand Province; two F/A-18 strike fighters conduct combat missions over Afghanistan; an anti-Taliban fighter during an operation to secure a compound in Helmand Province; a French chasseur alpin patrols a valley in Kapisa Province; U.S. Marines prepare to board buses shortly after arriving in southern Afghanistan; Taliban fighters in a cave hideout; U.S. soldiers prepare to fire a mortar during a mission in Paktika Province, U.S. troops disembark from a helicopter, a MEDCAP centre in Khost Province.
(For a map of the current military situation in Afghanistan, see here.)
Date7 October 2001 – present
(17 years and 6 days)
LocationAfghanistan
Status
Belligerents
Invasion (2001):
Afghanistan Northern Alliance
 United States
 United Kingdom
Canada Canada
 Australia
 Germany[1]
Invasion (2001):
Afghanistan Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
al-Qaeda
055 Brigade[2][3]
IMU[4]
TNSM[5]
ETIM[6]

ISAF phase (2001–14):
Afghanistan Islamic Republic of Afghanistan[7]
ISAF
 United States
 United Kingdom
Canada
 Australia
 Italy
 Germany
 Georgia
 Jordan
 Turkey
 Bulgaria
 Poland
 Romania
 Spain
 Czech Republic


RS phase (from 2015):
Resolute Support[9]
 United States
 Italy
 Germany
 Georgia
 Turkey
 Romania
 United Kingdom
 Australia
 Czech Republic
 Poland

ISAF/RS Phase (from 2001):
Afghanistan Taliban

al-Qaeda
Allied groups:


Afghanistan Taliban splinter groups


ISIL-KP[citation needed] (from 2015)

Allied groups:

Commanders and leaders
Afghanistan Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani
United States Donald Trump
United Kingdom Theresa May
Australia Scott Morrison
Italy Giuseppe Conte
Germany Angela Merkel
John F. Campbell
List of former ISAF Commanders

Afghanistan Mohammed Omar 
Afghanistan Akhtar Mansoor 
Afghanistan Abdul Ghani Baradar (POW)[20]
Afghanistan Hibatullah Akhundzada[12]
Afghanistan Jalaluddin Haqqani
Afghanistan Obaidullah Akhund [20]
Afghanistan Dadullah Akhund [20]
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Flag of Jihad.svg Osama bin Laden 
Flag of Jihad.svg Ayman al-Zawahiri


Afghanistan Muhammad Rasul  (POW)[15]
Haji Najibullah[21]
Strength

Afghanistan Afghan National Security Forces: 352,000[22]
ISAF: 18,000+[23]

Military Contractors: 20,000+[23]

Afghanistan Taliban: 60,000
(tentative estimate)[24]

HIG: 1,500 – 2,000+[28]
Flag of Jihad.svg al-Qaeda: 50–100[29][30] (~ 3,000 in 2001)[31]


Afghanistan IEHCA: 3,000–3,500[15]
Fidai Mahaz: 8,000[21]
Casualties and losses

Afghan security forces:
45,735 killed[32][33]
Northern Alliance:
200 killed[34][35][36][37][38]
Coalition
Dead: 3,546
(United States: 2,412, United Kingdom: 456,[39] Canada: 158, France: 89, Germany: 57, Italy: 53, Others: 321)[citation needed]
Wounded: 22,773 (United States: 19,950, United Kingdom: 2,188, Canada: 635)[40][41][42]
Contractors
Dead: 2,000[43][44]
Wounded: 15,000+[43][44]

Total killed: 51,481
Total killed: 72,000+[24][45][46]
Civilians killed: 31,000 (2001–2016)[47]

a The continued list includes nations who have contributed fewer than 200 troops as of November 2014.[48]

b The continued list includes nations who have contributed fewer than 200 troops as of May 2017.[49]

The War in Afghanistan (or the U.S. War in Afghanistan; code named Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (2001–2014) and Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–present))[50][51] followed the United States invasion of Afghanistan[52] of 7 October 2001. The U.S. was supported initially by the United Kingdom and Canada[53] and later by a coalition of over 40 countries, including all NATO members. The war's public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power.[54] The War in Afghanistan is the second longest war in United States history, behind the Vietnam War.[55][56][57][58]

Following the September 11 attacks in 2001 on the U.S., which President George W. Bush blamed on Osama bin Laden who was living or hiding in Afghanistan, President Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and expel al-Qaeda; bin Laden had already been wanted by the U.S. since 1998.[59] The Taliban declined to extradite him unless they were provided evidence of his involvement in the September 11 attacks and also declined demands to extradite others on the same grounds. The U.S. dismissed the request for evidence as a delaying tactic,[60] and on 7 October 2001 launched Operation Enduring Freedom with the United Kingdom.[61] The two were later joined by other forces, including the Northern Alliance which had been fighting the Taliban in the ongoing civil war since 1996.[62][63] In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to assist the Afghan interim authorities with securing Kabul. At the Bonn Conference the same month, Hamid Karzai was selected to head the Afghan Interim Administration, which after a 2002 loya jirga (grand assembly) in Kabul became the Afghan Transitional Administration. In the popular elections of 2004, Karzai was elected president of the country, now named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.[64]

NATO became involved in ISAF in August 2003, and later that year assumed leadership of it. At this stage, ISAF included troops from 43 countries with NATO members providing the majority of the force.[65] One portion of U.S. forces in Afghanistan operated under NATO command; the rest remained under direct U.S. command.

Following defeat in the initial invasion, the Taliban was reorganized by its leader Mullah Omar, and launched an insurgency against the government and ISAF in 2003.[66][67] Though outgunned and outnumbered, insurgents from the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and other groups have waged asymmetric warfare with guerrilla raids and ambushes in the countryside, suicide attacks against urban targets and turncoat killings against coalition forces. The Taliban exploited weaknesses in the Afghan government, which is among the most corrupt in the world, to reassert influence across rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan. In the initial years there was little fighting, but from 2006 the Taliban made significant gains and showed an increased willingness to commit atrocities against civilians. ISAF responded in 2006 by increasing troops for counterinsurgency operations to "clear and hold" villages and "nation building" projects to "win hearts and minds".[68][69] Violence sharply escalated from 2007 to 2009.[70] While ISAF continued to battle the Taliban insurgency, fighting crossed into neighboring North-West Pakistan.[71] Troop numbers began to surge in 2009 continued to increase through 2011 when roughly 140,000 foreign troops operated under ISAF and U.S. command in Afghanistan.[72] Of these 100,000 were from the U.S.[73][74] On 1 May 2011, United States Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

In May 2012, NATO leaders endorsed an exit strategy for withdrawing their forces. UN-backed peace talks have since taken place between the Afghan government and the Taliban.[75] In May 2014, the United States announced that its major combat operations would end in December 2014, and that it would leave a residual force in the country.[76] In October 2014, British forces handed over the last bases in Helmand to the Afghan military, officially ending their combat operations in the war.[77] On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan and officially transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government. The NATO-led Operation Resolute Support was formed the same day as a successor to ISAF.[78][79] As of May 2017, over 13,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan without any formal plans to withdraw,[80][81] and continue their fight against the Taliban, which remains by far the largest single group fighting against the Afghan government and foreign troops.[82]

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war. Over 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors, over 15,000 Afghan national security forces were killed, as well as over 31,000 civilians.[83]

Before the start of war

Origins of Afghanistan's civil war

Soviet troops in 1986, during the Soviet–Afghan War

Afghanistan's political order began to break down with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah by his distant cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan in a bloodless 1973 Afghan coup d'état. Daoud Khan had served as prime minister since 1953 and promoted economic modernization, emancipation of women, and Pashtun nationalism. This was threatening to neighboring Pakistan, faced with its own restive Pashtun population. In the mid-1970s, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to encourage Afghan Islamist leaders such as Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to fight against the regime. In 1978, Daoud Khan was killed in a coup by Afghan's Communist Party, his former partner in government, known as the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The PDPA pushed for a socialist transformation by abolishing arranged marriages, promoting mass literacy and reforming land ownership. This undermined the traditional tribal order and provoked opposition across rural areas. The PDPA's crackdown was met with open rebellion, including Ismail Khan's Herat Uprising. The PDPA was beset by internal leadership differences and was weakened by an internal coup on 11 September 1979 when Hafizullah Amin ousted Nur Muhammad Taraki. The Soviet Union, sensing PDPA weakness, intervened militarily three months later, to depose Amin and install another PDA faction led by Babrak Karmal.

The entry of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in December 1979 prompted its Cold War rivals, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China to support rebels fighting against the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In contrast to the secular and socialist government, which controlled the cities, religiously motivated mujahideen held sway in much of the countryside. Beside Rabbani, Hekmatyar, and Khan, other mujahideen commanders included Jalaluddin Haqqani. The CIA worked closely with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence to funnel foreign support for the mujahideen. The war also attracted Arab volunteers, known as "Afghan Arabs", including Osama bin Laden.

After the withdrawal of the Soviet military from Afghanistan in May 1989, the PDPA regime under Najibullah held on until 1992, when the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the regime of aid, and the defection of Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum cleared the approach to Kabul. With the political stage cleared of socialists, the warlords, some of them Islamist, vied for power. By then, Bin Laden had left the country and the United States' interest in Afghanistan also diminished.

Warlord rule (1992–1996)

Ahmad Shah Massoud (right) with Pashtun anti-Taliban leader and later Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Haji Abdul Qadir

In 1992, Rabbani officially became president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, but had to battle other warlords for control of Kabul. In late 1994, Rabbani's defense minister, Ahmad Shah Massoud, defeated Hekmatyar in Kabul and ended ongoing bombardment of the capital.[84][85][86] Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation. Other warlords, including Ismail Khan in the west and Dostum in the north, maintained their fiefdoms.

In 1994, Mohammed Omar, a mujahideen member who taught at a Pakistani madrassa, returned to Kandahar and formed the Taliban movement. His followers were religious students, known as the Talib and they sought to end warlordism through strict adherence to Islamic law. By November 1994, the Taliban had captured all of Kandahar Province. They declined the government's offer to join in a coalition government and marched on Kabul in 1995.[87]

Taliban Emirate vs Northern Alliance

The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of costly defeats.[88] Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban.[89][90] Analysts such as Amin Saikal described the group as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests, which the Taliban denied.[89] The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995, but were driven back by Massoud.[85][91]

On 27 September 1996, the Taliban, with military support by Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[92] They imposed their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in areas under their control, issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.[93] According to the Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.[94][95]

Massoud and Dostum, former arch-enemies, created a United Front against the Taliban, commonly known as the Northern Alliance.[96] In addition to Massoud's Tajik force and Dostum's Uzbeks, the United Front included Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq and Haji Abdul Qadir. Abdul Haq also gathered a limited number of defecting Pashtun Taliban.[97] Both agreed to work together with the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah.[95] International officials who met with representatives of the new alliance, which the journalist Steve Coll referred to as the "grand Pashtun-Tajik alliance", said, "It's crazy that you have this today … Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara … They were all ready to buy in to the process … to work under the king's banner for an ethnically balanced Afghanistan."[98][99] The Northern Alliance received varying degrees of support from Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India. The Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 and drove Dostum into exile.

The conflict was brutal. According to the United Nations (UN), the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. The Taliban especially targeted the Shia Hazaras.[100][101] In retaliation for the execution of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Uzbek general Abdul Malik Pahlawan in 1997, the Taliban executed about 4,000 civilians after taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.[102][103]

Bin Laden's 055 Brigade was responsible for mass killings of Afghan civilians.[104] The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing "Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people".[100][101]

By 2001, the Taliban controlled as much as 90% of Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance confined to the country's northeast corner. Fighting alongside Taliban forces were some 28,000–30,000 Pakistanis (usually also Pashtun) and 2,000–3,000 Al-Qaeda militants.[87][104][105][106] Many of the Pakistanis were recruited from madrassas.[104] A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department confirmed that "20–40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani." The document said that many of the parents of those Pakistani nationals "know nothing regarding their child's military involvement with the Taliban until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan". According to the U.S. State Department report and reports by Human Rights Watch, other Pakistani nationals fighting in Afghanistan were regular soldiers, especially from the Frontier Corps, but also from the Pakistani Army providing direct combat support.[90][107]

Al-Qaeda

In August 1996, Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan and arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He had founded Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s to support the Mujahideen's war against the Soviets, but became disillusioned by infighting among warlords. He grew close to Mullah Omar and moved Al-Qaeda's operations to eastern Afghanistan.[citation needed]

The 9/11 Commission in the U.S. found that under the Taliban, al-Qaeda was able to use Afghanistan as a place to train and indoctrinate fighters, import weapons, coordinate with other jihadists, and plot terrorist actions.[108] While al-Qaeda maintained its own camps in Afghanistan, it also supported training camps of other organizations. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 men passed through these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against the United Front. A smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda.[109]

After the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. officials pressed the Taliban to surrender bin Laden. In 1999, the international community imposed sanctions on the Taliban, calling for bin Laden to be surrendered. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed these demands.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Special Activities Division paramilitary teams were active in Afghanistan in the 1990s in clandestine operations to locate and kill or capture Osama bin Laden. These teams planned several operations, but did not receive the order to proceed from President Clinton. Their efforts built relationships with Afghan leaders that proved essential in the 2001 invasion.[110]

Change in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan

During the Clinton administration, the U.S. tended to favor Pakistan and until 1998–1999 had no clear policy toward Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, the U.S. State Department's Robin Raphel told Massoud to surrender to the Taliban. Massoud responded that, as long as he controlled an area the size of his hat, he would continue to defend it from the Taliban.[87] Around the same time, top foreign policy officials in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to try to persuade the United Front not to take advantage of a chance to make crucial gains against the Taliban. They insisted it was the time for a cease-fire and an arms embargo. At the time, Pakistan began a "Berlin-like airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban", financed with Saudi money.[111]

U.S. policy toward Afghanistan changed after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden was indicted for his involvement in the embassy bombings. In 1999 both the U.S. and the United Nations enacted sanctions against the Taliban via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267, which demanded the Taliban surrender Osama bin Laden for trial in the U.S. and close all terrorist bases in Afghanistan.[112] The only collaboration between Massoud and the U.S. at the time was an effort with the CIA to trace bin Laden following the 1998 bombings.[113] The U.S. and the European Union provided no support to Massoud for the fight against the Taliban.

By 2001 the change of policy sought by CIA officers who knew Massoud was underway.[114] CIA lawyers, working with officers in the Near East Division and Counter-terrorist Center, began to draft a formal finding for President George W. Bush's signature, authorizing a covert action program in Afghanistan. It would be the first in a decade to seek to influence the course of the Afghan war in favor of Massoud.[92] Richard A. Clarke, chair of the Counter-Terrorism Security Group under the Clinton administration, and later an official in the Bush administration, allegedly presented a plan to incoming Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in January 2001.

A change in U.S. policy was effected in August 2001.[92] The Bush administration agreed on a plan to start supporting Massoud. A meeting of top national security officials agreed that the Taliban would be presented with an ultimatum to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives. If the Taliban refused, the U.S. would provide covert military aid to anti-Taliban groups. If both those options failed, "the deputies agreed that the United States would seek to overthrow the Taliban regime through more direct action."[115]

Northern Alliance on the eve of 9/11

Ahmad Shah Massoud was the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control, Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Declaration.[116] As a consequence, many civilians had fled to areas under his control.[117][118] In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban.[119]

In late 2000, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik nationalist and leader of the Northern Alliance, invited several other prominent Afghan tribal leaders to a jirga in northern Afghanistan "to settle political turmoil in Afghanistan".[120] Among those in attendance were Pashtun nationalists, Abdul Haq and Hamid Karzai.[121][122]

In early 2001, Massoud and several other Afghan leaders addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, asking the international community to provide humanitarian help. The Afghan envoy asserted that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden, the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for another year. Massoud warned that his intelligence had gathered information about an imminent, large-scale attack on U.S. soil.[123]

On 9 September 2001, two French-speaking Algerians posing as journalists killed Massoud in a suicide attack in Takhar Province of Afghanistan. The two perpetrators were later alleged to be members of al-Qaeda. They were interviewing Massoud before detonating a bomb hidden in their video camera.[124][125] Both of the alleged al-Qaeda men were subsequently killed by Massoud's guards.

11 September attacks

Ground Zero in New York following the attacks of 11 September 2001

On the morning of 11 September 2001, a total of 19 Arab men carried out four coordinated attacks in the United States. Four commercial passenger jet airliners were hijacked.[126][127] The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell[128] – intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and more than 2,000 people in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C., to target the White House, or the U.S. Capitol. No one aboard the flights survived. According to the New York State Health Department, the death toll among responders including firefighters and police was 836 as of June 2009.[129] Total deaths were 2,996, including the 19 hijackers.[129]

Other Languages
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rat u Afganistanu (2001–2014)