The operation also marked the entrance of other countries’ troops into the war: special operations forces from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway participated. This, loosely, was the beginning of the network of roving jihadists that would become Al Qaeda later. The new approach largely failed to achieve its aims. On December 24, 1979, Soviet tanks rumbled across the Amu Darya River and into Afghanistan, ostensibly to restore stability following a coup that brought to power a pair of Marxist-Leninist political groups—the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party. Read on to understand how the war began in, but not against, Afghanistan in 2001, and who the actors are now. U.S. Special Forces working with members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, November 12, 2001. The mujahideen battled the Soviets in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains. Initially, the war appeared to have been won with relative ease. Western-backed campaigns to eliminate poppy cultivation or to encourage farmers to grow other crops had little discernible impact; Afghanistan soon became the supplier of over 90 percent of the world’s opium. This long war … The aid program was also bedeviled by waste and by confusion over whether civilian or military authorities had responsibility for leading education, health, agriculture, and other development projects. The first phase—toppling the Taliban (the ultraconservative political and religious faction that ruled Afghanistan and provided sanctuary for al-Qaeda , perpetrators of the September 11 attacks)—was brief, lasting just two months. In early 2007, Mullah Obaidullah Akhund—the Taliban’s number three leader—was captured in Pakistan, and months later Mullah Dadullah—the Taliban’s top military commander—was killed in fighting with U.S. forces. Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images. Those feelings were nurtured by the sluggish pace of reconstruction, allegations of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities, widespread corruption in the Afghan government, and civilian casualties caused by U.S. and NATO bombings. The plot had been hatched by al-Qaeda, and some of the 19 hijackers had trained in Afghanistan. At War Afghan War Casualty Report: December 2020. For commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, however, it was apparent that the Taliban intended to escalate its campaign, launching more frequent attacks and intensifying its fund-raising from wealthy individuals and groups in the Persian Gulf. 1980s: Osama bin Laden Recruits Arabs for Jihad in Afghanistan, 1996: Taliban Take Over Kabul, and End Mujahideen Rule, 2001: U.S. Airstrikes Topple Taliban Government, But Not Taliban Insurgency, American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present, The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 1979 - 1989, Profile of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Bin Laden's Declaration of War on the United States, 1996. Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the Taliban’s spiritual home, fell on December 6, marking the end of Taliban power. The CIA program of targeted killings was publicly denied by U.S. officials but was widely acknowledged in private. The attack was military retaliation for the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda on American targets. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, Mikhail Evstafiev (creative commons license), 1979-1989: Afghan Mujahideen Battle the Soviets. With behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the United States, Karzai was selected to lead the country on an interim basis. Enough is enough! It was also during this period that bin Laden's ideology and goals, and the role of jihad within them, evolved. How Did US Foreign Policy Change After 9/11? Afghanistan still dealing with human cost of conflict as Australia debates war crimes ABC Online 18:04 15-Dec-20 The Taliban have grown megarich since the US invasion in 2001. In May 2006 a U.S. military vehicle crashed and killed several Afghans, an event that sparked violent anti-American riots in Kabul—the worst since the war began. As United States troops enter the 20th year in the war … More than anywhere else, Kunduz is a symbol of the Bundeswehr’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan War, international conflict in Afghanistan beginning in 2001 that was triggered by the September 11 attacks and consisted of three phases. Parliamentary elections were staged a year later, with dozens of women claiming seats set aside for them to ensure gender diversity. Karzai’s government was beset by corruption, and efforts to build a national army and a police force were troubled from the start by inadequate international support and ethnic differences between Afghans. Despite vast powers under the constitution, Karzai was widely regarded as a weak leader who grew increasingly isolated as the war progressed. The case for leaving Afghanistan, the notorious "graveyard of empires," is relatively straightforward. The Taliban’s resurgence corresponded with a rise in anti-American and anti-Western sentiment among Afghans. Afghanistan had been in a state of almost constant war for 20 years even before the US invaded. Holed up in a bombed out pleasure palace built by Sadaam Hussein, the soldiers endured hostile situations some four months after President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations in the country. The taxi driver was scooped up with the passengers and interrogated by U.S. forces. While an opponent of nation building in Afghanistan, President Trump in 2017 ordered the bombing of ISIL (ISIS) fighters in Iraq, dropping a massive bomb that killed 96 according to Al Jazeera and destroyed many tunnels and underground structures. But those were the exceptions. Pakistani officials in turn denounced the strikes in public but privately approved of them as long as civilian casualties were limited. George W. Bush coalesced around a strategy of first ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan and dismantling al-Qaeda, though others contemplated actions in Iraq, including long-standing plans for toppling Pres. More than 20 other countries also lost troops during the war, though many—such as Germany and Italy—chose to focus their forces in the north and the west, where the insurgency was less potent. Tensions remained and violence escalated, with 2008 the most deadly year since the invasion in 2001. By spring 2010 more than 1,000 U.S. troops had been killed in Afghanistan, while the British troops suffered some 300 deaths and the Canadians some 150. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). He survived several assassination attempts—including a September 2004 rocket attack that nearly struck a helicopter he was riding in—and security concerns kept him largely confined to the presidential palace in Kabul. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Less than a year later, a bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed more than 50; the Afghan government accused elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service of complicity in the attack, a charge Pakistan denied. U.S. Army soldiers on security duty in Paktīkā province, Afghanistan, 2010. Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies, New York University, B.A., English Literature, Columbia University. Top insurgent leaders remained at large, many of them in the tribal regions of Pakistan that adjoin Afghanistan. The third phase, a turn to classic counterinsurgency doctrine, began in 2008 and accelerated with U.S. Pres. Read on to understand how the war began in, but not against, Afghanistan in 2001, and who the actors are now. On September 9 of that year, al-Qaeda hit men carried out the assassination of famed mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Masoud, who at the time was leading the Northern Alliance (a loose coalition of mujahideen militias that maintained control of a small section of northern Afghanistan) as it battled the Taliban and who had unsuccessfully sought greater U.S. backing for his efforts. By 1989, the mujahideen had driven the Soviets from Afghanistan, and three years later, in 1992, they managed to wrest control of the government in Kabul from the Marxist president, Muhammad Najibullah. The force, overseen by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the organization’s first mission outside Europe, was also hamstrung by a lack of troops as international commitments to Afghanistan flagged. At 1 pm on the afternoon of the 7th, President Bush addressed the United States and the world: The Taliban were toppled shortly thereafter, and a government headed by Hamid Karzai installed. Between January 2005 and August 2006, Afghanistan endured 64 suicide attacks—a tactic that had been virtually unknown in the country’s history before then. International pressure had forced the Taliban to curb poppy cultivation during their final year in power, but after their removal in 2001 the opium industry made a comeback, with revenues in some areas of the country benefiting the insurgency. The United States relied primarily on the Northern Alliance, which had just lost Massoud but had regrouped under other commanders, including Tajik leader Mohammed Fahim and Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek. In the Soviets’ absence, the mujahideen ousted Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed government and established a transitional government. [9] British forces invaded Afghanistan alongside the United States in October 2001. It had been besieged by a force led by Karzai that moved in from the north and one commanded by Gul Agha Sherzai that advanced from the south; both operated with heavy assistance from the United States. According to an investigation by the Globe and Mail, more th… George W. Bush with sailors aboard the USS. Whereas early in the war the Taliban had focused on battling U.S. and NATO forces in open combat—a strategy that largely failed to inflict significant damage—their adoption of the use of suicide bombings and buried bombs, known as IEDs (improvised explosive devices), began to cause heavy casualties. Pentagon officials were especially concerned that the United States not be drawn into a protracted occupation of Afghanistan, as had occurred with the Soviets more than two decades prior. The CIA team was soon joined by U.S. and British special forces contingents, and together they provided arms, equipment, and advice to the Afghans. The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 and has cost the U.S. $978 billion. Nearly 1 in 10 Canadian military personnel who took part in the War in Afghanistan collected disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Later that year NATO took command of the war across the country; American officials said that the United States would play a lesser role and that the face of the war would become increasingly international. Pres. The United States, meanwhile, had had only limited success in killing or capturing Taliban commanders. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. At that time, the Soviet Union and the United States were engaged in the Cold War, a global competition for the fealty of other nations. They also helped coordinate targeting for the air campaign, which began on October 7, 2001, with U.S. and British war planes pounding Taliban targets, thus marking the public start of Operation Enduring Freedom. Cultivated by Pakistan, the Taliban emerged first in Kandahar, gained control of Kabul in 1996 and controlled most of the entire country by 1998. In every war, there are war crimes and the films about them. The Kill Team (2013) The Kill Team. In late October, Northern Alliance forces began to overtake a series of towns formerly held by the Taliban. Eventually, the war in Afghanistan turned into a black hole that absorbed copious amounts of Soviet military, economic, and human resources. The U.S. War in Afghanistan. At its peak in 2009, there were around 100,000 Americans in Afghanistan, whose purpose was to weaken the Taliban and to help prop up Afghan institutions. On the same day, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” At that time, there were 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Andrew Bacevich is the author most recently of “Twilight of the American Century.” Opinion Op-Ed In April 2002 Bush announced a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute, promising substantial financial assistance. There, they cultivated Arab recruits to fight with the Afghan mujahideen. The war in Afghanistan will end, as the Vietnam War ended: in shame and abandonment. As the Taliban leadership retreated into Afghanistan’s rural areas and across the border to Pakistan, anti-Taliban figures convened at a United Nations (UN)-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany. U.S. special operations forces conducting a mounted combat patrol in search of Taliban fighters in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 2007. Their war against each other devastated Kabul: tens of thousands of civilians lost their lives, and infrastructure was destroyed by rocket fire. However, with Taliban forces again gaining power, by 2016 Obama recommited troops to remain in the country. This reality prompted the United States to begin targeting insurgent leaders who lived in Pakistan with missiles fired from remotely piloted drones. The Soviet Union intervened in support of the Afghan communist government in its conflict with anti-communist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War (1978–92) and remained in Afghanistan until mid-February 1989. The United States attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan for hiding al-Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden. "The Kill Team" is a documentary about a kill team that existed within a small group of infantry soldiers in Afghanistan. The attacks of September 11, 2001 surprised many Americans; the decision a month later to wage a war in Afghanistan, to end the ability of the government to offer safe haven to Al Qaeda, may have seemed equally surprising. An intensive manhunt for Omar, bin Laden, and al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was undertaken. Prior to the killing of bin Laden by U.S. forces in 2011 (see below), the Americans were believed to have come closest to bin Laden in the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora (bin Laden’s mountain stronghold). Combat footage of U.S. Marines and U.S. Army Soldiers in Afghanistan. This chaos, and the exhaustion of the Afghans, permitted the Taliban to gain power. Afghan policemen destroying opium poppies during an eradication sweep in Orūzgān province, 2007. For years, and under harsh conditions, … (Indeed, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry made this criticism repeatedly during the 2004 general election campaign.) The Taliban insurgency remains resilient nearly two decades after U.S.-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war. Severe infighting among the mujahideen factions continued, however, under the presidency of mujahid leader Burhanuddin Rabbani. The September 11 attacks and the U.S.-British invasion, https://www.britannica.com/event/Afghanistan-War, Council on Foreign Relations - U.S. War in Afghanistan, The Canadian Encyclopedia - War in Afghanistan. By the time the U.S. and NATO combat mission formally ended in December 2014, the 13-year Afghanistan War had become the longest war ever fought by the United States. Among those drawn to Afghanistan were a wealthy, ambitious, and pious young Saudi named Osama bin Laden and the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, Ayman Al Zawahiri. This shift reflected the greater need for U.S. troops and resources in Iraq, where sectarian warfare was reaching alarming levels. That choice was directed by the Pentagon, which insisted on a “light footprint” out of concern that Afghanistan would become a drag on U.S. resources as attention shifted to Iraq (see Iraq War). Amy Zalman, Ph.D., is a global security expert and the CEO of Prescient, a management consulting firm that helps organizational leaders anticipate and manage critical global changes. The forces worked with U.S. assistance, but they defied U.S. wishes when, on November 13, they marched into Kabul as the Taliban retreated without a fight. In 2003 NATO deployed troops to Afghanistan for a peace-keeping mission. 1999 – 2020. In 2011, Osama Bin Laden is killed in Pakistan during a nail-biting, mission in Pakistan. This long war must end. The word has its origins in Islam and is related to the word jihad, but in the context of the Afghan war, it may be best understood as referring to "resistance.". The legendary fierceness of the mujahideen fighters, their stringent, extreme version of Islam and their cause drew interest and support from Arab Muslims seeking an opportunity to experience, and experiment with, waging jihad. On May 1, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced an end to “major combat” in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2005, violence climbed as the Taliban reasserted its presence with new tactics modeled on those being used by insurgents in Iraq. The U.S. war on Afghanistan is in its 19th year. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Saddam Hussein. F rom 2009 to 2013, as Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, I was the strategic commander for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. But the insurgent Taliban emerged in 2006 in force and begun using suicide tactics copied from jihadist groups elsewhere in the region. The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)-(2001-Present): The War in Afghanistan is the first major conflict of the 21st Century. The first democratic Afghan elections since the fall of the Taliban were held on October 9, 2004, with approximately 80 percent of registered voters turning out to give Karzai a full five-year term as president. But from the start, development efforts in Afghanistan were inadequately funded, as attention had turned among U.S. officials to the looming confrontation in Iraq. In 2014, combat missions formally ended with the signing of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan. In order to forestall that possibility, the United States began funding insurgent forces to oppose the Soviets, The U.S.-funded Afghan insurgents were called mujahideen, an Arabic word that means "strugglers" or "strivers." Canada spent an estimated $18-billion fighting in Afghanistan and trying to reconstruct the country. It was on the ground and operating in Afghanistan just 15 days after the 2001 attacks, thus technically beginning the Afghanistan War. With the ouster of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the international focus shifted to reconstruction and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. We had … American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, a group known as the "Gunners," tell of their experiences in Baghdad during the Iraq War. The mujahideen were politically fragmented, however, and in 1994 armed conflict escalated. Critics later questioned why the U.S. military had allowed Afghan forces to lead the assault on the cave complex at Tora Bora rather than doing it themselves. With al-Qaeda’s help, the Taliban won control of over 90 percent of Afghan territory by the summer of 2001. Subsequent coups reflected struggles within Afghanistan among factions with different ideas about how Afghanistan should be governed and whether it should be communist, and with degrees of warmth toward the Soviet Union. But bin Laden was thought to have managed to have slipped into Pakistan with the help of Afghan and Pakistani forces that were supposedly helping the Americans. These selections were made by a war movie expert and Afghanistan combat veteran who has lived through it. In late December 1979, after several months of evident military preparation, they invaded Afghanistan. The war has also taken a tremendous toll on citizens of the war-torn nation. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? 01. of 09. What was accomplished after 13 years of conflict, which included eight years of heavy fighting in Helmand, still remains open to debate. U.S. officials hoped that by partnering with the Afghans they could avoid deploying a large force to Afghanistan. It instituted a severe interpretation of Islamic law that, for example, forbade female education and prescribed the severing of hands, or even execution, as punishment for petty crimes. Afghanistan had experienced several coups since 1973 when the Afghan monarchy was overthrown by Daud Khan, who was sympathetic to Soviet overtures. Bush demanded that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar “deliver to [the] United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land,” and when Omar refused, U.S. officials began implementing a plan for war. At least 21 pro-government forces and eight civilians have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month. One of the final major battles of the first phase of the war came in March 2002 with Operation Anaconda in the eastern province of Paktia, which involved U.S. and Afghan forces fighting some 800 al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. The conflict had its origins in the 1978 coup that overthrew Afghan president Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, who had come to power by ousting the king in 1973. The British war in Afghanistan. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Seven Canadian civilians were also killed — a diplomat, four aid workers, a government contractor and a journalist. The campaign in Afghanistan started covertly on September 26, with a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) team known as Jawbreaker arriving in the country and, working with anti-Taliban allies, initiating a strategy for overthrowing the regime. Early in the war in Afghanistan, a taxi driver was hired to drive some other Afghans across ​the country when the taxi was stopped by U.S. forces interested in the passengers. 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