The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring
The War in Afghanistan
is the first major conflict of the 21st Century. Though the origins
of the war involve the ongoing Afghan Civil War and the Soviet
Invasion and Occupation of the 1970s and 1980s, the current war began
in October, 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks on the United States.
carrying a wounded comrade in Afghanistan
The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring
The War in Afghanistan is
the first major conflict of the 21st Century. Though the origins of
the war involve the ongoing Afghan Civil War and the Soviet Invasion
and Occupation of the 1970s and 1980s, the current war began in
October, 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
on the United States.
YouTube Video: Heavily armed
fighters launched two of the biggest insurgent attacks in Afghanistan
in years, culminating early Tuesday with six suicide bombers charging
the second-largest U.S. base. (Aug. 19)
Danish forces in Afghanistan
U.S. Special Forces Combat the
Following the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the fall of the Afghan
Communist government in 1992, a protracted civil war raged on between
the various factions of anti-Communist Afghan fighters, who called
themselves the Mujahadeen (See the Afghan
In this realm of chaos,
some former Mujahadeen found a leader in Mullah Mohammed Omar. A
Mullah is an Islamic religious leader. A former Mujahadeen fighter
who returned to his home village after the fall of the Communist
regime, this member of the Pashtun ethnic group led a new armed group
called the Taliban. The word Taliban means "student," and many of the
original recruits to Omar's movement were Islamic religious students.
Other former Mujahadeen leaders of Pashtun background joined with the
Talibanas this new group sought to impose law and order on
the country. The particular law they sought to impose was an extreme
version of Islamic law. Under Taliban-imposed law, women are not
allowed to work outside the home or attend school. Men are expected
to grow beards and attend religious services regularly. Television is
banned, and religious minorities such as the Hindus were required to
wear some sort of identifying clothing. Also, in 2001, the Taliban
ordered the destruction of all non-Islamic idols and statues in areas
under their control. They also attracted the support of Osama bin
Laden and his al-Qaida organization.
In 1994, the Taliban
attacked and defeated local warlords and began to gather a reputation
for order and military success. Pakistan soon began supporting them,
partially as a means of establishing a stable, friendly government in
Kabul. The continual fighting between the former Mujahadeen armies
caused waves of refugees to flood Pakistan's border regions and
interfered with Pakistani trade in the region. In late 1994, the
Taliban took control of Kandahar, acquiring a large supply of modern
weapons, including fighter aircraft, tanks and helicopters. In
January of 1995, the Taliban approached Kabul.
From that point onward,
until they seized Kabul in September, 1996, the Taliban fought
against several militias and warlords, eventually defeating them all.
Several anti-Taliban leaders and their forces fled to the northern
part of the country to continue fighting against the Taliban. One of
these leaders, or warlords, was Ahmed Shah Massoud.
From his loss of Kabul
until 1999, Ahmed Shah Massoud's forces remained within artillery
range of the capital city, which he attacked regularly. After his
pullout from Kabul, Massoud also began receiving military supplies
from both Russia (now non-Communist) and Iran, both of whom feared
the growing power of the Taliban. Russia has fought Muslim rebels in
its own Chechnya region and on behalf of the government of
Tajikistan. Moscow feared the Taliban as a source of aid and support
for the rebels it has fought in Chechnya and Tajikistan. Iran,
dominated by Shiite Islamic fundamentalists, was at odds with the
Sunni Muslim Taliban, largely over the treatment of the Afghan Shiite
minority called the Hazaris.
By 1997, Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as the
legitimate government of Afghanistan. Pakistan's role in the Taliban
success is controversial, as it is generally believed that several
Taliban military victories are directly attributable to armed
After seizing Mazar-i
Sharif, the Taliban provoked the hostility of the area's Shiite
Hazari minority (who do not meet the Taliban'sstrict
religious standards), and the warlord, General Malik, ended his
dalliance with the Taliban. The result was the execution of at least
3,000 captured Taliban soldiers by Malik and the Hazaris. In August,
1998, the Taliban retook Mazar-i Sharif and summarily massacred at
least 2,000 Hazaris. Also, several Iranian citizens, including
diplomats, were killed, nearly touching off an Iran-Taliban war. As
this crisis heightened, Iran massed nearly 250,000 troops on the
Iran-Afghan border. Throughout the years of the Taliban's ascendancy,
Iran supplied arms and military training to the "United
Front/Northern Alliance" forces in Northern Afghanistan who were
fighting the Taliban. The Northern Alliance includes the Uzbek forces
of General Dostum, the Tajik troops of former President Rabbani and
the Shiite Hazaris led by Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq.
In 1998, following the
terrorist bombings of American embassies in Africa, the United States
launched a cruise missile attack on training camps belonging to bin
Laden's Al-Qaida organization in Afghanistan.
Through the Autumn of 2001,
theTaliban continued to pressure the Northern Alliance, often
with the aid of Osama bin Laden and his Arab forces. On September 9,
2001, the Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoudwas
mortally wounded in an assassination attempt carried out by two Arab
men posing as journalists. This attack was the work of bin Laden's
organization as a possible prelude to the airline
hijackings and terrorism
in the United States on September 11. The Northern Allianceresponded to Massoud's killing with an aerial attack on Kabul the
night of September 11.
It is now known that the
killing of Massoud was coordinated with the terror attacks on the
United States which took place on September 11. As the United States
assigned blame for the attacks on bin Laden and al-Qaida, plans began
to take the fight to al-Qaida and its Taliban sponsors as the first
phase of what became known as the Global War on Terror.
The War in Afghanistan
began on October 7, 2001 with allied air strikes on Taliban and
al-Qaida targets. On the ground, American, British and other Allied
special forces troops worked with the Northern Alliance to begin a
military offensive to overthrow the Taliban. This alliance between
the Northern Alliance and the Allies led to coordination between
Allied air attacks and ground attacks by the Northern Alliance. These
attacks led to the fall of Kabul on Nov. 13, 2001, as the Taliban
retreated from most of northern Afghanistan.
As more Allied troops
entered the war and the Northern Alliance forces fought their way
southwards, the Taliban and al-Qaida retreated toward the mountainous
border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
From 2002 onward, the
Taliban focused on survival and on rebuilding its forces. From 2005
to the present (winter 2007), the Taliban has increased its attacks
and is using suicide bombers and other tactics from
On February 27, 2007, while on a diplomatic trip
to Afghanistan, an apparent assassination attempt was made by Taliban
insurgents, who claimed that Cheney was a target in the attack. A
suicide bomber blew up a checkpoint at Bagram Air Base outside of
Kabul, killing 20, including an American soldier. Cheney was unhurt
in the attack.
In the spring and summer of 2008, the violence in
Afghanistan claimed more coalition (foreign) troops than died in the
concurrent Iraq War. The Taliban, enjoying strong bases in Pakistan,
enjoyed a resurgence and showed that it could launch large,
coordinated, and effective attacks on coalition and Afghan forces.
One of the deadliest attacks came on French troops in mid-August,
with a force of about 100 Taliban ambushing French forces near Kabul.
Ten French troops were killed, and 21 wounded. The same day also saw
an attack by a squad of suicide bombers on an American base near the
The new Obama Administration called for
significantly increasing the size of the American military presence
in Afghanistan, and allies in Europe are expecting President Obama to
pressure them to provide more troops as well.
In a significant change in direction, President
Obama came to an agreement with the government of new Afghan
President Ashraf Ghani to extend the combat mission of U.S. troops
well into the year 2016.