The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)-(2001-Present):
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.
UPDATE: U.S. Navy Seals helicoptered into Pakistan on May 1, 2011 and killed Osama
bin Laden the founder and leader of al-Qaida and the architect of many attacks on
Americans, most significantly the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The Seals
took custody of bin Laden's body after the firefight in which he was killed. President
Obama announced bin Laden's death on national television that night.
CAUSES OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN:
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 Civil War).
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 Taliban as
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
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 Pakistani intervention.
After seizing Mazar-i Sharif, the Taliban provoked the hostility of the area's Shiite
Hazari minority (who do not meet the Taliban's strict 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, the Taliban 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 Massoud was 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 Alliance responded 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.
DESCRIPTION OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN:
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
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 the Iraq War.
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.
DATES OF CONFLICT:
BEGAN: October 7, 2001, with the beginning of the American and Coalition attack on
ENDED: Continuing, as American, NATO, and Afghan government forces fight against
Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents
Predecessor Conflicts: (Related conflicts that occurred before or led up to the current
The Afghan Civil War (1978-Present)
Soviet Invasion and Occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989)
Concurrent Conflicts: (Related conflicts occurring at the same time)
The Afghan Civil War (1978-Present)
bin Laden's Terrorist War (1992?-Present)
No-Fly Zone War (1991-2003)
The War in Iraq (2003-Present)
The Waziristan War
CASUALTY FIGURES: (as of 10.24.10)
al-Qaida dead: At least 2,500
Taliban dead: At least 30,000+
Afghan Government Forces killed:
6,100 reported killed battling the Taliban Insurgency and al-Qaida.
Afghan civilians killed: 34,000+
Coalition Military Fatalities By Country: As of 05.28.12
Total Coalition Casualties (Non-Afghan): 2,169
US: 1,985 (includes U.S. Military deaths in Pakistan and Uzbekistan)
(In addition to the 25 killed in Afghanistan, an additional 62 Spanish soldiers returning
from Afghanistan were killed in Turkey on May 26, 2003 when their plane crashed)