War in Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)-(2001-2021)

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. This war ended for America on August 30, 2021, with a chaotic withdrawal from Kabul. The Afghanistan War was America's longest war in history.

Afghanistan War Casualties

Soldiers carrying a wounded comrade in Afghanistan

Causes of the Conflict |  Description Of Conflict |Casualty Figures | News Links | Advertise on this website

The War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)-(2001-2021):

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.

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.


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 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 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.


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 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 Pakistani border.

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. Despite this agreement, and the claim that the U.S. was done with this war, American forces continued to serve in, and fight in, Afghanistan against Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS forces.

The Trump Administration engaged in negotiations towards ending American involvement. However, it was not until the first year of the Biden Administration that the U.S. declared a total withdrawal. American military experts believed the Afghan military could hold out against the Taliban without American military assistance, but as the American forces engaged in withdrawal in August 2021, the Taliban took over the entire nation with surprising ease. America's exit from Afghanistan devolved into chaos, as U.S. planes took off from Kabul with thousands of pro-U.S. Afghan refugees, and bombings claimed the last 13 American war dead. 

U.S. Army Major General Chris Donahue, last U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan on August 30, 2021


BEGAN: October 7, 2001, with the beginning of the American and Coalition attack on the Taliban

ENDED: American forces unilaterally withdrew on August 30, 2021, ending America's longest war.

Belligerents in the Conflict:

The Afghan Government, The United States, NATO (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Spain, and others), and NATO Allies such as New Zealand.


The Taliban and al-Qaida


Operation Enduring Freedom (USA)

Operation Veritas (UK)

Predecessor Conflicts: (Related conflicts that occurred before or led up to the current conflict) 

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)

Al-Qaida's Terrorist War (1996-Present)

No-Fly Zone War (1991-2003)

The War in Iraq (2003-Present)

The Waziristan War

Libyan War

The Syrian Civil War

The Islamic State War






al-Qaida dead: At least 3,500

Taliban dead: At least 53,000+

Afghan Government Forces killed:

69,000 reported killed battling the Taliban Insurgency and al-Qaida from 2001 to 2021.

Aghan civilians killed: 43,000+


Coalition Military Fatalities By Country:

Coalition deaths in Afghanistan by country


US: 2,456 (includes U.S. Military deaths in Pakistan and Uzbekistan) through August 30, 2021

UK: 455

Canada: 158

Australia: 41

Germany: 57 (includes three German police officers)

France: 88

Denmark: 43

Italy 53

Spain: 30

(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)


Italy: 33

Netherlands: 24

Poland: 22

Romania: 17

Australia: 21

Estonia: 8

Norway: 9

Czech Republic: 3

Latvia: 3

Hungary: 4

Portugal: 2

Sweden: 2

South Korea: 2

Turkey: 2

Finland: 1

Lithuania: 1

Jordan: 1



Operation Veritas --United Kingdom Ministry of Defense site covering the UK's contribution to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom .

The Black Rod: War in Afghanistan 2009 Week One--Ongoing blog about the war in Afghanistan.

War in Afghanistan --Wikipedia article

New York Times: Iraq, Afghanistan & The Reach of War--Features news and updates on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including interactive graphics and background information. Registration required.

ZNet: The War in Afghanistan --47 questions and answers, with additional links for further information.

Special Report: War in Afghanistan --News stories and reports. From Guardian Unlimited.

National Geographic Adventure: Inside the Afghan War Machine --Features an excerpt from a March 2002 article by Robert Young Pelton.

Afghanistan Today --2002 photo essay about a post-Taliban Afghanistan. From TIME magazine.

Operation Fingal --Details the operations by the International Security Assistance Force.

The Fall of Kabul --Photo-essay from the BBC.

American Casualties in Afghanistan

A Country Study: Afghanistan--

Operation Anaconda

Washington Post: Bravery and Breakdowns in a Ridge top Battle --Reports on the ambush at Takur Ghar and the resulting battle and rescue.

al-Qaida Stronghold under siege --BBC News report on the March 2002 Operation Anaconda, an offensive into the mountains and caves of eastern Afghanistan.

Washington Post: Killed in Battle --Profiles the seven soldiers who died in the ambush and rescues efforts at Takur Ghar.

Report from front of Operation Anaconda --March 2002 article from CNN on the casualties suffered and the resistance met during the first days of the offensive.

Operation Herrick Casualty and Fatality Tables--From the UK Ministry of Defense

In the line of duty: Canada's casualties--From the CBC

News Links
Afghan War Now Country's Longest --ABC news, June 7, 2010

Winning the Afghan war, Dutch style--AFP, Jan. 23, 2010

NATO Forces in Race to Secure Kandahar -New York Times, Jan. 23, 2010

Afghanistan: NATO Intensifies Its First Asian War --Australia.to News, Jan. 13, 2010

Obama's Afghanistan Speech at West Point on December 1, 2009

German Limits on War Facing Afghan Reality--New York Times, Oct. 26, 2009

Fewer airstrikes in Afghanistan mirrors tactical shift --USA Today, April, 7, 2009 

Afghan militants kill 10 French, strike at US base--Associated Press, August 19, 2008

NATO Needs More Troops for Afghanistan--Lolita C. Baldor. The Associated Press, 02 March 2007.

Pressed by U.S., Pakistan Seizes a Taliban Chief
Carlotta Gall. The New York Times, 02 March 2007.

UK to Tackle Afghan Drug Lords in No-Go Valley
Julian Borger. The Guardian, 02 March 2007.

U.S. Forces Pursue Taliban into Pakistan
Lolita C. Baldor. The Associated Press, 01 March 2007.

The State of Afghanistan's Jihad
Matthias Gebauer. Der Spiegel, 01 March 2007.

Opium Trade Undermines Afghan Democracy, U.S. Says
Arshad Mohammed. Reuters, 01 March 2007.

Good and Bad News from the Poppy Fields
Bronwen Maddox. The Times, UK, 01 March 2007.

Afghanistan Lacks Capacity to Govern
Said Jawad. Interviewed by Robert McMahon. Council on Foreign Relations, 28 February 2007.

Cheney Targeted in Afghan Blast
The Associated Press, 27 February 2007.

Ruined Poppy Farmers Join Ranks With the Taleban
Tim Albone and Claire Billet. The Times, UK, 27 February 2007.

Watching Afghanistan Fall
Matthew Cole. Salon.com, 27 February 2007.

Is Pakistan Doing All It Should to Secure Its Afghan Border?
Bill Roggio and Kathy Gannon. Council on Foreign Relations, 27 February 2007.

Informer Killings Show Growing Taleban Control
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 26 February 2007.

Extra 1,400 UK Troops to be Sent to Afghanistan
Michael Evans. The Times, UK, 26 February 2007.

Former Afghan Warlords Rally for Amnesty
Mark Sappenfield. The Christian Science Monitor, 26 February 2007.

Afghanistan: Taliban Preps for Bloody Assault
Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau. Newsweek, 05 March 2007 issue. Posted on 26 February 2007.

Town's Elders Plead for Help With Taliban
Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall. The New York Times, 26 February 2007.

27 July 1880. A Date Mr Blair Should Look Up
Robert Fisk. The Independent, 25 February 2007.

Breaking Point: Measuring Progress In Afghanistan 2007
Seema Patel. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 23 February 2007. Posted on the Commonwealth Institute website (.pdf file).

Fighting the Wrong War in Afghanistan
Dad Noorani. Asia Times, 23 February 2007.

Taliban 'In Control' in Helmand