War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

Overview
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and the Afghan United Front
United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan
The United Islamic Front , known in the West and Pakistan as the Northern Alliance, was a military-political umbrella organization created by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1996 under the leadership of Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud...

 (Northern Alliance) launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The primary driver of the invasion was the September 11 attacks on the United States, with the stated goal of dismantling the Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 terrorist organization and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base.
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The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and the Afghan United Front
United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan
The United Islamic Front , known in the West and Pakistan as the Northern Alliance, was a military-political umbrella organization created by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1996 under the leadership of Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud...

 (Northern Alliance) launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The primary driver of the invasion was the September 11 attacks on the United States, with the stated goal of dismantling the Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 terrorist organization and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base. The United States also said that it would remove the Taliban regime from power and create a viable democratic state. A decade into the war, the U.S. continues to battle a widespread Taliban insurgency
Taliban insurgency
The Taliban insurgency took root shortly after the group's fall from power following the 2001 war in Afghanistan. The Taliban continue to attack Afghan, U.S., and other ISAF troops and many terrorist incidents attributable to them have been registered. The war has also spread over the southern and...

, and the war has expanded into the tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan
War in North-West Pakistan
The War in North-West Pakistan is an armed conflict between the Pakistan Armed Forces and armed religious groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan , Lashkar-e-Islam, TSNM, Arab and Central Asian militants including Al-Qaeda, regional armed movements and elements of organized crime.The armed...

.

The preludes to the war were the assassination of anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 9, 2001, and the September 11 attacks on the United States, in which nearly 3000 civilians lost their lives in New York City, Arlington, Virginia
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The land that became Arlington was originally donated by Virginia to the United States government to form part of the new federal capital district. On February 27, 1801, the United States Congress organized the area as a subdivision of...

. and Pennsylvania. The United States identified members of al-Qaeda, an organization based in, operating out of and allied with the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was founded in 1996 when the Taliban began their rule of Afghanistan and ended with their fall from power in 2001...

, as the perpetrators of the attacks.

In the first phase of Operation Enduring Freedom, ground forces of the Afghan United Front working with U.S. and British Special Forces and with massive U.S. air support, ousted the Taliban regime from power in Kabul and most of Afghanistan in a matter of weeks. Most of the senior Taliban leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan. The democratic Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was established and an interim government under Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

 was created which was also democratically elected by the Afghan people in the 2004 general elections. The International Security Assistance Force
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

 (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 and the surrounding areas. NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003. ISAF includes troops from 42 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force.

The aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members to be put on trial, to destroy the organization of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave safe harbor to it. The George W. Bush administration
George W. Bush administration
The presidency of George W. Bush began on January 20, 2001, when he was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States of America. The oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush, George W...

 stated that, as policy
Foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration
During his campaign for election as President of the United States, George W. Bush's foreign policy platform included support for a stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, especially Mexico, and a reduction of involvement in "nation building" and other small-scale military...

, it would not distinguish between terrorist organizations and nations or governments that harbored them.

The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures and to create some progress in key areas such as health, economy, education, transport, agriculture and construction. NATO is rebuilding and training the nation's military
Military of Afghanistan
The military of Afghanistan is composed of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Army Air Force . Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan has no navy, and the private security forces who are sometimes seen wearing military uniforms are not part of Afghanistan's military...

 as well its police force
Afghan National Police
The Afghan National Police - ANP - is the primary national police force in Afghanistan. It serves as a single law enforcement agency all across the country. The Afghan police force was first created with the establishment of the Afghan nation in the early 18th century...

. Over five million Afghan expatriates returned with new skills and capital.

In 2003, Taliban forces including the Haqqani network
Haqqani network
The Haqqani Network is an insurgent group fighting against US-led NATO forces and the government of Afghanistan. Originating from Afghanistan during the mid-1970s, it was nurtured by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence during the 1980s Soviet war in...

 and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is an Afghan Mujahideen leader who is the founder and leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party and paramilitary group. Hekmatyar was a rebel military commander during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and was one of the key figures in the civil war that followed the...

's Hezb-i Islami started an insurgency campaign against the democratic Islamic Republic and the presence of ISAF
ISAF
ISAF may refer to:* International Sailing Federation, the world governing body for Olympic and other competitive sailing.* International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led security mission operating in Afghanistan since 2001....

-troops in Afghanistan. Their headquarters are alleged to be in or near Quetta
Quetta
is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

, Pakistan. Since 2006, Afghanistan has experienced a dramatic increase in Taliban-led insurgent
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 activity. In their campaign the Taliban also target the civilian population of Afghanistan in terrorist attacks. According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIGRC) called the Taliban's terrorism against the Afghan civilian population a war crime. Religious leaders condemned Taliban terrorist attacks and said these kinds of attacks are against Islamic ethics.

On December 1, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 announced that he would deploy an additional 30,000 soldiers over a period of six months. He also set a withdrawal date for the year 2014. The New York Magazine writes that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s leaking of the need for additional troops boxed Obama into a corner about boosting troop levels in Afghanistan, which the magazine refers to as the “McChrystal risk“ (leaking of information to force presidential action).

On January 26, 2010, at the International Conference on Afghanistan
International Conference on Afghanistan (2010)
On January 28, 2010, an International Conference on Afghanistan was held at Lancaster House in London, where members of the international community discussed the further progress on the Petersberg agreement from 2001 on the democratization of Afghanistan after the ousting of the Taliban regime...

 in London, which brought together some 70 countries and organizations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told world leaders that he intended to reach out to the top echelons of the Taliban (including Mullah Omar
Mohammed Omar
Mullah Mohammed Omar , often simply called Mullah Omar, is the leader of the Taliban movement that operates in Afghanistan. He was Afghanistan's de facto head of state from 1996 to late 2001, under the official title "Head of the Supreme Council"...

, Siraj Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is an Afghan Mujahideen leader who is the founder and leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party and paramilitary group. Hekmatyar was a rebel military commander during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and was one of the key figures in the civil war that followed the...

) with a peace initiative. He called on the group's leadership to take part in a "loya jirga
Jirga
A jirga is a tribal assembly of elders which takes decisions by consensus, particularly among the Pashtun people but also in other ethnic groups near them; they are most common in Afghanistan and among the Pashtuns in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan...

"—or large assembly of elders—to initiate peace talks. According to the Wall Street Journal, these steps have been reciprocated so far with an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Many Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh is an Afghan politician who last served as the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security...

 and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah is an Afghan politician and a doctor of medicine. He was an adviser and friend to Ahmad Shah Massoud, legendary anti-Taliban leader and commander known as the "Lion of Panjshir". After the fall of the Taliban regime, Dr. Abdullah served as Afghanistan's Foreign Minister from 2001...

) believe that Karzai's plan aims to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progess in the field of human rights especially women's rights.

The cost of the war reportedly was a major factor as U.S. officials considered drawing down troops in 2011. A March 2011 Congressional Research Service report notes the following about Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan: 1) following the Afghanistan surge announcement in 2009, Defense Department spending on Afghanistan has increased 50%, going from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month. During that time, troop strength has gone from 44,000 to 84,000, and it is expected to be at 102,000 for fiscal year 2011; 2) The total operational cost for Afghanistan from the beginning of the conflict in 2001 through 2006 only slightly exceeds the amount spent in 2010 alone — $93.8 billion. The projected total cost relating to Afghanistan from inception to the fiscal year 2011 is expected to be $468 billion. The estimate for the cost of deploying one US soldier in Afghanistan is over US$1 million dollars a year.
On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that 10,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011. An additional 23,000 troops will leave the country by the summer of 2012.

In June 2010, the war in Afghanistan became the United States' longest war, if the length of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 is measured from August 7, 1964, to March 1973.

Internal divisions following Najibullah and foreign involvement


After the fall of the Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

-regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period. According to Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

:
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal
Amin Saikal
Professor Amin Saikal is Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies and Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University. Professor Saikal has specialised in the politics, history, political economy and international relations of the Middle East and Central Asia...

 concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival:
In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran - as competitors for regional hegemony
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

 - supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was assisting the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari
Abdul Ali Mazari
Abdul Ali Mazari was a political leader of the Hezbe Wahdat during and following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Mazari was an ethnic Hazara, and believed the solution to the divisiveness in Afghanistan was in federalism, where every ethnic group would have specific constitutional...

, as Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence. Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf
Ustad Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf is an Afghan Islamist politician. He took part in the war against the PDPA government in the 1980s, leading the Mujahedin faction Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan....

 and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war. A publication by the George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

 describes:
Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form. The United States and European countries after the communist defeat largely lost interest in Afghanistan and disengaged. U.S. congressman Dana Rohrabacher told U.S. Congress in 2004:
Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion. Approximately 25,000 people died during the most intense period of bombardment by Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami and the Junbish-i Milli forces of Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum is a former pro-Soviet fighter during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and is considered by many to be the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek community and the party Junbish-e Milli-yi Islami-yi Afghanistan...

, who had created an alliance with Hekmatyar in 1994. Half a million people fled Afghanistan.
Southern Afghanistan was under the control of neither foreign-backed militias nor the government in Kabul, but was ruled by local leaders such as Gul Agha Sherzai
Gul Agha Sherzai
Gul Agha Sherzai is the current Governor of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.He previously served as Governor of Kandahar province, in the early 1990s and from 2001 until 2003.-Biography:...

 and their militias. In 1994, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam is a political party in Pakistan. It formed a combined government in national elections in 2002 and 2008...

-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force, reportedly in opposition to the tyranny of the local governor. Mullah Omar started his movement with fewer than 50 armed madrassah students in his hometown of Kandahar. When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders who had presided over a situation of complete lawlessness and atrocities. In 1994, the Taliban took power in several provinces in southern and central Afghanistan.

In late 1994, most of the militia factions (Hezb-i Islami, Junbish-i Milli and Hezb-i Wahdat) which had been fighting in the battle for control of Kabul were defeated militarily by forces of the Islamic State's Secretary of Defense Ahmad Shah Massoud. Bombardment of the capital came to a halt. Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation
Democratic consolidation
Democratic consolidation is the process by which a new democracy matures, in a way that means it is unlikely to revert to authoritarianism without an external shock...

 and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process. The Taliban declined.

Taliban Emirate vs United Front


The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. (see video) Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report:
The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses. Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. Many analysts like Amin Saikal
Amin Saikal
Professor Amin Saikal is Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies and Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University. Professor Saikal has specialised in the politics, history, political economy and international relations of the Middle East and Central Asia...

 describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy
Proxy war
A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly. While powers have sometimes used governments as proxies, violent non-state actors, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed...

 force for Pakistan's regional interests which the Taliban decline.
On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) say:
After the fall of Kabul
Siege of Kabul
The term Battle of Kabul refers to a series of intermittent battles and sieges for the city since the Soviet intervention in 1979. Between 1979 until the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 there were no sieges of the city and the area was largely peaceful. Fighting was mainly in the...

 to the Taliban on September 27, 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former archnemeses, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. see video The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek
Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

 forces of Dostum, Hazara factions and Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq
Abdul Haq (Afghan leader)
Abdul Haq was an Afghan Pashtun mujahideen commander who fought against the Soviets and Afghan communists during the Soviet-Afghan War...

, Haji Abdul Qadir
Abdul Qadir (Afghan leader)
Hajji Abdul Qadir Arsala was a former anti-Taliban leader in the United Islamic Front in Afghanistan...

, Qari Baba or diplomat Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai
Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai
Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai was a politician and diplomat of Afghanistan. He was an ethnic Pashtun, a member of the Mohammadzai tribe. During the 1970s he entered the Afghan foreign service. He was sent to the United States to represent the political administration supported by the Soviet Union. As...

.

According to Human Rights Watch, in late May 1997 some 3,000 captive Taliban soldiers were summarily executed in and around Mazar-i-Sharif by Dostum's Junbish forces and members of the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat faction. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. Dostum went into exile.

According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. U.N. officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. They also said, that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background. Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000 civilians were executed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade
055 Brigade
The 055 Brigade was an elite guerrilla organization sponsored and trained by Al Qaeda that was integrated into the Taliban army between 1995 and 2001...

 was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians. The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf , is a retired four-star general who served as the 13th Chief of Army Staff and tenth President of Pakistan as well as tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Musharraf headed and led an administrative military government from October 1999 till August 2007. He ruled...

 - then as Chief of Army Staff - was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and Bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. In total there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals fighting inside Afghanistan. About 20,000 were regular Pakistani soldiers either from the Frontier Corps
Frontier Corps
The Frontier Corps is a federally-controlled paramilitary force of Pakistan, recruited mostly from the tribal areas along the western borders and led by officers from the Pakistan Army...

 or army and an estimated 8,000 were militants recruited in madrassas filling regular Taliban ranks. The estimated 25,000 Taliban regular force thus comprised more than 8,000 Pakistani nationals. A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department confirms that "20-40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani." The document further states that 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." Further 3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. From 1996 to 2001 the Al-Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda. He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life...

 became a state within the Taliban state. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front. Of roughly 45,000 Pakistani, Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers fighting against the forces of Massoud only 14,000 were Afghan.

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. While Al-Qaeda maintained its own establishments in Afghanistan
Afghan training camp
An Afghan training camp is a camp or facility used for militant training located in pre-2002 Afghanistan. At the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Indian intelligence officials estimated that there were over 120 training camps operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, run by a variety of...

, it also supported training camps belonging to other organizations. Between 10,000 and 20,000 people passed through these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against the United Front but a smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda.

After the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. officials pressed the Taliban to surrender bin Laden, and the international community imposed sanctions on the Taliban in 1999, calling for bin Laden to be surrendered. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed the demands, however.

Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 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 execute from President Clinton. These efforts did however build many of the relationships that would prove essential in the 2001 U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Shah Massoud meanwhile remained 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
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 Declaration. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud. In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban":
In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 asking the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...

 to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan.(see video) He stated that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

" and that without the support of Pakistan and Bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year. On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent.

Change in U.S. policy towards Afghanistan


During the Clinton administration the U.S. had no clear policy towards Afghanistan although it slightly favoured Pakistan's approach. In 1997, U.S. State Department's Robin Raphel
Robin Raphel
Robin Lynn Raphel is a career diplomat who is currently the coordinator for non-military assistance to Pakistan with the rank of ambassador.. She has been the Ambassador to Tunisia and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs during the Clinton administration. In this capacity she...

 told anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud to surrender to the Taliban. Massoud answered that as long as he controlled an area the size of his hat he would continue to defend it from the Taliban.
Robin Raphel eventually became a lobbyist and adviser at Cassidy & Associates. The firm had a $1.2 million contract with the Musharraf military regime of Pakistan. At Cassidy & Associates she lobbied and advised Congress and the State Department for Pakistan on issues such as Afghan policy, Pakistan's relations with India, judicial independence and U.S. perceptions and congressional views of the Pakistan government. In late 2009 Raphel was (again) appointed to the Af-Pak region as deputy to Richard Holbrooke
Richard Holbrooke
Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was an American diplomat, magazine editor, author, professor, Peace Corps official, and investment banker....

, the late US. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, by the Obama administration. Raphel will be the main person overlooking the $1.5 billion U.S. aid package "for non-military purpose" to Pakistan.

At one point in the war, in 1997, the Taliban were vulnerable and the road to the capital, Kabul, was wide open. Two top foreign policy officials in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to convince - without success - the United Front not to take advantage of an opportunity to make crucial gains against the Taliban. Before the United Front could strike, Assistant Secretary of State Rick Indefurth and American U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson flew to northern Afghanistan and tried to convince the leadership of the United Front that this was not the time for an offensive. Instead, they insisted this was the time for a cease-fire and an arms embargo. At the same time Pakistanis began a "Berlin-like airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban", financed with Saudi money.


On another note, an analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency
Defense Intelligence Agency
The Defense Intelligence Agency is a member of the Intelligence Community of the United States, and is the central producer and manager of military intelligence for the United States Department of Defense, employing over 16,500 U.S. military and civilian employees worldwide...

 (DIA), Julie Sirrs, had visited Afghanistan, but only in those areas controlled by the Taliban. After returning, she had realized that this was a one-dimensional view of Afghanistan and there were holes in the DOD's understanding of the situation. In 1998, she requested to officially go back to northern Afghanistan to the areas controlled by Commander Massoud. Subsequently she was denied the permission to go there. So she went to the Panjshir Valley on her vacation and paid the journey on herself (in 1998). U.S. congressman Dana Rohrabacher describes:
In the meantime, the only collaboration between Massoud and another U.S. intelligence service, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), consisted of an effort to trace Osama bin Laden following the 1998 embassy bombings
1998 United States embassy bombings
The 1998 United States embassy bombings were a series of attacks that occurred on August 7, 1998, in which hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous truck bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capitals of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The date of the...

. The U.S. and the European Union provided no support to Massoud for the fight against the Taliban.

A change of policy regarding support to Massoud, lobbied for by CIA officers who had visited Massoud, was underway during 2001. According to Steve Coll's book "Ghost Wars" (who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for General Non-Fiction):
U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher also recalls:
CIA lawyers, working with officers in the Near East Division and Counterterrorist Center, began to draft a formal, legal presidential finding for Bush’s signature authorizing a new covert action program in Afghanistan, the first in a decade that sought to influence the course of the Afghan war in favour of Massoud. Richard A. Clarke
Richard A. Clarke
Richard Alan Clarke was a U.S. government employee for 30 years, 1973–2003. He worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to chair the Counter-terrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National...

, 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 administration official Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...

 in January 2001.

A change in policy was finalized in August 2001. In late August 2001, the Bush administration, to pressure the Taliban to hand over leading Al-Qaeda operatives, agreed on a plan to start giving support to the anti-Taliban forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud who sought to create a democratic form of government in Afghanistan. Massoud until then had not received any meaningful support from Western countries. In a meeting by the Bush administration's top national security officials it was agreed that the Taliban in negotiations would be presented with a final ultimatum to hand over Osama bin Laden and other leading Al-Qaeda operatives. If the Taliban refused, covert military aid would be channeled by the U.S. 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."

September 9, 2001



On his visit to Europe in March 2001 Ahmad Shah Massoud had warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent.

On September 9, 2001, Massoud, then aged 48, was the target of a suicide attack
Suicide attack
A suicide attack is a type of attack in which the attacker expects or intends to die in the process.- Historical :...

 by two Arabs posing as journalists detonating a bomb hidden in their video camera during an interview in Khoja Bahauddin, in the Takhar Province
Takhar Province
Takhār is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It was established in 1964 when Qataghan Province was divided into three provinces: Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar. It is in the north-east of the country. Its capital is Taloqan. Its salt mines are one of Afghanistan's major mineral resources...

 of Afghanistan. Massoud died in a helicopter taking him to a hospital. The funeral, though in a rather rural area, was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourning Afghans. (see video)

Massoud had survived countless assassination attempts over a period of 26 years. The assassination of Massoud is considered to have a strong connection to the September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, and which appeared to be the terrorist attack that Massoud had warned against in his speech to the European Parliament several months earlier. International experts and members of the United Front such as Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh is an Afghan politician who last served as the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security...

 feared that without Massoud the anti-Taliban resistance would be overrun by the Taliban.

John P. O'Neill
John P. O'Neill
John Patrick O'Neill was an American counter-terrorism expert, who worked as a special agent and eventually a Special Agent in Charge in the Federal Bureau of Investigation until late 2001...

 was a counter-terrorism expert and the Assistant Director of the FBI until late 2001. He retired from the FBI and was offered the position of director of security at the World Trade Center
World Trade Center
The original World Trade Center was a complex with seven buildings featuring landmark twin towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. The complex opened on April 4, 1973, and was destroyed in 2001 during the September 11 attacks. The site is currently being rebuilt with five new...

 (WTC). He took the job at the WTC two weeks before 9/11. On September 10, 2001, O’Neill told two of his friends:
O'Neill died on September 11, 2001, when the South Tower collapsed.

September 11, 2001




On September 11, 2001, in the early morning, a series of coordinated attacks took place on United States soil. Four commercial passenger jet airliners were hijacked. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville
Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Shanksville is a borough in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, United States, with a population of 245, as of the 2000 census. It is part of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area and is approximately 60 miles southeast from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

 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
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

, or the Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

Nearly 3,000 people and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks. According to the New York State Health Department, 836 responders, including firefighters and police personnel, have died as of June 2009.

The United States identified members of the Al-Qaeda movement based in Afghanistan as the perpetrators of the attacks.

Legal basis for war


The United Nations Charter
United Nations Charter
The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

, to which all the Coalition countries are signatories, provides that all UN member states must settle their international disputes peacefully and no member nation can use military force except in self-defense. The United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 states that international treaties, such as the United Nations Charter, that are ratified by the U.S. are part of the law of the land in the U.S., though subject to effective repeal by any subsequent act of Congress (i.e., the "leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant" or "last in time" canon of statutory interpretation) The United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 (UNSC) did not authorize the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).

Defenders of the legitimacy of the U.S.-led invasion argue that U.N. Security Council authorization was not required since the invasion was an act of collective self-defense provided for under Article 51 of the UN Charter, and therefore was not a war of aggression
War of aggression
A war of aggression, sometimes also war of conquest, is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The phrase is distinctly modern and diametrically opposed to the prior legal international standard of "might makes right", under...

. Critics maintain that the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan were not legitimate self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the 9/11 attacks were not “armed attacks” by another state, but rather were perpetrated by groups of individuals or non-state actors, and that these attackers had no proven connection to Afghanistan. Further, it is their opinion that even if a state had perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, no bombing campaign would constitute self-defense; the necessity for self-defense must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”.

President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 was authorized by Congress on September 14, 2001, by legislation titled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists
Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists
The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists , one of two resolutions commonly known as "AUMF" , was a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on...

 which was passed and signed on September 18, 2001 by both President Bush and congress. This legislation authorized the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. The authorization granted the President the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The Bush administration, for its part, did not seek a declaration of war by the U.S. Senate, and labeled Taliban troops as supporters of terrorists rather than soldiers, denying them the protections of the Geneva Convention and due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

 of law. This position was successfully challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court and questioned even by military lawyers responsible for prosecuting affected prisoners. On December 20, 2001, more than two months after the U.S.-led attack began, the UNSC authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to take all measures necessary to fulfill its mandate of assisting the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. Command of the ISAF passed to NATO on August 11, 2003.

2001: Initial attack


On 5 October, 2001, the Taliban offered to try Bin Laden in an Afghan court, so long as the United States provided what it called "solid evidence" of his guilt, but the U.S. would not hand over its evidence to the Taliban http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/05/afghanistan.terrorism. So on October 7, 2001, the U.S. government launched military operations in Afghanistan. Teams from the CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD) were the first U.S. forces to enter Afghanistan and begin combat operations. They were soon joined by U.S. Army Special Forces from the 5th Special Forces Group and other units from USSOCOM.

On October 7, 2001, airstrikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport, at Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

 (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad. CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 released exclusive footage of Kabul being bombed to all the American broadcasters at approximately 5:08 p.m. October 7, 2001.

At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes on national television and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 also addressed the UK. Bush stated that Taliban military sites and terrorist training grounds would be targeted. In addition, food, medicine, and supplies would be dropped to "the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan".

A prerecorded videotape of Osama bin Laden had been released before the attacks in which he condemned any attacks against Afghanistan. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

, the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 satellite news channel, reported that these tapes were received shortly before the attack.

British and American special forces worked jointly to liberate Herat in November 2001. These forces worked with Afghan opposition groups on the ground, in particular the Northern Alliance. The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia also deployed forces and several other countries provided basing, access and overflight permission.

The US was able to track Al-Qaeda's number three at the time Mohammed Atef
Mohammed Atef
Mohammed Atef was the alleged military chief of al-Qaida, although his role in the organization was not well known by intelligence agencies for years...

 who was one of the most wanted, when Atef was killed, along with his guard Abu Ali al-Yafi'i and six others, in a U.S. air-strike on his home near Kabul during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan at some time between November 14–16, 2001. This was one of America's first and largest victories during the early stages of the war.

Air campaigns


Bombers operating at high altitudes well out of range of antiaircraft guns dropped bombs at Afghan training camps and Taliban air defenses. U.S. aircraft, including Apache helicopter gunships from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade
101st Combat Aviation Brigade
The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade is a Combat Aviation Brigade of the United States Army. It was first organized in July 1968 as an Aviation Group. It was redesignated an Aviation Brigade in 1986. It has served in almost every single military operation since the Vietnam War...

, operated with impunity throughout the campaign with no losses due to Taliban air defenses.

The strikes initially focused on the area in and around the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. Within a few days, most Taliban training sites were severely damaged and the Taliban's air defenses were destroyed. The campaign then focused on command, control, and communication targets which weakened the ability of the Taliban forces to communicate. However, the line facing the Afghan Northern Alliance held, and no tangible battlefield successes had yet occurred on that front. Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance demanded the air campaign focus more on the front lines.
The next stage of the campaign began with carrier based F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18 Hornet
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets . Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and...

 fighter-bomber
Fighter-bomber
A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

s hitting Taliban vehicles in pinpoint strikes, while other U.S. planes began cluster bomb
Cluster bomb
A cluster munition is a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions. Commonly, this is a cluster bomb that ejects explosive bomblets that are designed to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles...

ing Taliban defenses. For the first time in years, Northern Alliance commanders finally began to see the substantive results that they had long hoped for on the front lines.

At the beginning of November, the Taliban front lines were bombed with daisy cutter
BLU-82
The BLU-82B/C-130 weapon system, known under program "Commando Vault" and nicknamed "daisy cutter" in Vietnam and in Afghanistan for its ability to flatten a forest into a helicopter landing zone, is a 15,000 pound conventional bomb, delivered from either a C-130 or an MC-130 transport aircraft....

 bombs, and by AC-130
Lockheed AC-130
The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily-armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, while Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support...

 gunships. The Taliban fighters had no previous experience with American firepower, and often even stood on top of bare ridgelines where Special Forces could easily spot them and call in close air support
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

. By November 2, Taliban frontal positions were devastated, and a Northern Alliance march on Kabul seemed possible for the first time.

Foreign fighters from al-Qaeda took over security in the Afghan cities, demonstrating the instability of the Taliban regime. Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance and their Central Intelligence Agency/Special Forces advisors planned the next stage of their offensive. Northern Alliance troops would seize Mazari Sharif, thereby cutting off Taliban supply lines and enabling the flow of equipment from the countries to the north, followed by an attack on Kabul itself.

Areas most targeted

During the early months of the war the U.S. military had a limited presence on the ground. The plan was that Special Forces, and intelligence officers with a military background, would serve as liaisons with Afghan militias opposed to the Taliban, would advance after the cohesiveness of the Taliban forces was disrupted by American air power.

The Tora Bora Mountains lie roughly east of Afghanistan's capital Kabul, which is itself close to the border with Pakistan. American intelligence analysts believed that the Taliban and al Qaeda had dug in behind fortified networks of well-supplied caves and underground bunkers. The area was subjected to a heavy continuous bombardment by B-52 bombers.

The U.S. forces and the Northern Alliance also began to diverge in their objectives. While the U.S. was continuing the search for Osama bin Laden, the Northern Alliance was pressuring for more support in their efforts to finish off the Taliban and control the country.

Battle of Mazar-i Sharif




The battle for Mazari Sharif was considered important, not only because it is the home of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali
Shrine of Hazrat Ali
The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque, is a mosque in Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan. It is one of the reputed burial places of Ali...

 or "Blue Mosque", a sacred Muslim site, but also because it is the location of a significant transportation hub with two main airports and a major supply route leading into Uzbekistan. It would also enable humanitarian aid to alleviate Afghanistan's looming food crisis, which had threatened more than six million people with starvation. Many of those in most urgent need lived in rural areas to the south and west of Mazar-i-Sharif.
On November 9, 2001, Northern Alliance forces, under the command of generals Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor, swept across the Pul-i-Imam Bukhri bridge, meeting some resistance, and seized the city's main military base and airport.

U.S. Special Operations Forces (namely Special Forces Operational Detachment A-595, CIA paramilitary officers and Air Force Combat Control Teams) on horseback and using Close Air Support platforms, took part in the push into the city of Mazari Sharif in Balkh Province
Balkh Province
Balkh is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the north of the country and its name derives from the ancient city of Balkh, near the modern town...

 by the Northern Alliance. After a bloody 90-minute battle, Taliban forces, who had held the city since 1998, withdrew from the city, triggering jubilant celebrations among the townspeople whose ethnic and political affinities are with the Northern Alliance.

The Taliban had spent three years fighting the Northern Alliance for Mazar-i-Sharif, precisely because its capture would confirm them as masters of all Afghanistan. The fall of the city was a "body blow" to the Taliban and ultimately proved to be a "major shock", since the United States Central Command
United States Central Command
The United States Central Command is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, established in 1983 under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense...

 (CENTCOM) had originally believed that the city would remain in Taliban hands well into the following year, and any potential battle would be "a very slow advance".

Following rumors that Mullah Dadullah
Mullah Dadullah
Maulavi or Mullah Dadullah or Dadullah Akhund was the Taliban's senior military commander until his death by U.S and U.K special ops in 2007. He was an ethnic Pashtun from the Kakar tribe of Kalai-Kakaran village in Uruzgan province of Afghanistan...

 was headed to recapture the city with as many as 8,000 Taliban fighters, a thousand American 10th Mountain Soldiers were airlifted into the city, which provided the first solid foothold from which Kabul and Kandahar could be reached. While prior military flights had to be launched from Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

 or Aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s in the Arabian Sea
Arabian Sea
The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

, now the Americans held their own airport in the country which allowed them to fly more frequent sorties for resupply missions and humanitarian aid. These missions allowed massive shipments of humanitarian aid to be immediately shipped to hundreds of thousands of Afghans facing starvation on the northern plain.

It was revealed that the airfield had been boobytrapped by the Taliban as they left, with explosives planted around the property, as well as being badly damaged by their own Air Interdiction missions to prevent it being used by the enemy. The destroyed runways on the airfield were patched by the U.S. Air Force Red Horse personnel and local Afghans hired to fill bomb craters with asphalt and tar by hand, and the first cargo plane was able to land ten days after the battle. The airbase wasn't declared operational until December 11.

The American-backed forces now controlling the city began immediately broadcasting from Radio Mazar-i-Sharif, the former Taliban Voice of Sharia channel on 1584 kHz, including an address from former President Burhanuddin Rabbani
Burhanuddin Rabbani
Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani was President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996. After the Taliban government was toppled during Operation Enduring Freedom, Rabbani returned to Kabul and served as a temporary President from November to December 20, 2001, when Hamid Karzai was...

. Music was also broadcast over Kabul radio for the first time in five years, and the songs were introduced by a female announcer—another major breakthrough for a city where women had been banned from education, work, and many other civil liberties since 1996.

Fall of Kabul


On the night of November 12, Taliban forces fled from the city of Kabul, leaving under the cover of darkness. By the time Northern Alliance forces arrived in the afternoon of November 13, only bomb craters, burned foliage, and the burnt-out shells of Taliban gun emplacements and positions were there to greet them. A group of about twenty hardline fighters hiding in the city's park were the only remaining defenders. This Taliban group was killed in a 15-minute gun battle, being heavily outnumbered and having had little more than a telescope to shield them. After these forces were neutralized Kabul was in the hands of the U.S./NATO forces and the Northern Alliance.

The fall of Kabul marked the beginning of a collapse of Taliban positions across the map. Within 24 hours, all the Afghan provinces along the Iranian border, including the key city of Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

, had fallen. Local Pashtun commanders and warlord
Warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

s had taken over throughout northeastern Afghanistan, including the key city of Jalalabad. Taliban holdouts in the north, mainly Pakistani volunteers, fell back to the northern city of Kunduz to make a stand. By November 16, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan was besieged by the Northern Alliance. Nearly 10,000 Taliban fighters, led by foreign fighters, refused to surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 and continued to put up resistance. By then, the Taliban had been forced back to their heartland in southeastern Afghanistan around Kandahar.

By November 13, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, with the possible inclusion of Osama bin Laden, had regrouped and were concentrating their forces in the Tora Bora cave complex, on the Pakistan border 50 kilometers (30 mi) southwest of Jalalabad, to prepare for a stand against the Northern Alliance and U.S./NATO forces. Nearly 2,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fortified themselves in positions within bunkers and caves, and by November 16, U.S. bombers began bombing the mountain fortress. Around the same time, CIA and Special Forces operatives were already at work in the area, enlisting and paying local warlords to join the fight and planning an attack on the Tora Bora complex.

Fall of Kunduz


Just as the bombardment at Tora Bora was stepped up, the siege of Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

 that began on November 16 was continuing. Finally, after nine days of heavy fighting and American aerial bombardment, Taliban fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces on November 25 – November 26. Shortly before the surrender, Pakistani aircraft arrived ostensibly to evacuate a few hundred intelligence and military personnel who had been in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion to aid the Taliban's ongoing fight against the Northern Alliance. However, during this airlift, it is alleged that up to five thousand people were evacuated from the region, including Taliban and al-Qaeda troops allied to the Pakistanis in Afghanistan, see Airlift of Evil
Airlift of Evil
The Airlift of Evil refers to the evacuation of thousands of top commanders and members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, their Pakistani advisors including Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agents and military personnel, and other Jihadi volunteers and sympathizers, from the city of Kunduz,...

.

Battle of Qala-i-Jangi



On November 25, the day that Taliban fighters holding out in Kunduz surrendered and were being herded into the Qala-I-Janghi fortress near Mazar-I-Sharif, a few Taliban attacked some Northern Alliance guards, taking their weapons and opening fire. This incident soon triggered a widespread revolt by 300 prisoners
Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi took place between November 25 and December 1, 2001, in Northern Afghanistan. It began with the uprising of foreign Taliban prisoners held at Qala-i-Jangi fortress, and escalated into one of the bloodiest engagements of the War in Afghanistan...

, who soon seized the southern half of the complex, once a medieval fortress, including an armory stocked with small arms and crew-served weapons. One American CIA paramilitary operative who had been interrogating prisoners, Johnny Micheal Spann
Johnny Micheal Spann
Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann was a paramilitary operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. Spann was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.-Early life:Johnny Micheal Spann was originally from the small town of...

, was killed, marking the first American combat death in the war.

The revolt was finally put down after seven days of heavy fighting between an SBS
Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the same Director Special...

 unit along with some US Army Special Forces and Northern Alliance, AC-130 gunships and other aircraft took part providing strafing fire on several occasions, as well as a bombing airstrikes.
A total of 86 of the Taliban prisoners survived, and around 50 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The squashing of the revolt marked the end of the combat in northern Afghanistan, where local Northern Alliance warlords were now firmly in control.

Consolidation: the taking of Kandahar



By the end of November, Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace, was its last remaining stronghold, and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 tribal fighters, led by Hamid Karzai, a loyalist of the former Afghan king, and Gul Agha Sherzai
Gul Agha Sherzai
Gul Agha Sherzai is the current Governor of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.He previously served as Governor of Kandahar province, in the early 1990s and from 2001 until 2003.-Biography:...

, the governor of Kandahar before the Taliban seized power, pressured Taliban forces from the east and cut off the northern Taliban supply lines to Kandahar. The threat of the Northern Alliance loomed in the north and northeast.

Meanwhile, the first significant numbers of U.S. combat troops had arrived. Nearly 1,000 Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

, ferried in by CH-53E Super Stallion
CH-53E Super Stallion
The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States military. It was developed from the CH-53 Sea Stallion, mainly by adding a third engine, a seventh blade to the main rotor and canting the tail rotor 20 degrees. Sailors commonly refer to the Super...

 helicopters and C-130s, set up a Forward Operating Base
Forward Operating Base
A forward operating base is any secured forward military position, commonly a military base, that is used to support tactical operations. A FOB may or may not contain an airfield, hospital, or other facilities. The base may be used for an extended period of time. FOBs are traditionally supported...

 known as Camp Rhino
Camp Rhino
Forward operating base Rhino, also known as Camp Rhino, was the first US land base established in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. It was located in the Registan Desert, southwest of Kandahar.-History:...

 in the desert south of Kandahar on November 25. This was the coalition's first strategic foothold in Afghanistan, and was the stepping stone to establishing other operating bases. The first significant combat involving U.S. ground forces occurred a day after Rhino was captured when 15 armored vehicles approached the base and were attacked by helicopter gunships, destroying many of them. Meanwhile, the airstrikes continued to pound Taliban positions inside the city, where Mullah Omar was holed up. Omar, the Taliban leader, remained defiant although his movement only controlled 4 out of the 30 Afghan provinces by the end of November and called on his forces to fight to the death.

On December 6, the U.S. government rejected any amnesty
Amnesty
Amnesty is a legislative or executive act by which a state restores those who may have been guilty of an offense against it to the positions of innocent people, without changing the laws defining the offense. It includes more than pardon, in as much as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the...

 for Omar or any Taliban leaders. Shortly thereafter on December 7, Omar slipped out of the city of Kandahar with a group of his hardcore loyalists and moved northwest into the mountains of Uruzgan Province, reneging on the Taliban's promise to surrender their fighters and their weapons. He was last reported seen driving off with a group of his fighters on a convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

 of motorcycles.

Other members of the Taliban leadership fled into Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia
Paktia Province
Paktia , is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, in the east of the country. Its capital is Gardez. The population is predominantly Pashtun.- History:...

 and Paktika Province
Paktika Province
Paktika is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the south-east of the country. Most of the population is Pashtun. Its capital is Sharan.-Political and military situation:...

s. Nevertheless, Kandahar, the last Taliban-controlled city, had fallen, and the majority of the Taliban fighters had disbanded. The border town of Spin Boldak
Spin Boldak
Spin Boldak or Spin Buldak is a border town in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, right next to the Durand Line border with Pakistan. It is linked by a highway with the city of Kandahar to the north, and with Chaman and Quetta in Pakistan to the south. Spin Boldak has the second major...

 was surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Afghan tribal forces under Gul Agha seized the city of Kandahar while the Marines took control of the airport outside and established a U.S. base.

Battle of Tora Bora



Al-Qaeda fighters were still holding out in the mountains of Tora Bora, however, while an anti-Taliban tribal militia steadily pushed bin Laden back across the difficult terrain, backed by Delta Force
Delta Force
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta is one of the United States' secretive Tier One counter-terrorism and Special Mission Units. Commonly known as Delta Force, Delta, or The Unit, it was formed under the designation 1st SFOD-D, and is officially referred to by the Department of Defense...

, UK Special Forces and withering air strikes by the U.S. Facing defeat, the al-Qaeda forces agreed to a truce to give them time to surrender their weapons. In retrospect, however, many believe that the truce was a ruse to allow important al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden, to escape. On December 12, the fighting flared again, probably initiated by a rear guard buying time for the main force's escape through the White Mountains into the tribal areas of Pakistan. Again, tribal forces backed by British and U.S. special operations troops and air support
Air Support
Air Support is a 1992 computer game for the Amiga and Atari ST. It is a top-down strategy game, with a first-person mode available for special missions. The game takes place during a retrofuturistic 21st century where all wars are fought in virtual reality. The game was given mostly positive...

 pressed ahead against fortified al-Qaeda positions in caves and bunkers scattered throughout the mountainous region.

By December 17, the last cave complex had been taken and their defenders overrun. A search of the area by U.S. and UK forces continued into January, but no sign of bin Laden or the al-Qaeda leadership emerged. It is almost unanimously believed that they had already slipped away into the tribal areas of Pakistan to the south and east. It is estimated that around 200 of the al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the battle, along with an unknown number of anti-Taliban tribal fighters. No U.S. or UK deaths were reported.

Diplomatic and humanitarian efforts


After the Taliban fled Kabul in November 2001 and left their stronghold, the southern city of Kandahar, in December 2001, it was generally understood that by then major Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders had fled across the border into Pakistan.

To fill the political void, in December 2001 the United Nations hosted the Bonn Conference
Bonn Conference
After Operation Enduring Freedom in which the Taliban government was toppled in Afghanistan, in December 2001, the German city of Bonn hosted a conference of Afghan leaders at Hotel Petersberg, to choose the leader of an Afghan Interim Authority – widely known as the Bonn Conference.The...

 in Germany. The meetings of various Afghan leaders here were organized by the United Nations Security Council. The Taliban were not included. Participants included representatives of four Afghan opposition groups. Observers included representatives of neighbouring and other involved major countries, including the United States.

The result was the Bonn Agreement
Bonn Agreement (Afghanistan)
Officially the Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions, the Bonn Agreement was the initial series of agreements intended to re-create the State of Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in response to the...

 which created the Afghan Interim Authority that would serve as the “repository of Afghan sovereignty” and outlined the so-called Petersberg Process, a political process towards a new constitution and choosing a new Afghan government.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378, adopted unanimously on November 14, 2001, after reaffirming all resolutions on the situation in Afghanistan, including resolutions 1267 , 1333 and 1363 , the Council affirmed that the United Nations would play an important role in the country and...

 of November 14, 2001, included "Condemning the Taliban for allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for the export of terrorism by the Al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups and for providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and others associated with them, and in this context supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to replace the Taliban regime".

To help provide security to support this Afghan Interim Authority, the United Nations authorized an international force—the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)—with a mandate to help the Afghans maintain security in Kabul and surrounding areas.

Before the U.S.-led invasion, there were fears that the invasion and resultant disruption of services would cause widespread starvation and refugees. The United Nations World Food Programme
World Food Programme
The World Food Programme is the food aid branch of the United Nations, and the world's largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger worldwide. WFP provides food, on average, to 90 million people per year, 58 million of whom are children...

 temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks but resumed them after the fall of the Taliban.

International Security Assistance Force




Operating under United States General David Howell Petraeus, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) includes soldiers from 46 countries with U.S. troops making up about half its force. ISAF had initially been established as a stabilization force by the UN Security Council on December 20, 2001, to secure Kabul. Its mandate did not extend beyond this area for the first few years. On August 11, 2003, NATO assumed political command and coordination of ISAF. On July 31, 2006, ISAF assumed command of the south of the country, and by October 5, 2006, of the east.

2002: Operation Anaconda




Following Tora Bora, Afghan forces and their U.S. allies consolidated their position in the country. Following a Loya jirga
Loya jirga
A loya jirga is a type of jirga regarded as "grand assembly," a phrase in the Pashto language meaning "grand council." A loya jirga is a mass meeting usually prepared for major events such as choosing a new king, adopting a constitution, or discussing important national political or emergency...

 or grand council of major Afghan factions, tribal leaders, and former exiles, an interim Afghan government was established in Kabul under Hamid Karzai. U.S. forces established their main base at Bagram airbase just north of Kabul. Kandahar airport also became an important U.S. base area. Several outposts were established in eastern provinces to hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives. The number of U.S-led coalition troops operating in the country would eventually grow to over 10,000.
Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda had not given up. Al-Qaeda forces began regrouping in the Shahi-Kot
Shah-i-Kot Valley
The Shah-i-Kot Valley is a valley located in Afghanistan's Paktia province, southeast of the town of Zormat. The terrain in and around the valley is notoriously rugged, located at a mean altitude of...

 mountains of Paktia province throughout January and February 2002. A Taliban fugitive in Paktia province, Mullah Saifur Rehman, also began reconstituting some of his militia forces in support of the anti-U.S. fighters. They totalled over 1,000 by the beginning of March 2002. The intention of the insurgents
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 was to use the region as a base area for launching guerrilla attacks
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 and possibly a major offensive in the style of the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

 who battled Soviet forces during the 1980s.

U.S. allied to Afghan militia intelligence sources soon picked up on this buildup in Paktia province and prepared a massive push to counter it. On March 2, 2002, U.S. and Afghan forces launched an offensive on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces entrenched in the mountains of Shahi-Kot southeast of Gardez. The Mujahideen forces, who used small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

, rocket-propelled grenades
Rocket propelled grenade
A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of...

, and mortars, were entrenched into caves and bunkers in the hillsides at an altitude that was largely above 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

They used "hit and run" tactics, opening fire on the U.S. and Afghan forces and then retreating back into their caves and bunkers to weather the return fire and persistent U.S. bombing raids. To compound the situation for the coalition troops, U.S. commanders initially underestimated the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces as a last isolated pocket numbering fewer than 200. It turned out that the guerrillas numbered between 1,000–5,000 according to some estimates and that they were receiving reinforcements.

By March 6, eight Americans and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed and reportedly 400 opposing forces had also been killed in the fighting. The coalition casualties stemmed from a friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 incident that killed one soldier, the downing of two helicopters by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire that killed seven soldiers, and the pinning down of U.S. forces being inserted into what was coined as "Objective Ginger" that resulted in dozens of wounded. However, several hundred guerrillas escaped the dragnet heading to the Waziristan
Waziristan
Waziristan is a mountainous region near the Northwest of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and covering some 11,585 km² . The area is entirely populated by ethnic Pashtuns . The language spoken in the valley is Pashto/Pakhto...

 tribal areas across the border in Pakistan.

During Operation Anaconda and other missions during 2002 and 2003, special forces from several western nations were also involved in operations. These included the Australian Special Air Service Regiment
Australian Special Air Service Regiment
The Special Air Service Regiment, officially abbreviated SASR but commonly known as the SAS, is a special forces unit of the Australian Army...

, the Canadian Joint Task Force 2
Joint Task Force 2
Joint Task Force 2 is an elite Special Operations Force of the Canadian Armed Forces primarily tasked with counter-terrorism operations...

, the German KSK
Kommando Spezialkräfte
The KSK Kommando Spezialkräfte is an elite military unit composed of Special Operations soldiers from the ranks of Germany’s Bundeswehr and organized as such under the Division Spezielle Operationen . The unit has received many decorations and awards from both NATO and its affiliates...

, the New Zealand Special Air Service
Special Air Service of New Zealand
The New Zealand Special Air Service was formed on 7 July 1955 and is a special forces unit of the New Zealand Army modelled on the British Special Air Service . The New Zealand Government states that NZ SAS is the "premier combat unit of the New Zealand Defence Force". Its key roles are to...

 and Norwegian Marinejegerkommandoen
Marinejegerkommandoen
Marinejegerkommandoen is a Norwegian maritime special forces unit. It was formally established in 1951. It is located in Ramsund in the northern part of Norway and at Haakonsvern Naval Base in Bergen...

.

Post-Anaconda operations


Following the battle at Shahi-Kot, it is believed that the al-Qaeda fighters established sanctuaries among tribal protectors in Pakistan, from which they regained their strength and later began launching cross-border raids on U.S. forces by the summer months of 2002. Guerrilla units, numbering between 5 and 25 men, still regularly crossed the border from their sanctuaries in Pakistan to fire rockets at U.S. bases and ambush American convoys and patrols, as well as Afghan National Army troops, Afghan militia forces working with the U.S-led coalition, and non-governmental organization
Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

s. The area around the U.S. base at Shkin in Paktika province saw some of the heaviest activity.

Meanwhile, Taliban forces remained in hiding in the rural regions of the four southern provinces that formed their heartland, Kandahar, Zabul, Helmand Province, and Uruzgan. In the wake of Operation Anaconda The Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 requested that British Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 who are highly trained in mountain warfare
Mountain warfare
Mountain warfare refers to warfare in the mountains or similarly rough terrain. This type of warfare is also called Alpine warfare, named after the Alps mountains...

, be deployed. They conducted a number of missions over several weeks with varying results. The Taliban, who during the summer of 2002 numbered in the hundreds, avoided combat with U.S. forces and their Afghan allies and melted away into the caves and tunnels of remote Afghan mountain ranges or across the border into Pakistan during operations.

2003–2005: Renewed Taliban insurgency





After managing to evade U.S. forces throughout mid-2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence and started to begin preparations to launch the insurgency that Mullah Muhammad Omar had promised during the Taliban's last days in power. During September, Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch a renewed "jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

" or holy war against the Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan that called for jihad.

Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train recruits in guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report. Most of the recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. Major bases, a few with as many as 200 men, were created in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan by the summer of 2003. The will of the Pakistani paramilitaries stationed at border crossings to prevent such infiltration was called into question, and Pakistani military operations proved of little use.

The Taliban gradually reorganized and reconstituted their forces over the winter, preparing for a summer offensive. They established a new mode of operation: gathered into groups of around 50 to launch attacks on isolated outposts and convoys of Afghan soldiers, police, or militia and then breaking up into groups of 5–10 men to evade subsequent offensives. U.S. forces in the strategy were attacked indirectly, through rocket attacks on bases and improvised explosive device
Improvised explosive device
An improvised explosive device , also known as a roadside bomb, is a homemade bomb constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action...

s.

To coordinate the strategy, Omar named a 10-man leadership council for the resistance, with himself at the head. Five operational zones were created, assigned to various Taliban commanders such as the key Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah, in charge of Zabul province operations. Al-Qaeda forces in the east had a bolder strategy of concentrating on the Americans and catching them when they could with elaborate ambushes.

The first sign that Taliban forces were regrouping came on January 27, 2003, during Operation Mongoose, when a band of fighters allied with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami were discovered and assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 15 miles (24 km) north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed and no U.S. casualties reported. The site was suspected to be a base to funnel supplies and fighters from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time.


As the summer continued, the attacks gradually increased in frequency in the "Taliban heartland." Dozens of Afghan government soldiers, non-governmental organization
Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

 and humanitarian workers
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

, and several U.S. soldiers died in the raids, ambushes, and rocket attacks. Besides using guerrilla attacks, Taliban fighters began building up their forces in the district of Dai Chopan
Dai Chopan
The Dai Chopan are a Hazara tribe, found in Afghanistan. They are generally numbered among the eight overarching Hazara tribes, but not among the five "original tribes". Together with the Dai Khitai, they form the Uruzgani tribe....

, a district in Zabul Province
Zabul Province
Zabul is a historic province of Afghanistan. Zabul became an independent province from neighbouring Kandahar in 1963, with Qalat being named the provincial capital. It should not be confused with the city Zabol, on the Iranian side of the border with Afghanistan.- Political and security situation...

 that also straddles Kandahar and Uruzgan and is at the very center of the Taliban heartland.

Dai Chopan district is a remote and sparsely populated corner of southeastern Afghanistan composed of towering, rocky mountains interspersed with narrow gorges. Taliban fighters decided it would be the perfect area to make a stand against the Afghan government and the coalition forces. Over the course of the summer, perhaps the largest concentration of Taliban militants gathered in the area since the fall of the regime, with up to 1,000 guerrillas regrouping. Over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan police, were killed in August 2003 as Taliban fighters gained strength.

Coalition response



As a result, coalition forces began preparing offensives to root out the rebel forces. In late August 2005, Afghan government forces backed by U.S troops and heavy American aerial bombardment advanced upon Taliban positions within the mountain fortress. After a one-week battle, Taliban forces were routed with up to 124 fighters (according to Afghan government estimates) killed.

2006: NATO in southern Afghanistan



From January 2006, a NATO International Security Assistance Force
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

 (ISAF) started to replace the U.S. troops of Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

) formed the core of the force in Southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,300 Canadian, 1,963 from the Netherlands, 300 from Australia, 290 from Denmark, and 150 from Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

. Air support was provided by U.S., British, Dutch, Norwegian and French combat aircraft and helicopters.

In January 2006, NATO’s focus in southern Afghanistan was to form Provincial Reconstruction Team
Provincial reconstruction team
A Provincial Reconstruction Team is a unit introduced by the United States government, consisting of military officers, diplomats, and reconstruction subject matter experts, working to support reconstruction efforts in unstable states. PRTs were first established in Afghanistan in late 2001 or...

s with the British leading in Helmand Province while the Netherlands and Canada would lead similar deployments in Orūzgān Province
Oruzgan Province
Orūzgān or Urōzgān , also spelled Uruzgan or Rōzgān , is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the center of the country, though the area is culturally and tribally linked to Kandahar in the south. Its capital is Tarin Kowt...

 and Kandahar Province respectively. Local Taliban figures voiced opposition to the incoming force and pledged to resist it.

Southern Afghanistan faced in 2006 the deadliest spate of violence in the country since the ousting of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in 2001, as the newly deployed NATO troops battled resurgent militants. NATO operations have been led by British, Canadian and Dutch commanders. Operation Mountain Thrust
Operation Mountain Thrust
Operation Mountain Thrust was a Canadian and Afghan-led operation in the war in Afghanistan, with more than 2,300 U.S., 3,300 British troops, 2,200 Canadian troops, about 3,500 Afghan soldiers and large air support...

 was launched on May 17, 2006, with the purpose of rooting out Taliban forces. In July, Canadian Forces, supported by U.S., British, Dutch and Danish forces, launched Operation Medusa
Operation Medusa
Operation Medusa was a Canadian-led offensive by major elements of the International Security Assistance Force, Afghan National Army and an A-Team from the 3rd Special Forces Group, as part of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It aimed to establish government control over an area of Kandahar...

 in an attempt to clear the areas of Taliban fighters.

Further NATO operations included the Battle of Panjwaii
Battle of Panjwaii
The Battle of Panjwaii was a battle fought during two periods in the summer of 2006, primarily involving Canadian and Afghan soldiers being supported with some small elements of the Dutch, American, and British forces. There were two separate times in which the forces were involved in heavy...

, Operation Mountain Fury
Operation Mountain Fury
Operation Mountain Fury was a NATO-led operation begun on September 16, 2006 as a follow up operation to Operation Medusa, to clear Taliban rebels from the eastern provinces of Afghanistan...

 and Operation Falcon Summit
Operation Falcon Summit
Operation Falcon Summit was a Canadian-led operation in the Battle of Panjwaii and on a larger scale, the 2001–present War in Afghanistan....

. The fighting for NATO forces was intense throughout the second half of 2006. NATO has been successful in achieving tactical victories over the Taliban and denied areas to them, but the Taliban were not completely defeated, and NATO had to continue operations into 2007.

2007: Coalition offensive




In January and February 2007, British Royal Marines mounted Operation Volcano
Operation Volcano
Operation Volcano was a British operation to clear a village that the Taliban were using as a command and control node, consisting of 25 compounds, near the Kajaki hydroelectric dam in February 2007. The British troops came from Troops from 42 Commando, Royal Marines and 59 Commando, Royal Engineers...

 to clear insurgents from firing points in the village of Barikju, north of Kajaki
Kajaki
Kajaki is a village in southern Afghanistan, and is split between two townsteads, Kajaki 'Olya, and Kajaki Sofla. It is the district centre of Kajaki District in Helmand Province. North east of the village is an important hydro power station for electricity and irrigation projects, the Kajaki Dam...

. Other major operations during this period were Operation Achilles
Operation Achilles
Operation Achilles was a NATO operation, part of the war in Afghanistan. Its objective was to clear the Helmand province of the Taliban. The operation began on March 6 of 2007 and the offensive was the largest NATO based operation ever held in Afghanistan to date...

 (March – May) and Operation Lastay Kulang. The UK ministry of defence announced its intention to bring British troop levels in the country up to 7,700 (committed until 2009). Further operations, such as Operation Silver and Operation Silicon, were conducted to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in the hopes of blunting their expected spring offensive.

On March 4, 2007, at least 12 civilians were killed
Shinwar Massacre
The 2007 Shinwar shooting refers to the killing of a number of Afghan civilians by US Marines who were fleeing the scene of a bomb attack, in the Shinwar District of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan on March 4, 2007. According to some reports, as many as 19 civilians were killed and 50 injured...

 and 33 were injured by U.S. Marines in Shinwar district in Nangrahar province of Afghanistan as the Americans reacted to a bomb ambush. The event has become known as the Shinwar Massacre
Shinwar Massacre
The 2007 Shinwar shooting refers to the killing of a number of Afghan civilians by US Marines who were fleeing the scene of a bomb attack, in the Shinwar District of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan on March 4, 2007. According to some reports, as many as 19 civilians were killed and 50 injured...

. The 120 member Marine unit responsible for the attack was asked to leave the country because the incident damaged the unit's relations with the local Afghan population.

Later in March 2007, the Bush Administration sent more 3,500 additional US troops to the country.

On May 12, 2007, ISAF forces killed Mullah Dadullah
Mullah Dadullah
Maulavi or Mullah Dadullah or Dadullah Akhund was the Taliban's senior military commander until his death by U.S and U.K special ops in 2007. He was an ethnic Pashtun from the Kakar tribe of Kalai-Kakaran village in Uruzgan province of Afghanistan...

, a Taliban commander in charge of leading operations in the south of the country; eleven other Taliban fighters were killed in the same firefight.

During the summer, NATO forces achieved tactical victories over the Taliban at the Battle of Chora
Battle of Chora
The Battle of Chora took place in and around the town of Chora , in Afghanistan's Orūzgān Province, during June 15–19, 2007. The fighting was between ISAF and Afghan forces on one side and Taliban forces on the other for the control of the Chora District center, regarded by the Taliban as a...

 in Orūzgān Province
Oruzgan Province
Orūzgān or Urōzgān , also spelled Uruzgan or Rōzgān , is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the center of the country, though the area is culturally and tribally linked to Kandahar in the south. Its capital is Tarin Kowt...

, where Dutch and Australian ISAF forces are deployed.

On August 16, 2007, eight civilians including a pregnant women and a baby died when Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel
Nangar Khel incident
The Nangar Khel incident, sometimes called the Nangar Khel massacre , took place in the Afghanistan village of Nangar Khel on August 16, 2007...

, Paktika Province. Seven soldiers have been charged with war crimes.

On October 28, 2007, about 80 Taliban fighters were killed in a 24 hour battle with forces from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan's Helmand province. During the last days of October, Canadian forces surrounded around 300 militants near Arghandab and killed at least 50 of them. This was said to have stopped a potential Taliban offensive on Kandahar.

The strength of Taliban forces was estimated by Western officials and analysts at about 10,000 fighters fielded at any given time, according to an October 30 report in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. Of that number, "only 2,000 to 3,000 are highly motivated, full-time insurgents", the Times reported. The rest are part-timers, made up of alienated, young Afghan men angry at bombing raids or fighting to get money. In 2007, more foreign fighters were showing up in Afghanistan than ever before, according to Afghan and United States officials. Approximately 100 to 300 full-time combatants are foreigners, usually from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps even Turkey and western China. They tend to be more fanatical and violent, and they often bring skills such as the ability to post more sophisticated videos on the Internet or bombmaking expertise.

On November 2, 2007, Afghan security forces killed a top-ranking militant, Mawlawi Abdul Manan, after he was caught trying to cross into Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan. The Taliban confirmed his death. On November 10, 2007, the Taliban ambushed a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. This attack brought the U.S. death toll for 2007 to 100, making it the deadliest year for Americans in Afghanistan.

The Battle of Musa Qala
Battle of Musa Qala
The Battle of Musa Qala was a military action in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, launched by the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force against the Taliban on 7 December 2007. After three days of intense fighting, the Taliban retreated into the mountains on...

 took place in December 2007. Afghan units were the principal fighting force, supported by British forces. Taliban forces were forced to pull out of Musa Qala
Musa Qala
Musa Qala is a town and the district center of Musa Qala District in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, at and at 1043 m altitude in the valley of Musa Qala River in the central western part of the district. Its population has been reported in the British press to be both 2,000 and 20,000...

.

2008: Reassessment and renewed commitment


Admiral Mike Mullen, Staff Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by law the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces, and is the principal military adviser to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council and the Secretary of Defense...

, said that while the situation in Afghanistan is "precarious and urgent," the 10,000 additional troops needed there would be unavailable "in any significant manner" unless withdrawals from Iraq are made. However, Mullen stated that "my priorities . . . given to me by the commander in chief are: Focus on Iraq first. It's been that way for some time. Focus on Afghanistan second."

In the first five months of 2008, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased by over 80% with a surge of 21,643 more troops, bringing the total number of U.S troops in Afghanistan from 26,607 in January to 48,250 in June. In September 2008, President Bush announced the withdrawal of over 8,000 troops from Iraq in the coming months and a further increase of up to 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

In June 2008, British prime minister Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 announced the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan would increase to 8,030 – a rise of 230 personnel. The same month, the UK lost its 100th serviceman killed in the war since 2001.

On June 13, Taliban fighters demonstrated their ongoing strength, liberating all prisoners in Kandahar jail. The well-planned operation freed 1200 prisoners, 400 of whom were Taliban prisoners of war, causing a major embarrassment for NATO in one of its operational centres in the country.

On July 13, 2008, a coordinated Taliban attack was launched on a remote NATO base at Wanat
Battle of Wanat
The Battle of Wanat occurred on July 13, 2008, when about 200 Taliban guerrillas attacked NATO troops near the village of Wanat in the Waygal district in Afghanistan's far eastern province of Nuristan. The position was defended primarily by U.S...

 in Kunar province
Kunar Province
Kunar is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the northeastern part of the country. Its capital is Asadabad. It is one of the four "N2KL" provinces...

. On August 19, French troops suffered their worst losses in Afghanistan in an ambush
Uzbin Valley ambush
The Uzbin Valley ambush occurred when ISAF troops were ambushed by Afghan militants in eastern Afghanistan on 18 August 2008. It took place outside the village of Spēṟ Kunday, of the Surobi District of Kabul province and resulted in heavy casualties to the French ISAF contingent.A NATO report of...

. Later in the month, an airstrike
Azizabad airstrike
The Azizabad airstrike took place on Friday 22 August 2008 in the village of Azizabad which is located in Shindand district, Herat Province, Afghanistan...

 which targeted a Taliban commander in Herat province killed 90 civilians.

Late August saw one of the largest operations by NATO forces in Helmand province, Operation Eagle's Summit
Operation Eagle's Summit
Operation Eagle's Summit was a military operation conducted by ISAF and Afghan National Army troops, with the objective of transporting a 220-tonne turbine to the Kajaki dam in Helmand province through territory controlled by Taliban insurgents...

, with the aim bringing electricity to the region.

On September 3, the war spilled over on to Pakistani territory for the first time when heavily armed commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

s, believed to be US Army Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold. The attack killed between seven and twenty people. According to local residents, most of the dead were civilians. Pakistan responded furiously, condemning the attack. The foreign ministry in Islamabad called the incursion "a gross violation of Pakistan's territory".

On September 6, in an apparent reaction to the recent cross-border attack, the federal government announced disconnection of supply lines to the allied forces stationed in Afghanistan through Pakistan for an indefinite period.

On September 11, militants killed two U.S. troops in the eastern part of the country. This brought the total number of US losses to 113, making 2008 the deadliest year for American troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war. The year was also the deadliest for several European countries in Afghanistan, particularly for the UK, who suffered a similar level of casualties to the USA with the loss of 108 personnel.

Taliban attacks on supply lines through Pakistan


In November and December 2008, there were multiple incidents of major theft, robbery, and arson attacks against NATO supply convoys in Pakistan. Transport companies south of Kabul have also been reported to pay protection money to the Taliban. In an attack on November 11, 2008, Taliban fighters in Peshawar hijacked a convoy carrying NATO supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan. The militants took two military Humvees and paraded them in front of the media as trophies.

The coalition forces bring 70 per cent of supplies through Pakistan every month, of a total of 2,000 truckloads in all.

The area east of the Khyber pass in Pakistan has seen very frequent attacks. Cargo trucks and Humvees have been set ablaze by Taliban militants.
A half-dozen raids on depots with NATO supplies near Peshawar destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December 2008. The Taliban destroyed an iron bridge on the highway between Peshawar and the Khyber pass in February 2009.

Coalition issues with Pakistan



An unnamed senior Pentagon official told the BBC that at some point between July 12 and September 12, 2008, President George W. Bush issued a classified order to authorize U.S. raids against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan however said it would not allow foreign forces onto its territory and that it would vigorously protect its sovereignty. In September, the Pakistan military stated that it had issued orders to "open fire" on American soldiers who crossed the Pakistan border in pursuit of militant forces.

On September 25, 2008, Pakistani troops shot towards ISAF helicopters, which belonged to American troops. This caused confusion and anger in the Pentagon, which asked for a full explanation into the incident, and they denied that American choppers were in Pakistani airspace. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was quick to deny that shots were fired but instead insisted that the Pakistani troops shot flares to warn the Americans that they were in Pakistani airspace.

A further split occurred when American troops apparently landed on Pakistani soil to carry out an operation against militants in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
North-West Frontier Province
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province and various other names, is one of the four provinces of Pakistan, located in the north-west of the country...

 Province but ‘Pakistan reacted angrily to the action, saying 20 innocent villagers had been killed by US troops’. However, despite tensions between Pakistan and the U.S., the United States has continued to increase the use of remotely piloted drone aircraft in Pakistan's border regions
Drone attacks in Pakistan
The United States government, led by the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division, has made a series of attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 using drones . These attacks are part of the US' War on Terrorism campaign, seeking to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants...

, in particular the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) and Balochistan; as of early 2009, drone attacks were up 183% since 2006.

A poll by Gallup Pakistan in the summer of 2008 found only 9 percent of Pakistanis in favour of the U.S. drone attacks and 67 percent against, with a majority ranking the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than its archrival, India, or the Pakistani Taliban.

By the end of 2008, the Taliban apparently had severed remaining ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of Al-Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan.

In a meeting with General McChrystal, Pakistani military officials urged international forces to keep their fight on the Afghan side of the border to prevent militants from fleeing into Pakistan. Pakistan noted that it has 140,000 Pakistani soldiers on its side of the border with Afghanistan to monitor and address militant activities, while the Coalition only has 100,000 soldiers to police the Afghanistan side of the border.

2009: Southern Afghanistan



Northern Distribution Network



In response to the increased risk of sending supplies through Pakistan, work began on the establishment of a Northern Distribution Network (NDN) through Russia and several Central Asian republics. Initial permission for the U.S. military to move troop supplies through the region was given on January 20, 2009, after a visit to the region by General Petraeus. The first shipment along the NDN route left on February 20 from Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia, then traveled 3,212 miles (5,169 km) to the Uzbek town of Termez
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

 on the Afghanistan border. U.S. commanders have stated their hope that 100 containers a day will be shipped along the NDN. By comparison, currently 140 containers a day are shipped through the Khyber Pass
Khyber Pass
The Khyber Pass, is a mountain pass linking Pakistan and Afghanistan.The Pass was an integral part of the ancient Silk Road. It is mentioned in the Bible as the "Pesh Habor," and it is one of the oldest known passes in the world....

.

On May 11, 2009, Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

 president Islam Karimov announced that the airport in Navoi, Uzbekistan was being used to transport non-lethal cargo into Afghanistan. Due to the still unsettled relationship between Uzbekistan and the United States following the 2005 Andijon massacre and subsequent expulsion of U.S. forces from Karshi-Khanabad airbase
Karshi-Khanabad
Karshi-Khanabad is an air base in southeastern Uzbekistan, just east of Karshi. It is home to the 60th Separate Mixed Aviation Brigade of the Uzbek Air Force. A section of the base serves as a commercial airport, supporting a limited number of passenger flights.From 1954 to 1981, the 735th Fighter...

, U.S. forces were not involved in the shipment of supplies. Instead, South Korea's Korean Air
Korean Air
Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. , operating as Korean Air, is both the flag carrier and the largest airline of South Korea, with global headquarters located in Seoul, South Korea. Korean Air's international passenger division and related subsidiary cargo division together serve 130 cities in 45...

, which is currently involved in overhauling Navoi's airport, officially handles logistics at the site.

Originally only non-lethal resources were allowed on the NDN. In July 2009, however, shortly before a visit by President Obama to Moscow, Russian authorities announced that U.S. troops and weapons could use the country's airspace to reach Afghanistan.

Additionally, human rights advocates are concerned that the U.S. is again working with the government of Uzbekistan, which is often accused of violating human rights. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have promised increased cooperation with Uzbekistan, including further assistance to turn the Navoi airport into a major regional distribution center for both military and civilian ventures.

Increase in US troops



In January, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak
Wardak Province
Maidan Wardak Province is one of thirty four provinces of Afghanistan located in the central east region of Afghanistan. It has a population of approximately 540,100. The capital of the province is Maidan Shar...

. Afghan Federal Guards also fought along with U.S. Troops. The troops were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by George W. Bush and increased by Barack Obama.

In mid-February, it was announced that 17,000 additional troops would be deployed to the country in two brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s and additional support troops; the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade of about 3,500 from the 7,000 Marines, and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade with about 4,000 of the 7,000 US Army soldiers. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan
David D. McKiernan
David D. McKiernan is a retired United States Army four-star general who served in Afghanistan as Commander, International Security Assistance Force from June 3, 2008 to June 15, 2009. He served concurrently as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan from October 6, 2008 to June 15, 2009.Prior to...

, had called for as many as 30,000 additional troops, effectively doubling the number of troops currently in the country.

On September 23, NBC News
NBC News
NBC News is the news division of American television network NBC. It first started broadcasting in February 21, 1940. NBC Nightly News has aired from Studio 3B, located on floors 3 of the NBC Studios is the headquarters of the GE Building forms the centerpiece of 30th Rockefeller Center it is...

 reported that a classified assessment of the war in Afghanistan by General McChrystal included his conclusion that a successful counterinsurgency strategy would require 500,000 troops and five years of fighting.

In November, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who in 2006–2007 commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, also expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction in Afghanistan. In subsequent cables, Ambassador Eikenberry repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in “astronomical costs” — tens of billions of dollars — and would only deepen the dependence of the Afghan government on the United States.

On November 26, 2009, Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a public plea to the United States to engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban leadership. In an interview with CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

's Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour, CBE is anchor of ABC News's This Week and formerly chief international correspondent at CNN, where she worked for 27 years. She is a Board Member at the IWMF .-Early years:...

, Karzai said there is an "urgent need" for negotiations with the Taliban, and made it clear that the Obama administration had opposed such talks. There was no formal American response.

On December 1, 2009, President Barack Obama announced at The United States Military Academy at Westpoint that the U.S will be sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Antiwar organizations in the United States responded quickly, and cities throughout the U.S. saw protests on December 2 in response. Many protesters compared the decision to deploy more troops in Afghanistan to the expansion of the Vietnam War under the Johnson administration.

Kunduz Province campaign


In April, German forces stepped up their efforts to retake some rebellious areas of Kunduz province, considered to be the most dangerous part of Northern Afghanistan by ISAF commander McChrystal. The fighting centres upon the areas to the west and south of the city of Kunduz with a main focus on an area between the town of Chahar Dara in the West and the Kunduz river in the east.
Up to now this campaign consisted of several large offensives linked by countless skirmishes and gunfights. Operations of German, Afghan, U.S., and Belgian troops were still ongoing as of December 2009. Insurgent militias suffered more than 650 casualties in this period. At least 86 coalition troops were wounded or killed. On September 4, a devastating NATO air raid
Kunduz airstrike
The Kunduz airstrike took place on Friday 4 September 2009 at roughly 2:30 am local time, southwest of Kunduz City, Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, near the hamlets of Omar Kheil by the border of the Chahar Dara and Ali Abad districts...

 was conducted 7 kilometres to the southwest of Kunduz where Taliban fighters had hijacked civilian supply trucks, killing Up to 179 people including over 100 Afghan civilians.

Operation Khanjar and Operation Panther's Claw


On June 25, 2009, American officials announced the launch of Operation Khanjar ("strike of the sword"). About 4000 US Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (United States)
The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade is a formation of the II Marine Expeditionary Force . It advertises itself as a "middleweight" crises response force of choice in the European and Southern Command Areas of Operation. It is able to "operate independently, as a service component, or to lead a...

  and 650 Afghan soldiers are currently involved in Operation Khanjar, which will be staged on the Helmand River
Helmand River
The Helmand River is the longest river in Afghanistan and the primarily watershed for the endorheic Sistan Basin....

. Khanjar follows a British-led operation named Operation Panther's Claw
Operation Panther's Claw
Operation Panchai Palang, or Panther's Claw, was a British-led military operation of the Afghan War in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. It aimed to secure various canal and river crossings to establish a permanent International Security Assistance Force presence in the area...

 in the same region. Officials call it the Marines' largest operation since the 2004 invasion of Fallujah, Iraq. Operation Panther's Claw was aimed to secure various canal and river crossings to establish a permanent International Security Assistance Force
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

 (ISAF) presence in the area.

Initially, Afghan and American soldiers have been moving into towns and villages along the Helmand River to secure the civilian population from the Taliban. The main objective of the operation is to push troops into insurgent strongholds along the river. A secondary aim was to bring security to the Helmand Valley in time for presidential elections, set to take place on August 20. The first aggressive phase will last 36 hours, where the secondary aim will be achieved first.

Taliban's gains


According to a December 22, 2009, briefing by Major General Michael T. Flynn
Michael T. Flynn
Michael T. Flynn is a United States Army lieutenant general and since September 28, 2011 has served as Assistant Director of National intelligence. He has consistently pushed for greater information and intelligence sharing and has been a leading figure in coalition and special operations...

, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan, “The Taliban retains [the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity.” The 23-page briefing states that "Security incidents [are] projected to be higher in 2010." Those incidents are already up by 300 percent since 2007 and by 60 percent since 2008, according to the briefing. NATO intelligence at the time also indicated that the Taliban had as many as 25,000 dedicated soldiers, almost as many as before 9/11 and more than in 2005.

On August 10, 2009, Stanley McChrystal, the newly appointed U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban had gained the upper hand. In a continuation of the Taliban's usual strategy of summer offensives, the militants have aggressively spread their influence into the north and west Afghanistan, and stepped up their attack in an attempt to disrupt August 20 presidential polls. Calling the Taliban a "very aggressive enemy", he added that the U.S. strategy in the months to come is to stop their momentum and focusing on protecting and safeguarding the Afghan civilians, while also calling it "hard work".

The Taliban's claim of disrupting August 20 elections is largely disputed, claiming over 135 incidents of violence; media was asked to not report on any violent incidents, however, causing many outlets to hail the elections as a success, even though some estimates give the voter turn out as much less than the expected 70 percent. In southern Afghanistan where the Taliban holds the most sway, there was a low voter turnout and sporadic violence directed at voters and security personnel. The chief observer of the European Union election mission, General Philippe Morillon
Philippe Morillon
Philippe Morillon is a former French general and was a Member of the European Parliament until 2009. He was elected on the Union for French Democracy ticket with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group...

, said the election was "generally fair" but "not free".

Western groups and election observers had difficulty accessing the southern regions of Afghanistan, where at least 9 Afghan civilians and 14 security forces were killed in attacks intended to intimidate voters. The Taliban released a video days after the elections, filming just up the road between Kabul and Kandahar, a major route in Afghanistan on election day, stopping buses, cars, and asking to see their fingers. The video went on to showing ten men who had voted, being talked to by a Taliban militant, they went on to say they may pardon the voters because of the Holy month of Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

 The Taliban also attacked towns with rockets and other means of indirect fire. Amid claims of widespread fraud, both of the top contenders, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory in the election. Reports also suggest that the turnout was lower than the last election, and there are fears that a results dispute can turn violent, even though both candidates vowed not to incite violence in case of a loss.

After Karzai's alleged win of 54 per cent, which would prevent a run off with his rival, Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah is an Afghan politician and a doctor of medicine. He was an adviser and friend to Ahmad Shah Massoud, legendary anti-Taliban leader and commander known as the "Lion of Panjshir". After the fall of the Taliban regime, Dr. Abdullah served as Afghanistan's Foreign Minister from 2001...

, over 400,000 votes had to be discounted for Karzai, and many more with hundreds of thousands of votes and polling ballots being accused of fraud. Making the real turnout of the elections much lower than the official numbers, many nations criticizing the elections as "free but not fair".

In December, an attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman, used by the Central Intelligence Agency to gather information and to coordinate drone attacks against Taliban leaders, killed at least six CIA officers and was a major setback for the agency's operations in the region.

2010: American/British offensive and Afghan peace initiative



In January, 2010, American officials said privately that the Pakistanis are reluctant to go after the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network because they see them as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. However, in their public statements U.S. officials had previously praised Pakistan's Military effort against the militants during its offensive in South Waziristan in November 2009. Afghan President Hamid Karzai also started peace talks with Haqqani network groups in March 2010. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said that Pakistan has lost over 35 billion U.S. dollars during the previous eight years as a result of the fight against militancy. According to the Afghan government, approximately 900 Taliban were killed in operations conducted during 2010. Due to increased use of IEDs by insurgents there was a significant increase in the number of injured coalition soldiers, mainly Americans, losing one limb or more or suffering major injury to their genital and pelvic areas.

Peace Initiatives


In October 2008 Defense Secretary Gates asserted that a political settlement with the Taliban was the endgame for the Afghan conflict. "There has to be ultimately – and I'll underscore ultimately – reconciliation as part of a political outcome to this," Gates stated.

By 2010 peace efforts began. In early January, Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with a United Nations special envoy to discuss peace terms. Regional commanders on the Taliban's leadership council, the Quetta Shura
Quetta Shura
The Quetta Shura is a militant organization composed of top leadership of the Afghan Taliban, that is believed to be based since about 2001 in the city of Quetta in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The Shura was formed after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was toppled in late 2001 and the...

, sought a meeting with the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide
Kai Eide
Kai Aage Eide is a Norwegian diplomat. He was appointed the United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on 7 March 2008, a position he held until March 2010 when Staffan de Mistura took over.Eide has previously served as...

, and it took place in Dubai
Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

 on January 8. It was the first such meeting between the UN and senior members of the Taliban.

On January 26, 2010, at a major conference in London which brought together some 70 countries and organizations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told world leaders that he intends to reach out to the top echelons of the Taliban within a few weeks with a peace initiative. Karzai set the framework for dialogue with Taliban leaders when he called on the group's leadership to take part in a "loya jirga
Jirga
A jirga is a tribal assembly of elders which takes decisions by consensus, particularly among the Pashtun people but also in other ethnic groups near them; they are most common in Afghanistan and among the Pashtuns in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan...

" – or large assembly of elders—to initiate peace talks. Karzai also asked for creation of a new peacemaking organization, to be called the National Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration. Karzai's top adviser on the reconciliation process with the insurgents said that the country must learn to forgive the Taliban.

In March 2010, the Karzai government held preliminary talks with Hezb-i-Islami, who presented a plan which included the withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2010. The Taliban declined to participate, saying "The Islamic Emirate has a clear position. We have said this many, many times. There will be no talks when there are foreign troops on Afghanistan's soil killing innocent Afghans on daily basis."

In July 2010, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 newspaper reported that the campaign to "win hearts and minds" of Afghan civilians by US troops has been proving more difficult than expected. One US Army report read: "It seems to always be this way when we go there [to meet civilians]. No one wants anything to do with us." And a report on meeting up with school representatives mentioned students throwing rocks at soldiers and not welcoming their arrival, as has been reported on several occasions elsewhere.

In September 2010 General David Petraeus commented on the progress of peace talks to date, stating, "The prospect for reconciliation with senior Taliban leaders certainly looms out there...and there have been approaches at (a) very senior level that hold some promise."

Marja offensive



In early February Coalition and Afghan forces began highly visible plans for an offensive, codenamed Operation Moshtarak
Operation Moshtarak
Operation Moshtarak was an ISAF pacification offensive in the area that is described as the "poppy-growing belt" of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The combat operations started on February 13, 2010, and focuses on the Nad Ali District and Lashkar Gah district...

, on the Taliban stronghold near the village of Marja. It began on 13 February and, according to US and Afghan officials, was the first operation where Afghan forces led the coalition. The offensive involves 15,000 US, British and Afghan troops. It is the biggest joint operation since the 2001 invasion that ousted the Taliban. The troops are fighting over an area of less than 100 square miles (259 km²), with a population of 80,000.

Troop surge



Deployment of additional US troops continued in early 2010, with 9,000 of the planned 30,000 in place before the end of March and another 18,000 expected by June, with the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 as the main effort. The Pentagon anticipates that US troops in Afghanistan will outnumber those in Iraq for the first time since 2003.

The CIA, from a request by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, is planning to increase teams of operatives, including their elite paramilitary officers from Special Activities Division (SAD), with U.S. military special operations forces. This combination worked well in Iraq and is largely credited with the success of that surge. The CIA is also increasing its campaign using Hellfire missile
AGM-114 Hellfire
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision...

 strikes on [Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The number of strikes in 2010, 115, more than doubled the 50 drone attacks that occurred in 2009.

The surge in troops also meant a sixfold increase in Special Forces operations. There were 700 air strikes in September 2010, alone versus 257 in all of 2009. From July 2010 to October 2010, 300 Taliban commanders and 800 foot soldiers were killed. Hundreds more insurgent leaders were killed or captured as 2010 came to a close. General David Petraeus
David Petraeus
David Howell Petraeus is the current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sworn in on September 6, 2011. Prior to his assuming the directorship of the CIA, Petraeus was a four-star general serving over 37 years in the United States Army. His last assignments in the Army were as commander...

 characterized the damage Special Forces were inflicting on the insurgents this way: "We’ve got our teeth in the enemy’s jugular now, and we’re not going to let go."

The CIA created what would be called Counter-terrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT) at the beginning of the war. This force grew to over 3,000 soldiers by 2010 and is considered one of the "best Afghan fighting forces". According to Woodward book "Obama's War", Firebase Lilley as one of the nerve centers for the covert war conducted by the CIA's SAD. These units have not only been highly effective in operations against the Taliban and al-Qa'ida forces in Afghanistan, but have expanded their operations into Pakistan. They were also important factors in both the "counterterrorism plus" and the full "counterinsurgency" options discussed by the Obama administration in the December 2010 review.

Taliban offensive


The Taliban announced an offensive for the spring and launched several attacks against ISAF and Afghan government forces. Attacks include a car bomb against a NATO convoy in Kabul which killed 18 people including six NATO soldiers and separate attacks against two of the largest ISAF bases in Afghanistan, Bagram and Kandahar Air Bases. Overall, 2010 saw the most insurgent attacks of any year since the war began, peaking in September at more than 1,500. Insurgent operations increased "dramatically" in two-thirds of Afghan provinces.

Wikileaks disclosure



On July 25, 2010, the release of 391,832 classified documents from the Wikileaks
Wikileaks
WikiLeaks is an international self-described not-for-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. Its website, launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organisation, claimed a database of more...

 organization was made public. The documents cover U.S. military incident and intelligence
Intelligence (information gathering)
Intelligence assessment is the development of forecasts of behaviour or recommended courses of action to the leadership of an organization, based on a wide range of available information sources both overt and covert. Assessments are developed in response to requirements declared by the leadership...

 reports from January 2004 to December 2009. Some of these documents included sanitised, and "covered up", accounts of civilian casualties caused by Coalition Forces. The reports also included many references to other incidents involving civilian casualties like the Kunduz airstrike
Kunduz airstrike
The Kunduz airstrike took place on Friday 4 September 2009 at roughly 2:30 am local time, southwest of Kunduz City, Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, near the hamlets of Omar Kheil by the border of the Chahar Dara and Ali Abad districts...

 and Nangar Khel incident
Nangar Khel incident
The Nangar Khel incident, sometimes called the Nangar Khel massacre , took place in the Afghanistan village of Nangar Khel on August 16, 2007...

.

The leaked documents also contain reports of Pakistan collusion with the Taliban. According to Der Spiegel, "the documents clearly show that the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence
Inter-Services Intelligence
The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence , is Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan...

 (usually known as the ISI) is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan." The New York Times was especially alarmed by the level of collusion with the Taliban, having concluded that Pakistan "allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders." The Guardian, however, did not think there was "a convincing smoking gun" for complicity between Pakistan intelligence services
Inter-Services Intelligence
The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence , is Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan...

 and the Taliban.

Kandahar offensive


A U.S. and Afghan military offensive, called Operation Hamkari, focusing on the Afghan province of Kandahar was launched soon after the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which ended September 10. The Kandahar offensive was originally planned to be launched during July, but was delayed for further preparations.
The offensive did not begin as one specific operation, but rather a series of operations in Kandahar City and its surrounding districts throughout the late summer and fall in 2010. Places where operations were conducted included Malajat, Zhari, Arghandab and the Horn of Panjwayi. Operations conducted in 2010 is credited with putting severe pressure on insurgent operations and increasing security in some key areas such as in Panjwayi. Unlike operations of previous years, Operation Hamkari featured the extensive use of Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan Border Police (ABP), led by Spin Boldak ABP Commander Gen. Abdul Razziq.

Operation Bawaar
Operation Baawar
Operation Baawar , was a major Afghan-led offensive in Afghanistan west of Kandahar City. The operation took place primarily in a sector known as the Horn of Panjwaii. The combat operation started on December 5, 2010...

 was the Canadian aspect of the 2010 Kandahar offensive. It involved the hold and build in the district of Zangabad as well as the Ground Line of Communication (GLOC) project to Mushan - all in an area known as the Horn of Panjwai.

Pakistan and U.S. tensions



Tensions between Pakistan and the U.S. were heightened in late September after several Pakistan Frontier Corps soldiers were killed and wounded. The troops were attacked by a U.S. piloted aircraft that was pursuing Taliban forces near the Afghan-Pakistan border but for unknown reasons opened fire on two different Pakistan border posts. In retaliation for the strike, Pakistan closed the Torkham ground border crossing to NATO supply convoys for an unspecified period. This incident followed the recent release of a video allegedly showing uniformed Pakistan soldiers executing unarmed civilians. After the Torkham border closing, the Pakistani Taliban attacked the NATO convoys carrying supplies, killing several of the drivers and destroying around 100 tankers.

Kill team allegations



Allegations surfaced in September about a group of U.S. Army soldiers who allegedly engaged in random killing of Afghan civilians. They are further accused of dismembering the bodies of the dead civilians and keeping bones and skulls as trophies. In December 2010, Sgt. Robert Stevens pleaded guilty for firing at unarmed Afghan civilians (who escaped unhurt). As part of his plea bargain, he was sentenced to 9 months in exchange for testifying against 11 soldiers, some of whom face murder charges.

Raids on Taliban leaders


Beginning in May, 2010 NATO special forces began to concentrate on surgical operations to capture or kill specific Taliban leaders. As of March 2011, according to the US military, the operations had resulted in the capture or killing of more than 900 low and mid-level Taliban commanders. The effectiveness of the operations in defeating the Taliban was not yet known.

Battle of Kandahar


The Battle of Kandahar was part of an offensive named after the Battle of Bad'r
Battle of Badr
The Battle of Badr , fought Saturday, March 13, 624 AD in the Hejaz region of western Arabia , was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad's struggle with his opponents among the Quraish in Mecca...

 that took place on March 13, 624, between Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 and Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

. The Battle followed an announcement, April 30, 2011, that Taliban would launch their Spring offensive throughout the country.

On May 7, 2011, the Taliban launched a major offensive on Government buildings in Kandahar. Around 12:30 PM local time, the Taliban unleashed a major assault on government buildings throughout the city. The Taliban said their goal was to take control of Kandahar city. At least eight locations were attacked: the governor's compound, the mayor's office, the NDS
National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan)
The National Directorate of Security is the domestic intelligence agency of the government of Afghanistan. The Director of National Security reports directly to the President. The NDS has about 30 departments and different branches all over the country...

 headquarters, three police stations and two high schools.

The battle continued onto a second day, May 8, 2011. The BBC's
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 Bilal Sarwary called it

Death of Osama bin Laden



On May 1, 2011, US officials announced that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a Special Operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, conducted by the CIA and United States Navy SEALs (under the direction of President Obama), in Pakistan. Crowds gathered outside the White House in Washington, DC, chanting "USA, USA" after the news emerged, and President Barack Obama addressed the nation and the world from the East Room of the White House to tell the world of the operation.

Withdrawal


On June 6, White House officials claimed that President Obama would make a decision on troop withdrawal "soon". Withdrawals are currently scheduled to start in July, with the last troops leaving in 2014. On June 7, 2011, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin
Carl Levin
Carl Milton Levin is a Jewish-American United States Senator from Michigan, serving since 1979. He is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He is a member of the Democratic Party....

 remarked that he wanted "at least 15,000 troops leaving this year". On June 22, President Obama addressed the nation from the White House and announced that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 troops will leave the country by the summer of 2012. In July 2011 Canada withdrew all of its combat troops, and has transitioned to a training role.

Following suit, other NATO countries announced reductions in troop numbers. The United Kingdom has stated that it will gradually start withdrawing some of its troops, however it has not yet specified numbers or dates.
France has announced that it would withdraw roughly 1,000 soldiers by the end of 2012, with 3,000 soldiers remaining in Afghanistan at that point. Several hundreds would gradually come back at the end of 2011 and in the beginning of 2012, when the Afghan National Army takes control of the Surobi district. The remaining troops will continue to operate in Kapisa, and their complete withdrawal is expected by the end of 2014 or earlier if the security in this district is considered good enough.

Belgium announced they would withdraw half of their force starting January 2012. Norway announced it had started a withdrawal of its near 500 troops, and would be completely out of Afghanistan by 2014. Equally, the Spanish Prime Minister has announced the withdrawal of troops beginning in 2012 with a target of up to 40 percent of the current force withdrawing by the end of the first half of 2013, and complete withdrawal by 2014.

US Chopper Crash



On August 6, 2011, Taliban fighters shot down a US Chinook helicopter which caused the death of 30 U.S Soldiers, including 17 Navy Seals who were part of unit Seal Team Six. It was the same unit who killed Osama Bin Laden, although none of the deceased partook in the operation. Several Afghan troops were also killed.

ANA/Australian Incident


On October 30, 2011, an ANA soldier opened fire on Australian forces, shooting 11 people. This attack killed 3 Australian soldiers and an Afghan Army interpreter and severely wounded 7 Australians. The ANA soldier responsible for the attack was killed during the gunfight. It was the bloodiest incident for Australian forces since 2001, and the worst for the ADF since the Vietnam war. This incident raised serious questions of Australias commitment to the Afghanistan war and if success with working alongside the ANA was even possible. The attack weakened trust between Australian and ANA forces and led to weapons being confiscated from the ANA soldiers for several days. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard reaffirmed her government's support for Australian involvement. A similar attack occurred just 10 days later on November 9, 2011, when an ANA soldier opened fire wounding 3 Australians and 2 Afghan soldiers.

2011 US-NATO attack in Pakistan



On the Peak of Tensions after "Operation Neptune Spear", A direct attack on Pakistan's armed forces on November 26, 2011, Killed 24 soldiers. This was the biggest attack on Pakistan's Armed forces since 9/11. Pakistan blocked NATO supply and ordered American's to leave Shamsi Airfield
Shamsi airfield
PAF Base Shamsi, also called Bandari is a Pakistan Air Force airbase located near Washki in the Balochistan province of Pakistan....

. Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the attack was ‘tragic’ and ‘unintended’. "This (regret) is not good enough. We strongly condemn the attacks and reserve the right to take action,” said DG ISPR Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Athar Abbas
Athar Abbas
Major General Athar Abbas is a two-star general and the current military spokesperson for the Pakistan Defence Forces who replaced Major General Waheed Arshad as the new Director General of Inter Services Public Relations on January 14, 2008....

, while speaking to the national and international media from abroad on Monday. “This could have serious consequences in the level and extent of our cooperation.

Risk of a failed state


In a 2008 interview, the then-head U.S. Central Command General David H. Petraeus, insisted that the Taliban were gaining strength. He cited the recent uptick in attacks in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan. Petraeus also insisted that the challenges faced in Afghanistan are more complicated than the ones that were faced in Iraq during his tour and to turn around the recent events this would require removing militant sanctuaries and strongholds, which are widespread inside Afghanistan.

Observers also have argued that the mission in Afghanistan is hampered by a lack of agreement on objectives, a lack of resources, lack of coordination, too much focus on the central government at the expense of local and provincial governments, and too much focus on Afghanistan instead of the region.

In November 2009, Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya is an activist, writer and a former politician from Afghanistan. She served as a Parliamentarian in the National Assembly of Afghanistan from 2005 until early 2007, after being dismissed for publicly denouncing the presence of what she considered to be warlords and war criminals in...

, a former member of the Afghan Parliament and the author of "Raising My Voice," expressed opposition to an expansion of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and concern about the future of her country. “Eight years ago, the U.S. and NATO — under the banner of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy — occupied my country and pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. Eight years is enough to know better about the corrupt, mafia system of President Hamid Karzai. My people are crushed between two powerful enemies. From the sky, occupation forces bomb and kill civilians ... and on the ground, the Taliban and warlords continue their crimes. It is better that they leave my country; my people are that fed up. Occupation will never bring liberation, and it is impossible to bring democracy by war.”

According to a November, 2009 UNICEF report, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan is the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be born. Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world—257 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 70 percent of the population lacks access to clean water, the agency said.

In November, 2009, Afghanistan slipped three places in Transparency International's annual index of corruption perceptions, becoming the world's second most-corrupt country ahead of just Somalia.

Dr. Abdullah stated:
Pakistan is playing a central role in Afghanistan. A 2010 report published by the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

 says that Pakistan's ISI has an "official policy" of support to the Taliban. The ISI provides funding and training to the Taliban. "Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude," the report states.
Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh
Amrullah Saleh is an Afghan politician who last served as the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security...

, former director of Afghanistan's intelligence service, criticised:

About the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan he stated:

Capacity of Afghan security forces



The plan to transfer security responsibility to Afghan forces is the centerpiece of U.S. President Barack Obama's revised Afghanistan strategy. Current U.S. policy calls for boosting the Afghan National Army
Afghan National Army
The Afghan National Army is a service branch of the military of Afghanistan, which is currently trained by the coalition forces to ultimately take the role in land-based military operations in Afghanistan. , the Afghan National Army is divided into seven regional Corps. The strength of the Afghan...

 to 134,000 soldiers by October, 2010. By May 2010 the Afghan Army had accomplished this interim goal and was on track to reach its ultimate number of 171,000 by 2011. This increase in Afghan troops would allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing American forces in July, 2011, as now planned. The transfer of security responsibilities cannot happen unless the Afghan government and the coalition can recruit, train and retain soldiers.

At present, the Afghan National Army has severely limited fighting capacity. Even the best Afghan units lack training, discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one new unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers have been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting. Some are suspected of collaborating with the Taliban against the Americans. “They don’t have the basics, so they lay down,” said Capt. Michael Bell, who is one of a team of U.S. and Hungarian mentors tasked with training Afghan soldiers. “I ran around for an hour trying to get them to shoot, getting fired on. I couldn’t get them to shoot their weapons.” In addition, 9 out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army cannot read.

The Afghan Army is plagued by inefficiency and endemic corruption. U.S. training efforts have been drastically slowed by the corruption, widespread illiteracy, vanishing supplies, and lack of discipline. U.S. trainers report missing vehicles, weapons and other military equipment, and outright theft of fuel provided by the U.S. Death threats have been leveled against U.S. officers who try to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Afghan soldiers often find improvised explosive devices and snip the command wires instead of marking them and waiting for U.S. forces to come to detonate them. The Americans say this just allows the insurgents to return and reconnect them. U.S. trainers frequently must remove the cell phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation will be compromised. American trainers often spend large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters are accurate — that they are not padded with “ghosts” being “paid” by Afghan commanders who quietly collect the bogus wages.

Desertion
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

 also is a significant problem in the Afghan Army. One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan Army during the 12-month period ending in September 2009, according to data from the U.S. Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Police provides support to the Afghan army. Police officers in Afghanistan are largely illiterate. Approximately 17 percent of them test positive for illegal drugs. They are widely accused of demanding bribes. Attempts to build a credible Afghan police force are faltering badly, according to NATO officials, even as they acknowledge that the force will be a crucial piece of the effort to have Afghans manage their own security so American forces can begin leaving. Taliban infiltration is a constant worry; incompetence an even bigger one. A quarter of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government’s goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve.

Possible long-term U.S. role and military presence



In 2004, many of the thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan were positioned in what experts said were large, permanent bases.

As of January 2009, hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on permanent infrastructure for foreign military bases in Afghanistan, including a budget of $1.6 billion for military installations at the Kandahar Air Field base, described as "a walled, multicultural military city that houses some 13,000 troops from 17 different countries – the kind of place where you can eat at a Dutch chain restaurant alongside soldiers from the Royal Netherlands Army." The Bagram Airfield, run by the U.S. military, was also expanding according to military officials, with the U.S military buying land from Afghan locals in different places for further expansion of the base.

In February 2009, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 reported that the U.S. will build two large new military bases in southern Afghanistan. One will be built in Kandahar province
Kandahar Province
Kandahar or Qandahar is one of the largest of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is located in southern Afghanistan, between Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul provinces. Its capital is the city of Kandahar, which is located on the Arghandab River. The province has a population of nearly...

 near the Helmand border, at Maiwand
Maiwand
Maiwand is a village in Afghanistan and the district center of Maiwand District of Kandahar Province. It is located 50 miles northwest of Kandahar....

. The other new U.S. military base will be built in Zabul, a province now largely controlled by the Taliban and criminal gangs.

President Obama has since stated that all U.S. Troops will be out by 2014.

Geo-strategic military build-up


The dramatic build-up of an indefinite American/American-led military presence in Afghanistan has unsettled some regional powers, including Russia. Russia has agreed to let the United States and NATO use its airspace for logistical purposes, however.

"Is it all to fight a number of Taliban – 10,000, 12,000 Taliban?" Zamir Kabulov, Russia's ambassador to Kabul, has proposed. "Maybe this infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

, military infrastructure, [is] not only for internal purposes but for regional also." Russia views the large and indefinite military build-up as a potential threat "because Afghanistan's geographical location is a very strategic one," Kabulov said. "It's very close to three main world basins of hydrocarbons: Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, Central Asia."
Other observers have also noted that through a stronger military presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. may be seeking to strengthen its own position in the region to counter increasingly warm relations among India, China and Russia.

On November 19, 2010, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. would soon begin deploying M1 Abrams tanks in Afghanistan.

Since the 1990s, Washington has promoted a trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline
Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline
The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is a proposed natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank. The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. The abbreviation comes from the first letters of those...

. On 24 April 2008, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan. The United States has tried to discourage India and Pakistan from any deal with Iran. However, on 16 March 2010 in Ankara, Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement on the Iran–Pakistan–India gas pipeline. Along with its proximity to the vast Central Asian and Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 energy sources and being in the midst of the regional powers of India, China, and Russia, Afghanistan also holds strategic significance given its border with Iran.

In 2010, officials from the U.S. Pentagon along with American geologists have discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits all across Afghanistan. An Afghan official has said "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a memo from the Pentagon stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". U.S. officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

International reactions


Public opinion in 2001


When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action in Afghanistan.

A large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup
The Gallup Organization
The Gallup Organization, is primarily a research-based performance-management consulting company. Some of Gallup's key practice areas are - Employee Engagement, Customer Engagement and Well-Being. Gallup has over 40 offices in 27 countries. World headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Operational...

 International in late September 2001 found that large majorities in most countries favored a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: Only in three countries out of the 37 surveyed – the United States, Israel, and India – did majorities favor military action in Afghanistan. In the other 34 countries surveyed, the poll found many clear majorities that favored extradition and trial instead of military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%), Mexico (94%), and other countries.

An Ipsos-Reid
Ipsos-Reid
Ipsos Reid is a research company based in Canada and is the Canadian arm of the global Ipsos Group. Founded in Winnipeg in 1979, the company expanded across the country and became part of the Ipsos Group in 2000....

 poll conducted between November and December 2001 showed that majorities in Canada (66%), France (60%), Germany (60%), Italy (58%), and the U.K. (65%) approved of U.S. airstrikes while majorities in Argentina (77%), China (52%), South Korea (50%), Spain (52%), and Turkey (70%) opposed them.

Development of public opinion


In a 47-nation June 2007 survey of global public opinion, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found international opposition to the war. Out of the 47 countries surveyed, 4 had a majority that favoured keeping foreign troops: the U.S. (50%), Israel (59%), Ghana (50%), and Kenya (60%). In 41 of the 47 countries, pluralities want U.S. and NATO troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. In 32 out of 47 countries, clear majorities wanted this war over as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries say troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible.

A 24-nation Pew Global Attitudes survey in June 2008 similarly found that majorities or pluralities in 21 of 24 countries want the U.S. and NATO to remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Only in three out of the 24 countries – the United States (50%), Australia (60%), and Britain (48%) – did public opinion lean more toward keeping troops there until the situation has stabilized.

Since that June 2008 global survey, however, public opinion in Australia and Britain has also diverged from that in the U.S., and a majority of Australians and Britons now want their troops to be brought home from Afghanistan. A September 2008 poll found that 56% of Australians opposed the continuation of their country's military involvement in Afghanistan, while 42% support it. A November 2008 poll found that 68% of Britons want their troops withdrawn within the next 12 months. On the contrary, in the United States, a September 2008 Pew survey found that 61% of Americans wanted U.S. troops to stay until the situation has stabilized, while 33% wanted them removed as soon as possible.

In a November 2009 Gallup
The Gallup Organization
The Gallup Organization, is primarily a research-based performance-management consulting company. Some of Gallup's key practice areas are - Employee Engagement, Customer Engagement and Well-Being. Gallup has over 40 offices in 27 countries. World headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Operational...

 poll, a record 66% of Americans said things were going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan, up from 61% in early September. However, while public opinion was divided over Afghan troop requests, a majority of Americans continued to see a rationale for the use of military force in Afghanistan. A slight plurality of Americans favored troop increases, with 42%–47% favoringat least some troop increases to satisfy the military's requests, 39%–44% wanting reduction, and 7–9% wanting no changes in troop levels. Just 29% of Democrats favor any troop increases while 57% want to begin reducing troops. 36% of Americans approved of Obama's handling of Afghanistan, including 19% of Republicans, 31% of independents, and 54% of Democrats.

In a December 2009 Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 poll, only 32 percent of Americans favored increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while 40 percent favored decreasing them. Almost half of Americans, 49 percent, believed that the U.S. should "mind its own business" internationally and let other countries get along the best they can. That figure was an increase from 30 percent who said that in December 2002.

In a April 2011 Pew Research Center poll, there was little change in the American public's views about Afghanistan, with about 50% saying that the U.S. military effort was going very well or fairly well and only 44% supporting NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. The new survey shows little change since then – 50% favor removing U.S. and NATO troops as soon as possible while 44% favor maintaining the troops in Afghanistan until the situation is stabilized.

Pentagon management of public opinion



The Pentagon may have recast and timed the release in June 2010 of old information about Afghanistan's substantial mineral wealth, including billions of dollars worth of copper, lithium, iron and gold reserves, as part of a public relations campaign aimed at garnering the waning support of the US public for the war. The decades' old Soviet geological surveys showing vast mineral riches of Afghanistan were known to US officials years ago. The release of the story in June 2010 to the New York Times by the Pentagon appeared to many observers to be part of an effort to buy additional time for the US counterinsurgency.

Afghan opinions


Recent polls of Afghans have found strong opposition to the Taliban and significant, albeit diminished support of the American military presence. Also, the idea of permanent U.S. military bases vexes many people in Afghanistan, which has a long history of resisting foreign invaders.

According to a May 2009 BBC poll, 69% of Afghans surveyed thought it was at least mostly good that the U.S. military came in to remove the Taliban – a decrease from 87% of Afghans surveyed in 2005. 24% thought it was mostly or very bad – up from 9% in 2005. The poll indicated that 63% of Afghans were at least somewhat supportive of a U.S. military presence in the country – down from 78% in 2005. Just 18% supported increasing the U.S. military's presence, while 44% favored reducing it. 90% of Afghans surveyed opposed the presence of Taliban fighters, including 70% who were strongly opposed. By an 82%–4% margin, people said they preferred the current government to Taliban rule.

In a June 2009 Gallup
The Gallup Organization
The Gallup Organization, is primarily a research-based performance-management consulting company. Some of Gallup's key practice areas are - Employee Engagement, Customer Engagement and Well-Being. Gallup has over 40 offices in 27 countries. World headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Operational...

 survey, about half of Afghan respondents felt that additional U.S. forces would help stabilize the security situation in the southern provinces. But opinions varied widely across Afghanistan at the time; residents in the troubled South were mostly mixed or uncertain, while those in the West largely disagreed that more U.S. troops would help the situation.

In December 2009, many Afghan tribal heads and local leaders from the Pashtun south and east—the heartland of the Taliban insurgency—called for U.S. troop withdrawals. "I don't think we will be able to solve our problems with military force," said Muhammad Qasim, a tribal elder from the southern province of Kandahar. "We can solve them by providing jobs and development and by using local leaders to negotiate with the Taliban." "If new troops come and are stationed in civilian areas, when they draw Taliban attacks civilians will end up being killed," said Gulbadshah Majidi, a lawmaker and close associate of Mr. Karzai. "This will only increase the distance between Afghans and their government."

In late January 2010, Afghan protesters took to the streets for three straight days and blocked traffic on a highway that links Kabul and Kandahar. The Afghans were demonstrating in response to the deaths of four men in a NATO-Afghan raid in the village of Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

. Ghazni residents insisted that the dead were civilians.

Protests, demonstrations and rallies



The war has repeatedly been the subject of large protests around the world
Protests against the invasion of Afghanistan
The ongoing decade-long War in Afghanistan has prompted large protests around the world, with the first large-scale demonstrations beginning in the days leading up to the war's official launch on October 7, 2001....

 starting with the large-scale demonstrations in the days leading up to the official launch of Operation Enduring Freedom under George W. Bush in October 2001 and every year since. Many protesters consider the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan to be unjustified aggression. The deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians caused directly and indirectly by the U.S. and NATO bombing campaigns is also a major underlying focus of the protests. New organizations have arisen to oppose the war; for example, in January 2009, Brave New Foundation launched Rethink Afghanistan
Rethink Afghanistan
Rethink Afghanistan is a 2009 documentary about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. This full-length documentary campaign features experts from Afghanistan, the U.S., and Russia among others discussing critical issues like military escalation, how escalation will affect Pakistan and the surrounding...

, a national campaign for non-violent solutions in Afghanistan built around a documentary film by director and political activist Robert Greenwald
Robert Greenwald
Robert Greenwald is an American film director, film producer, and political activist.-Early life:Greenwald was born and raised in New York City, the son of Ruth and Harold Greenwald. He attended the city's High School of Performing Arts...

.

MoveOn.org, a public policy advocacy group that supported the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, came out against the President's strategy. Others expressing opposition to the Obama escalation include "Peace Mom" activist Cindy Sheehan
Cindy Sheehan
Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan is an American anti-war activist whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President...

; former Marine officer and current Rep. John Murtha
John Murtha
John Patrick "Jack" Murtha, Jr. was an American politician from the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Murtha, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1974 until his death in 2010....

 (D-PA); newly converted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter
Arlen Specter
Arlen Specter is a former United States Senator from Pennsylvania. Specter is a Democrat, but was a Republican from 1965 until switching to the Democratic Party in 2009...

 (D-PA); former Republican congressman, military intelligence officer and CIA officer Rob Simmons
Rob Simmons
Robert Ruhl "Rob" Simmons is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. Congressman from Connecticut. He served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007, representing Connecticut's Second Congressional District as a Republican.Simmons ran as a candidate for the...

; Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter
William Scott Ritter, Jr. was an important United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and later a critic of United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Ritter stated that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass...

, U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998; Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

; Graham Fuller
Graham Fuller
Graham E. Fuller is an American author and political analyst, specializing in Islamic extremism. Formerly vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council, he also served as Station Chief in Kabul for the CIA...

, former CIA station chief in Kabul and former vice-chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council
National Intelligence Council
The National Intelligence Council is the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the United States Intelligence Community . It was formed in 1979...

; 2008 Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul
Ron Paul
Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul is an American physician, author and United States Congressman who is seeking to be the Republican Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Paul represents Texas's 14th congressional district, which covers an area south and southwest of Houston that includes...

 (R-TX); Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus
Congressional Black Caucus
The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing the black members of the United States Congress. Membership is exclusive to blacks, and its chair in the 112th Congress is Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.-Aims:...

 to endorse Obama over then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president; Alan Khazei
Alan Khazei
Alan Khazei is an American social entrepreneur. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Be the Change, Inc., a Boston-based group dedicated to building national coalitions of non-profit organizations and citizens to enact legislation on issues such as poverty and education...

, co-founder of the AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps is a U.S. federal government program that was created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 and later expanded by 50 percent under President George W. Bush...

 program City Year
City Year
City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to provide full-time targeted intervention keeping students in school and on track to graduate...

; Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Arthur Waskow
Arthur Ocean Waskow, born Arthur I. Waskow, is an American author, political activist, and rabbi associated with the Jewish Renewal movement.-Education and early career:...

, whom Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

 named one of the fifty most influential American rabbis; Ron Kovic
Ron Kovic
Ronald Lawrence Kovic is an anti-war activist, veteran and writer who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War. He is best known as the author of the memoir Born on the Fourth of July, which was made into an Academy Award–winning movie directed by Oliver Stone, with Tom Cruise playing Kovic...

, author of the memoir Born on the Fourth of July
Born on the Fourth of July
Born on the Fourth of July is the best selling autobiography of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran who became an anti-war activist. Kovic was born on July 4, 1946, and his book's ironic title echoed a famous line from George M. Cohan's patriotic 1904 song, "The Yankee Doodle Boy"...

; and conservative columnist George Will
George Will
George Frederick Will is an American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner best known for his conservative commentary on politics...

.

Dozens of organizations planned (and eventually held) a national march for peace in Washington, D.C. on March 20, 2010.

A website in relation to a society in University of Sheffield titled the Afghanistan Society works towards demonstrating Afghanistan to young students and to aid the people of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Society is a national society.

Civilian casualties


There is no single official figure for the overall number of civilians killed by the war since 2001, but estimates for specific years or periods have been published by a number of organizations.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that 2,118 Afghan civilians were killed by armed conflict in 2008, the highest number since the end of the initial 2001 invasion. This represented an increase of about 40% over UNAMA's figure of 1,523 Afghan civilians killed in 2007.

On March 15, 2009, in an interview with Margaret Warner of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
PBS NewsHour is an evening television news program broadcast weeknights on the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States. The show is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a company co-owned by former anchors Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, and Liberty Media, which owns a 65% stake in the...

, General David D. McKiernan
David D. McKiernan
David D. McKiernan is a retired United States Army four-star general who served in Afghanistan as Commander, International Security Assistance Force from June 3, 2008 to June 15, 2009. He served concurrently as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan from October 6, 2008 to June 15, 2009.Prior to...

, then commander of all foreign military forces in Afghanistan, claimed that 80% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by the Taliban. He added that "by the very nature of an insurgency", it "mixes in on purpose with the civilian population." In contrast to that, UNAMA attributed 55% of the civilian deaths it tracked in 2008 to anti-government forces, 39% to international-led military forces, while the remaining 6% could not be attributed because they died in crossfire or were killed by unexploded ordnance
Unexploded ordnance
Unexploded ordnance are explosive weapons that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation, potentially many decades after they were used or discarded.While "UXO" is widely and informally used, munitions and explosives of...

, for example.

On May 11, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Robert Gates
Dr. Robert Michael Gates is a retired civil servant and university president who served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W....

 abruptly replaced McKiernan with U.S. Army General Stanley A. McChrystal as the new U.S. commander of all foreign military forces in Afghanistan. One of General McChrystal's first announcements was a sharp restriction on the use of airstrikes to reduce civilian casualties. Afghan leaders have long pleaded that foreign troops end airstrikes and nighttime raids of Afghan homes.

According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban were responsible for 76 % of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIGRC) called the Taliban's terrorism against the Afghan civilian population a war crime.

Very few people in Afghanistan have been unaffected by the armed conflict there. Those with direct personal experience make up 60% of the population, and most others also
report suffering a range of serious hardships. In total, almost everyone (96%) has been affected in some way – either personally or due to the wider consequences of armed
conflict.

The issue of civilian casualties is recognized as a problem at the highest levels of ISAF command. In a September 2009 report, Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote "Civilian casualties and collateral damage to homes and property resulting from an over-reliance on firepower and force protection have severely damaged ISAF's legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people."
On September 9, 2010, it was revealed that 12 US soldiers face trial over a secret kill team
FOB Ramrod kill team
The Maywand District killings refer to the murder of three Afghan civilians perpetrated by a group of United States Army soldiers in 2010, during the War in Afghanistan...

 that allegedly killed Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. 5 of the soldiers are charged with murdering 3 Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. 7 other soldiers are accused of covering up the killings as well as a violent assault on a new recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish
Hashish
Hashish is a cannabis preparation composed of compressed stalked resin glands, called trichomes, collected from the unfertilized buds of the cannabis plant. It contains the same active ingredients but in higher concentrations than unsifted buds or leaves...

 stolen from civilians. The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies. The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

newspaper has described the event as "one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict...". Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker soldiers who face murder charges. The fifth soldier is Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs who has been described as the ringleader.

A UN report in June stated that 2,777 civilians were known to have been killed in 2010, with insurgents being responsible for three-quarters of the deaths. Another United Nations report issued in July 2011 said "1,462 non-combatants died" in the first six months of 2011, with insurgents being responsible for 80 per cent of the deaths. A coalition report in June 2011 stated that insurgents were responsible for 85% of civilian deaths.

Drug trade





In 2000, the Taliban had issued a ban on opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

 production, which led to reductions in Pashtun Mafia opium production by as much as 90%. Soon after the 2001 U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan, however, opium production increased markedly. By 2005, Afghanistan had regained its position as the world’s #1 opium producer and was producing 90% of the world’s opium, most of which is processed into heroin and sold in Europe and Russia. In 2009, the BBC reported that "UN findings say an opium market worth $65bn (£39bn) funds global terrorism, caters to 15 million addicts, and kills 100,000 people every year."

While U.S. and allied efforts to combat the drug trade have been stepped up, the effort is hampered by the fact that many suspected drug traffickers are now top officials in the Karzai government. Recent estimates by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimate that 52% of the nation's GDP, amounting to $2.7 billion annually, is generated by the drug trade. The rise in production has been linked to the deteriorating security situation, as production is markedly lower in areas with stable security.

The extermination of the poppy crops is not seen as a viable option because the sale of poppies constitutes the livelihood of Afghanistan's rural farmers. Some 3.3 million Afghans are involved in producing opium. Opium is more profitable than wheat and destroying opium fields could possibly lead to discontent or unrest among the indigent population. Several alternatives to poppy eradication have been proposed, including controlled opium licensing
Opium licensing
Opium licensing is a policy instrument used to counter illegal drug cultivation and production. It has been used in countries such as Turkey and India to curb illegal opium production...

 for poppy for medicine projects.

Human rights abuses



There have been multiple accounts of human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 violations in Afghanistan. The fallout of the U.S. led invasion, including a resurgence in Taliban forces, record-high drug production, and re-armed warlords, has led to a threat to the well-being and rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghan citizens, according to Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

.

History of human rights abuses in Afghanistan



Afghanistan has suffered extensive human rights violations over the last twenty years. The subsequent war between foreign-backed militia factions brought extensive abuses by the armed factions vying for power.

The Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for five years from September 1996 until the U.S. attacks in 2001 were notorious for their human rights abuses against women. A U.N. official said the Taliban committed war crimes of the same type as the ones committed in Bosnia in the 1990s. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. U.N. officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. They also said that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background. Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000 civilians were executed by the Taliban and many more reported torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

d. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade
055 Brigade
The 055 Brigade was an elite guerrilla organization sponsored and trained by Al Qaeda that was integrated into the Taliban army between 1995 and 2001...

 was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians. The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people.

In Afghanistan women and girls today suffer high levels of violence and discrimination and have poor access to justice and education, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 concluded in a December, 2009 report. One recent nationwide survey of levels of violence against Afghan women found that 52 percent of respondents experienced physical violence, and 17 percent reported sexual violence. Yet because of social and legal obstacles to accessing justice, few women and girls report violence to the authorities. These barriers are particularly formidable in rape cases. UNICEF estimates that more than 80 percent of females lack access to education centers. Female literacy is 10%.

Taliban


According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban were responsible for 76 % of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIGRC) called the Taliban's terrorism against the Afghan civilian population a war crime. Religious leaders condemned Taliban terrorist attacks and said these kinds of attacks are against Islamic ethics.

According to Amnesty International, the Taliban commit war crimes by targeting civilians, including killing teachers, abducting aid workers and burning school buildings. Amnesty International said that up to 756 civilians were killed in 2006 by bombs, mostly on roads or carried by suicide attackers belonging to the Taliban.

During the conflict, NATO has alleged that the Taliban have used civilians as human shields. As an example, NATO pointed to the victims of NATO air strikes in Farah province in May 2009, during which the Afghan government claims up to 150 civilians were killed. NATO stated that it had evidence that the Taliban forced civilians into buildings likely to be targeted by NATO aircraft involved in the battle. US Lieutenant Colonel Greg Julian, a spokesman for General McKiernan, NATO's Afghanistan commander, said of the Taliban's tactics, "This was a deliberate plan by the Taliban to create a civilian casualty crisis. These were not human shields; these were human sacrifices. We have intelligence that points to this." However NATO has so far not been able to provide this intelligence.

The increase in Taliban power has also led to increased human rights violations against women in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.

Elections During Combat


Several elections have been held in Afghanistan since 2001.
The most recent election was held September 18, 2010, for the Afghan Parliament with a reported 2,499 candidates competing for 250 seats. During the elections the Taliban attacked many of those involved, killing 11 civilians and 3 Afghan National Policemen in over 300 attacks on the polls. The low death toll at the hands of the Taliban can be attributed to stepped up operations specifically targeting the leaders of insurgents planning attacks in the days leading up to the elections. which captured hundreds of insurgents and explosives.
Turnout at election was only 40%.

Former Afghan warlords


Former Afghan warlords and political strongmen supported by the US during the ousting of the Taliban were responsible for numerous human rights violations in 2003 including kidnapping, rape, robbery, and extortion.

Controversy over torture


In March 2002, ABC News claimed top officials at the CIA authorized controversial, harsh interrogation techniques. The possible interrogation techniques included shaking and slapping, shackling prisoners in a standing position, keeping the prisoner in a cold cell and dousing them with water, and water boarding. A United Nations study in 2011 reported on interviews with 379 detainees. It found those held by police or intelligence services were subjected to beatings, removal of toenails and electric shocks.

White phosphorus use


White phosphorus has been condemned by human rights organizations as cruel and inhumane because it causes severe burns. There are cases that have been confirmed of white phosphorus burns on the bodies of civilians wounded in Afghanistan caused by clashes between U.S. and Taliban forces near Bagram
Bagram
Bagram , founded as Alexandria on the Caucasus and known in medieval times as Kapisa, is a small town and seat in Bagram District in Parwan Province of Afghanistan, about 60 kilometers north of the capital Kabul. It is the site of an ancient city located at the junction of the Ghorband and Panjshir...

. The United States claims at least 44 instances in which militants have used white phosphorus in weapons or attacks. In May 2009, Colonel Gregory Julian, a spokesman for General David McKiernan, the overall commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that Western military forces in Afghanistan use white phosphorus to illuminate targets or as an incendiary to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment. US forces used white phosphorus to screen a retreat in the Battle of Ganjgal
Battle of Ganjgal
The Battle of Ganjgal was a battle in the War in Afghanistan fought between US/Afghan forces and the Taliban in the Kunar Province on September 8, 2009. Complaints that the coalition casualties were avoidable and caused by a failure of the chain of command to provide fire support for the team...

 when regular smoke munitions were not available. The Afghan government later launched an investigation into the use of white phosphorus munitions.

See also

  • Afghan Civil War (1978-present)
  • Criticism of the War on Terror
  • Foreign hostages in Afghanistan
    Foreign hostages in Afghanistan
    Table of contentsKey: Kidnapping and hostage taking has become a common occurrence in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001...

  • Military operations of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
    Military operations of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
    Since October 7, 2001 following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States has been engaged in a war in Afghanistan.-Background:From May 1996, Osama bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan along with other members of al-Qaeda, operating terrorist training camps in a loose alliance with the...

  • Opposition to the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
  • U.S. government response to the September 11 attacks


Lists:

External links