War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan (2001–present) refers to the intervention by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and allied forces in the ongoing Afghan civil war. The war followed the September 11 attacks, and its public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda and denying it a safe basis of operation in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power.
U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and expel al-Qaeda. The Taliban asked bin Laden to leave the country, but declined to extradite him without evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. The United States refused to negotiate and launched Operation Enduring Freedom on 7 October 2001 with the United Kingdom. The two were later joined by other forces, including the Northern Alliance. The U.S. and its allies drove the Taliban from power and built military bases near major cities across the country. Most al-Qaeda and Taliban were not captured, escaping to neighboring Pakistan or retreating to rural or remote mountainous regions.
In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to oversee military operations in the country and train Afghan National Security Forces. At the Bonn Conference in December 2001, Hamid Karzai was selected to head the Afghan Interim Administration, which after a 2002 loya jirga in Kabul became the Afghan Transitional Administration. In the popular elections of 2004, Karzai was elected president of the country, now named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
In 2003, NATO assumed leadership of ISAF, with troops from 43 countries. NATO members provided the core of the force. One portion of U.S. forces in Afghanistan operated under NATO command; the rest remained under direct U.S. command. Taliban leader Mullah Omar reorganized the movement and in 2003 launched an insurgency against the government and ISAF.
Though vastly outgunned and outnumbered, the Taliban insurgents, most notably the Haqqani Network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, have waged asymmetric warfare with guerilla raids and ambushes in the countryside, suicide attacks against urban targets and turncoat killings against coalition forces. The Taliban exploited weaknesses in the Afghan government, among the most corrupt in the world, to reassert influence across rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan. ISAF responded in 2006 by increasing troops for counterinsurgency operations to "clear and hold" villages and "nation building" projects to "win hearts and minds".
While ISAF continued to battle the Taliban insurgency, fighting crossed into neighboring North-West Pakistan. In 2004, the Pakistani Army began to clash with local tribes hosting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. The US military launched drone attacks in Pakistan to kill insurgent leaders. This resulted in the start of an insurgency in Waziristan in 2007.
On 2 May 2011, United States Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan. In May 2012, NATO leaders endorsed an exit strategy for withdrawing their forces. UN-backed peace talks have since taken place between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In May 2014, the United States announced that its combat operations would end in 2014, leaving just a small residual force in the country until the end of 2016.
As of 2013, tens of thousands of people had been killed in the war. Over 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors as well as over 10,000 Afghan National Security Forces had been killed. In October 2014 British forces handed over the last bases in Helmand to the Afghan military, officially ending their combat operations in the war.
- 1 Historical background
- 2 Declaration of war
- 3 History of the conflict
- 3.1 2001: Overthrow of the Taliban
- 3.1.1 Air campaigns
- 3.1.2 Battle of Mazar-i Sharif
- 3.1.3 Fall of Kabul
- 3.1.4 Fall of Kunduz
- 3.1.5 Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
- 3.1.6 Consolidation: the taking of Kandahar
- 3.1.7 Battle of Tora Bora
- 3.1.8 Diplomatic and humanitarian efforts
- 3.1.9 International Security Assistance Force
- 3.2 2002: Operation Anaconda
- 3.3 2003–2005: Insurgency
- 3.4 2006: Southern Afghanistan
- 3.5 2007: Coalition offensive
- 3.6 2008: Reassessment and renewed commitment
- 3.7 2009: Southern Afghanistan
- 3.8 2010: American–British offensive and Afghan peace initiative
- 3.9 2011: U.S. and NATO drawdown
- 3.10 2012: Strategic Agreement
- 3.11 2013: Withdrawal
- 3.12 2014: Withdrawal continues and the insurgency increases
- 3.1 2001: Overthrow of the Taliban
- 4 Post-2014 presence plans for NATO and the United States
- 5 Impact on Afghan society
- 6 War crimes
- 7 Costs
- 8 Stability challenges
- 9 Afghan security forces
- 10 Insider attacks
- 11 Reactions
- 12 Human rights abuses
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Sources
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
Origins of Afghanistan's civil war
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2013)|
Afghanistan's political order began to break down with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan in a bloodless 1973 coup. Daoud Khan had served as prime minister since 1953 and promoted economic modernization, emancipation of women, and Pashtun nationalism. This was threatening to neighboring Pakistan, faced with its own restive Pashtun population. In the mid-1970s, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to encourage Afghan Islamic leaders such as Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to fight against the regime. In 1978, Daoud Khan was killed in a coup by Afghan's Communist Party, his former partner in government, known as the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). PDPA pushed for a socialist transformation by abolishing arranged marriages, promoting mass literacy and reforming land ownership. This undermined the traditional tribal order and provoked opposition from Islamic leaders across rural areas. The PDPA's crackdown was met with open rebellion, including Ismail Khan's Herat Uprising. The PDPA was beset by internal leadership differences and was weakened by an internal coup on 11 September 1979 when Hafizullah Amin ousted Nur Muhammad Taraki. The Soviet Union, sensing PDPA weakness, intervened militarily three months later, to depose Amin and install another PDA faction led by Babrak Karmal.
The entry of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan in December 1979 prompted its Cold War rivals, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China to support rebels fighting against the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In contrast to the secular and socialist government, which controlled the cities, religiously-motivated mujahideen held sway in much of the countryside. Beside Rabbani, Hekmatyar, and Khan, other mujahideen commanders included Jalaluddin Haqqani. The CIA worked closely with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence to funnel foreign support for the mujahideen. The war also attracted Arab volunteers, known as "Afghan Arabs", including Osama bin Laden.
After the withdrawal of the Soviet military from Afghanistan in May 1989, the PDPA regime under Najibullah held on until 1992, when the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the regime of aid, and the defection of Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum cleared the approach to Kabul. With the political stage cleared of Afghan socialists, the remaining Islamic warlords vied for power. By then, Bin Laden had left the country. The United States' interest in Afghanistan also diminished.
Warlord rule (1992–1996)
In 1992, Rabbani officially became president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, but had to battle other warlords for control of Kabul. In late 1994, Rabbani's defense minister, Ahmad Shah Massoud defeated Hekmatyr in Kabul and ended ongoing bombardment of the capital. Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation. Other warlords, including Ismail Khan in the west and Dostum in the north maintained their fiefdoms.
In 1994, Mullah Omar, a Pashtun, a mujahideen who taught at a Pakistani madrassa, returned to Kandahar and founded the Taliban. His followers were religious students, known as the Talib and they sought to end warlordism through strict adherence to Islamic law. By November 1994, the Taliban had captured all of Kandahar Province. They declined the government's offer to join in a coalition government and marched on Kabul in 1995.
Taliban Emirate vs Northern Alliance
The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of costly defeats. Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. Analysts such as Amin Saikal described the group as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests, which the Taliban denied. The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995, but were driven back by Massoud.
On 27 September 1996, the Taliban, with military support by Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in areas under their control, issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. According to the Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.
Massoud and Dostum, former arch-enemies, created a United Front against the Taliban, commonly known as the Northern Alliance. In addition to Massoud's Tajik force and Dostum's Uzbeks, the United Front included Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq and Haji Abdul Qadir. Abdul Haq also gathered a limited number of defecting Pashtun Taliban. Both agreed to work together with the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah. International officials who met with representatives of the new alliance, which the journalist Steve Coll referred to as the "grand Pashtun-Tajik alliance", said, "It's crazy that you have this today … Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara … They were all ready to buy in to the process … to work under the king's banner for an ethnically balanced Afghanistan." The Northern Alliance received varying degrees of support from Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India.
The Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 and drove Dostum into exile.
The conflict was brutal. According the United Nations (UN), the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. The Taliban especially targeted the Shiite Hazaras. In retaliation for the execution of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Uzbek general Abdul Malik Pahlawan in 1997, the Taliban executed about 4,000 civilians after taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.
Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade 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".
By 2001, the Taliban controlled as much as 90% of the country, with the Northern Alliance confined to the country's northeast corner. Fighting alongside Taliban forces were some 28,000–30,000 Pakistanis and 2,000–3,000 Al Qaeda militants. Many of the Pakistanis were recruited from madrassas. A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department confirmed that "20–40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani." The document said that many of 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". According to the U.S. State Department report and reports by Human Rights Watch, other Pakistani nationals fighting in Afghanistan were regular soldiers, especially from the Frontier Corps, but also from the army providing direct combat support.
In August 1996, Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan and arrived in Jalabad, Afghanistan. He had founded Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s to support the mujahideen's war against the Soviets, but became disillusioned by infighting among warlords. He grew close to Mullah Omar and moved Al Qaeda's operations to eastern Afghanistan.
The 9/11 Commission in the U.S. reported found that 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 camps in Afghanistan, it also supported training camps of other organizations. An estimated 10,000 and 20,000 men passed through these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against the United Front. A smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda.
After the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. officials pressed the Taliban to surrender bin Laden. In 1999, the international community imposed sanctions on the Taliban, calling for bin Laden to be surrendered. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed these demands.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Special Activities Division 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 proceed from President Clinton. Their efforts built relationships with Afghan leaders that proved essential in the 2001 invasion.
Change in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan
During the Clinton administration, the U.S. tended to favor Pakistan and until 1998–1999 had no clear policy toward Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, the U.S. State Department's Robin Raphel told Massoud to surrender to the Taliban. Massoud responded that, as long as he controlled an area the size of his hat, he would continue to defend it from the Taliban. Around the same time, top foreign policy officials in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to try to persuade the United Front not to take advantage of a chance to make crucial gains against the Taliban. They insisted it was the time for a cease-fire and an arms embargo. At the time, Pakistan began a "Berlin-like airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban", financed with Saudi money.
U.S. policy toward Afghanistan changed after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden was indicted for his involvement in the embassy bombings. In 1999 both the U.S. and the United Nations enacted sanctions against the Taliban via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267, which demanded the Taliban surrender Osama bin Laden for trial in the U.S. and close all terrorist bases in Afghanistan. The only collaboration between Massoud and the US at the time was an effort with the CIA to trace bin Laden following the 1998 bombings. The U.S. and the European Union provided no support to Massoud for the fight against the Taliban.
By 2001 the change of policy sought by CIA officers who knew Massoud was underway. CIA lawyers, working with officers in the Near East Division and Counter-terrorist Center, began to draft a formal finding for President George W. Bush's signature, authorizing a covert action program in Afghanistan. It would be the first in a decade to seek to influence the course of the Afghan war in favor of Massoud. Richard A. Clarke, 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 National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in January 2001.
A change in US policy was effected in August 2001. The Bush administration agreed on a plan to start supporting Massoud. A meeting of top national security officials agreed that the Taliban would be presented with an ultimatum to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives. If the Taliban refused, the US would provide covert military aid 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."
Northern Alliance on the eve of 9/11
Ahmad Shah Massoud was 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 Declaration. As a consequence, many civilians had fled to areas under his control. In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban.
In late 2000, Massoud officially brought together this new alliance in a meeting in Northern Afghanistan to discuss "a Loya Jirga, or a traditional council of elders, to settle political turmoil in Afghanistan". That part of the Pashtun-Tajik-Hazara-Uzbek peace plan did eventually develop. Among those in attendance was Hamid Karzai.
In early 2001, Massoud, with other ethnic leaders, addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He said that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden, the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for another year. On this visit to Europe, he warned that his intelligence had gathered information about an imminent, large-scale attack on U.S. soil.
On 9 September 2001, Massoud was critically wounded in a suicide attack by two Arabs posing as journalists, who detonated a bomb hidden in their video camera during an interview in Khoja Bahauddin, in the Takhar Province of Afghanistan. Massoud died in the helicopter taking him to a hospital. The funeral, held in a rural area, was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourning Afghans.
11 September 2001 attacks
On the morning of 11 September 2001, al-Qaeda carried out four coordinated attacks on U.S. soil. Four commercial passenger jet airliners were hijacked. The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell – intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and thousands working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from fire damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, 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, or the U.S. Capitol. No flights had survivors.
Nearly 3,000 people, including the 19 hijackers, died in the attacks. According to the New York State Health Department, 836 responders, including firefighters and police personnel, had died as of June 2009.
Declaration of war
The case for war
On 11 September, Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil "denounce[d] the terrorist attack, whoever is behind it". The following day, President Bush called the attacks more than just "acts of terror" but "acts of war" and resolved to pursue and conquer an "enemy" that would no longer be safe in "its harbors". The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef said on 13 September that the Taliban would consider extraditing bin Laden if there was solid evidence linking him to the attacks. Though Osama bin Laden eventually took responsibility for the 9/11 attacks in 2004, he denied having any involvement in a statement issued on 17 September 2001 and by interview on 29 September 2001.
The State Department, in a memo dated 14 September, demanded that the Taliban surrender all known al-Qaeda associates in Afghanistan, provide intelligence on bin Laden and his affiliates and expel all terrorists from Afghanistan. On 18 September, the director of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Mahmud Ahmed conveyed these demands to Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership, whose response was "not negative on all points". Mahmud reported that the Taliban leadership was in "deep introspection" and waiting for the recommendation of a grand council of religious clerics that was assembling to decide the matter. On 20 September, President Bush, in an address to Congress, demanded the Taliban deliver bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda bases.
The same day, a grand council of over 1,000 Muslim clerics from across Afghanistan that had convened to decide bin Laden's fate, issued a fatwa, expressing sadness for the deaths in the 9/11 attacks, urging bin Laden to leave their country and calling on the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to conduct an independent investigation of "recent events to clarify the reality and prevent harassment of innocent people". The fatwa went on to warn that should the United States not agree with its decision and invade Afghanistan, "jihad becomes an order for all Muslims." White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer rejected the response, saying the time for talk had ended and it was time for action.
On 21 September, Taliban representatives in Pakistan reacted to the U.S. response with defiance. Zaeef said the Taliban were ready, if necessary, for war with the United States. His deputy Suhail Shaheen, warned that a U.S. invasion would share in the same fate that befell Great Britain and the Soviet Union in previous centuries. Zaeef reiterated the demand for evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the 9/11 attacks. "If the Americans provide evidence, we will cooperate with them, but they do not provide evidence," he said. "In America, if I think you are a terrorist, is it properly justified that you should be punished without evidence?" he asked. "This is an international principle. If you use the principle, why do you not apply it to Afghanistan?" On 23 September, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC's Meet the Press that the U.S. government would, "in the near future" release "a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence … linking [bin Laden] to this attack." The evidence was not made public but instead shown to Pakistan's government whose leaders later stated that the materials they had seen "provide[d] sufficient basis for indictment in a court of law". Pakistan ISI chief Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed shared information provided to him by the U.S. with Taliban leaders.
On 24 September, Mahmoud told the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan that while the Taliban was "weak and ill-prepared to face the American onslaught", "real victory will come through negotiations" for if the Taliban were eliminated, Afghanistan would revert to warlordism. On 28 September, he led a delegation of eight Pakistani religious leaders to persuade Mullah Omar to accept having religious leaders from Islamic countries examine the evidence and decide bin Laden's fate. Mullah Omar was noncommittal. The U.S. government remained opposed to any negotiations with the Taliban.
Meanwhile the U.S. Department of Defense under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was exploring ways to broaden the military response beyond Afghanistan. In a 9/30 memo to President Bush, Rumsfeld argued "finding a few hundred terrorists in the caves of Afghanistan" was not the U.S. government's "strong suit", which should instead use "the vastness of our military and humanitarian resources" to strengthen the domestic opposition in "terrorist-supporting states" and achieve regime change in "Afghanistan and another key State (or two) that supports terrorism".
On 1 October, Mullah Omar agreed to a proposal by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the head of Pakistan's most important Islamic party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, to have bin Laden taken to Pakistan where he would be held under house arrest in Peshawar and tried by an international tribunal. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf blocked the plan because he could not guarantee bin Laden's safety. On 2 October, Zaeef appealed to the United States to negotiate, "We do not want to compound the problems of the people, the country or the region." He pleaded, "the Afghan people need food, need aid, need shelter, not war." The U.S. government refused to negotiate and instead focused on building a new government around former Afghan King Zahir Shah. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on the Taliban to "surrender the terrorists or surrender power". Mullah Omar warned that unlike the former King's government, which was overthrown in 1973 and surrendered, the Taliban "would just retreat to the mountains" and continue to fight.
On 5 October, the Taliban offered to try bin Laden in an Afghan court, so long as the U.S. provided what it called "solid evidence" of his guilt. The U.S. government dismissed the request for proof as "request for delay or prevarication"; NATO commander George Robertson said the evidence was "clear and compelling". On 7 October, as the U.S. aerial bombing campaign began, President Bush ignored questions about the Taliban's offer and said instead "Full warning had been given, and time is running out." The same day, the State Department gave the Pakistani government one last message to the Taliban: Hand over all al-Qaeda leaders or "every pillar of the Taliban regime will be destroyed."
A week into the bombing campaign, on 14 October, Abdul Kabir, the Taliban's third ranking leader, offered to hand over bin Laden if the U.S. government provided evidence of his guilt and halted the bombing campaign. President Bush rejected the offer as non-negotiable. On 16 October, Muttawakil, the Taliban foreign minister, dropped the condition to see evidence and offered to send bin Laden to a third country in return for a halt to the bombing. US officials also rejected this offer. At that time, some Afghan experts said the United States failed to recognize the Taliban's need for a "face-saving formula". In 2007, bin Laden claimed that the Taliban had no knowledge of his plans for the 9/11 attacks.
Legal basis for war
On 14 September 2001 Congress passed legislation titled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which was signed on 18 September 2001 by President Bush. It authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration, for its part, did not seek a declaration of war and labeled Taliban troops as supporters of terrorists rather than soldiers. It thus defined them as outside the protections of the Geneva Convention and the due process of law. This position was later overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, following other decisions that overturned some US positions. Military lawyers responsible for prosecuting detainees had questioned some of the policies. Internal disputes were revealed years later.
Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, to which all Coalition countries are signatories and for which its ratification by the U.S. makes it the "law of the land"., prohibits the 'threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state' except in circumstances where a competent organ of the UN (e.g. the Security Council) has authorized it, or where it is in self-defence under article 51 of the Charter. Although the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) did not authorize the U.S.-led military campaign, it was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter.
Defenders of the invasion argued that UNSC authorization was not required, since the invasion was an act of collective self-defense provided for under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Specifically, it is argued that a series of UN Security Council Resolutions concerning Afghanistan provided for the possibility of establishing that the Taliban were indirectly responsibility for al-Qaeda’s attacks and although the initial invasion of Afghanistan was not mandated by a specific UN Security Council Resolution, the Security Council moved quickly to authorize a military operation to stabilize the country. Critics claimed that the invasion was illegitimate under Article 51 because the 9/11 attacks were not "armed attacks" by another state, but were perpetrated by non-state actors. They alleged that the attackers had no proven connection to Afghanistan or the Taliban. Critics claimed that even if a state had made the 9/11 attacks, no bombing campaign would constitute self-defense. They interpreted self-defense to cover actions that were "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation."
On 20 December 2001, more than two months after the attack began, the UNSC authorized the creation of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. Command of ISAF passed to NATO on 11 August 2003, following the US invasion of Iraq in March of that year.
History of the conflict
2001: Overthrow of the Taliban
On 7 October 2001, the U.S. launched military operations in Afghanistan. Airstrikes were reported in Kabul, at the airport, at Kandahar (home of Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad. The day before the bombing commenced, Human Rights Watch issued a report in which they urged that no military support be given to the Northern Alliance due to their human rights record.
On the ground, teams from the CIA's Special Activities Division arrived first. They were soon joined by U.S. Army Special Forces from the 5th Special Forces Group and other units from United States Special Operations Command.[pages needed]
At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes and Prime Minister Blair addressed his nation. Bush stated that Taliban military sites and terrorist training grounds would be targeted. Food, medicine and supplies would be dropped to "the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan".
Earlier Bin Laden had released a video in which he condemned all attacks in Afghanistan.
UK and US special forces joined the Northern Alliance and other Afghan opposition groups to take Herat in November 2001. Canada and Australia also deployed forces. Other countries provided basing, access and overflight permission.
Training camps and Taliban air defenses were bombarded by U.S. aircraft, including Apache helicopter gunships from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers launched several Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.
The strikes initially focused on Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Within a few days, most Taliban training sites were severely damaged and air defenses were destroyed. The campaign focused on command, control, and communications targets. The front facing the Northern Alliance held, and no battlefield successes were achieved there. Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance demanded the air campaign focus more on the front lines.
The next stage began with carrier based F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers hitting Taliban vehicles in pinpoint strikes, while other U.S. planes began cluster bombing Taliban defenses. At the beginning of November, allied forces attacked front lines with daisy cutter bombs and AC-130 gunships.
By 2 November, Taliban frontal positions were devastated and a march on Kabul seemed possible. According to author Stephen Tanner,
"After a month of the U.S. bombing campaign rumblings began to reach Washington from Europe, the Mideast, and Pakistan where Musharraf had requested the bombing to cease. Having begun the war with the greatest imaginable reservoir of moral authority, the U.S. was on the verge of letting it slip away through high-level attacks using the most ghastly inventions its scientists could come up with."
Bush went to New York City on 10 November 2001 to address the United Nations. He said that not only was the U.S. in danger of further attacks, but so were all other countries in the world. Tanner observed, "His words had impact. Most of the world renewed its support for the American effort, including commitments of material help from Germany, France, Italy, Japan and other countries."
Al-Qaeda fighters took over security in Afghan cities. The Northern Alliance troops planned to seize Mazar-i-Sharif, cutting off Taliban supply lines and enabling equipment to arrive from the north and then attack Kabul.
Areas most targeted
During the early months, the U.S. military had a limited presence on the ground. Special Forces and intelligence officers with a military background liased with Afghan militias and advanced after the Taliban was disrupted by air power.
The Tora Bora Mountains lie roughly east of Kabul, on the Pakistan border. American analysts believed that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had dug in behind fortified networks of caves and underground bunkers. The area was subjected to a heavy B-52 bombardment.
U.S. and Northern Alliance objectives began to diverge. While the U.S. was continuing the search for Osama bin Laden, the Northern Alliance wanted to finish off the Taliban.
Battle of Mazar-i Sharif
Mazari-i Sharif was important because it is the home of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali or "Blue Mosque", a sacred Muslim site and because it is a significant transportation hub with two major airports and a major supply route leading into Uzbekistan. Taking the city would enable humanitarian aid to alleviate a looming food crisis, which 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 9 November 2001, Northern Alliance forces, under the command of Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor, overcame resistance crossing the Pul-i-Imam Bukhri bridge, and seized the city's main military base and airport.
U.S. Special Forces Operational Detachment A-595, CIA paramilitary officers and United States Air Force Combat Control Team on horseback and with close air support, took part in the push into Mazari Sharif. After a bloody 90-minute battle, Taliban forces withdrew after holding the city since 1998, triggering celebrations.
The fall of the city was a "body blow" to the Taliban and ultimately proved to be a "major shock", since the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) had originally believed that the city would remain in Taliban hands well into the following year and any potential battle would require "a very slow advance".
Following rumors that Mullah Dadullah was headed to recapture the city with as many as 8,000 fighters, a thousand U.S. troops of the 10th Mountain Division were airlifted into the city, providing the first solid position from which Kabul and Kandahar could be reached. While prior military flights had to be launched from Uzbekistan or aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, the U.S. Air Force now had an airport to allow them to fly more sorties for resupply missions and humanitarian aid. These missions allowed shipments of humanitarian aid to be immediately shipped to Afghans facing starvation on the northern plain.
Fall of Kabul
On the night of 12 November, Taliban forces fled Kabul under cover of darkness. Northern Alliance forces arrived the following afternoon, encountering a group of about twenty fighters hiding in the city's park. This group was killed in a 15-minute gun battle. After these forces were neutralized, Kabul was in the hands of coalition forces.
The fall of Kabul started a cascading collapse of Taliban positions. Within 24 hours, all Afghan provinces along the Iranian border had fallen, including Herat. Local Pashtun commanders and warlords had taken over throughout northeastern Afghanistan, including Jalalabad. Taliban holdouts in the north, mainly Pakistani volunteers, fell back to the northern city of Kunduz. By 16 November, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan was under siege. Nearly 10,000 Taliban fighters, led by foreign fighters, continued to resist. By then, the Taliban had been forced back to their heartland in southeastern Afghanistan around Kandahar.
By 13 November, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, possibly including bin Laden, were concentrating in Tora Bora, 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Jalalabad. Nearly 2,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fortified themselves in positions within bunkers and caves. On 16 November the U.S. began bombing the mountain redoubt. Around the same time, CIA and Special Forces operatives were at work in the area, enlisting local warlords and planning an attack.
Fall of Kunduz
As the bombardment at Tora Bora grew, the siege of Kunduz was continuing. After nine days of fighting and bombardment, Taliban fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces on 25–26 November. Shortly before the surrender, Pakistani aircraft arrived to evacuate intelligence and military personnel who had been aiding the Taliban's fight against the Northern Alliance. The airlift is alleged to have evacuated up to five thousand people, including Taliban and al-Qaeda troops.
Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
On 25 November, as Taliban prisoners were moved into Qala-I-Janghi fortress near Mazar-I-Sharif, a few Taliban attacked their Northern Alliance guards. This incident triggered a revolt by 600 prisoners, who soon seized the southern half of the medieval fortress, including an armory stocked with small arms and crew-served weapons. Johnny Micheal Spann, a CIA operative who had been interrogating prisoners, was killed, marking America's first combat death.
The revolt was crushed after seven days of fighting involving a Special Boat Service unit, Army Special Forces, and Northern Alliance forces. AC-130 gunships and other aircraft provided strafing fire and launched bombs. 86 Taliban survived, and around 50 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The revolt was the final combat in northern Afghanistan.
Consolidation: the taking of Kandahar
By the end of November, Kandahar was the Taliban's last stronghold, and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 tribal fighters, led by Karzai and Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar before the Taliban seized power, pressured Taliban forces from the east and cut off northern supply lines to Kandahar. The Northern Alliance loomed in the north and northeast.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marines, ferried in by CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and C-130s, set up a Forward Operating Base known as Camp Rhino in the desert south of Kandahar on 25 November. This was the coalition's first base, and enabled other operating bases to form. The first significant combat involving U.S. ground forces occurred a day after Rhino was captured, when 15 Taleban armored vehicles approached the base and were attacked by helicopter gunships, destroying many of them. Meanwhile, airstrikes continued to pound Taliban positions inside the city, where Mullah Omar remained. Omar remained defiant although his movement controlled only 4 out of 30 Afghan provinces by the end of November. He called on his forces to fight to the death.
On 6 December, the U.S. government rejected amnesty for Omar or any Taliban leaders. On 7 December, Omar slipped out of Kandahar with a group of loyalists and moved northwest into the mountains of Uruzgan Province, thus reneging on the Taliban's promise to surrender their fighters and their weapons. He was last reported seen leaving in a convoy of motorcycles.
Other Taliban leaders fled to Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia and Paktika Provinces. The border town of Spin Boldak surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. Afghan forces under Gul Agha seized Kandahar, while the U.S. Marines took control of the airport and established a U.S. base.
Battle of Tora Bora
Al-Qaeda fighters fought on at Tora Bora. A tribal militia steadily pushed bin Laden back across the difficult terrain, backed by Delta Force, UK Special Forces, and U.S. air strikes. The al-Qaeda forces agreed to a truce ostensibly to give them time to surrender their weapons. The truce was apparently a ruse to allow bin Laden and others to escape into Pakistan. On 12 December, fighting resumed, probably initiated by a rear guard buying time for the main force's escape through the White Mountains.
By 17 December, the last cave complex had been taken and its defenders overrun. U.S. and U.K. forces continued searching into January, but no sign of al-Qaeda leadership emerged. An estimated 200 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the battle, along with an unknown number of tribal fighters. No American or British deaths were reported.
Diplomatic and humanitarian efforts
In December 2001 the United Nations hosted the Bonn Conference. The Taliban were excluded. Four Afghan opposition groups participated. Observers included representatives of neighbouring and other involved major countries.
The resulting Bonn Agreement created the Afghan Interim Authority that would serve as the "repository of Afghan sovereignty" and outlined the so-called Petersberg Process that would lead towards a new constitution and a new Afghan government.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378 of 14 November 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".
The United Nations World Food Programme 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
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. Operating under U.S. General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., ISAF included soldiers from 46 countries, with U.S. troops making up about half its force. ISAF was initially established as a stabilization force by the UN Security Council on 20 December 2001, to secure Kabul. Its mandate did not extend beyond this area for the first few years. On 11 August 2003, NATO assumed political command and coordination of ISAF. On 31 July 2006, ISAF assumed command of the south of the country, and by 5 October 2006, of the east.
2002: Operation Anaconda
Following Tora Bora, coalition forces consolidated their position. Following a Loya jirga, tribal leaders and former exiles established an interim government 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. Outposts were established in eastern provinces to hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives.
Al-Qaeda forces began regrouping in the Shahi-Kot mountains of Paktia province southeast of Gardez throughout January and February 2002. A Taliban fugitive in Paktia province, Mullah Saifur Rehman began reconstituting some of his militia forces. They totalled over 1,000 by the beginning of March 2002. The intention of the insurgents was to use the region to launch guerrilla attacks and possibly a major offensive, copying 1980s anti-Soviet fighters.
Coalition sources soon picked up on this buildup. On 2 March 2002, U.S. and Afghan forces launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Anaconda. Mujahideen forces, using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars, were entrenched into caves and bunkers in the hillsides largely above 3,000 m (10,000 ft).
They used "hit and run" tactics, opening fire and then retreating to their caves and bunkers to weather the return fire and bombing. U.S. commanders initially estimated their opponents as an isolated pocket numbering fewer than 200. Instead the guerrillas numbered between 1,000–5,000, according to some estimates, later receiving reinforcements.
By 6 March, eight American and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed and reportedly 400 opposing forces had been killed. The coalition casualties stemmed from a friendly fire incident that killed one soldier, the downing of two helicopters by rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire that killed seven soldiers, and the pinning down of U.S. forces targeting "Objective Ginger" that resulted in dozens of wounded. Several hundred guerrillas escaped to the tribal areas in Waziristan.
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, the Canadian Joint Task Force 2, the German KSK, the New Zealand Special Air Service and Norwegian Marinejegerkommandoen.
Following the battle at Shahi-Kot, al-Qaeda fighters established sanctuaries among tribal protectors in Pakistan, where they regrouped and launched cross-border raids beginning in the summer of 2002. Guerrilla units, numbering between 5 and 25 men, regularly crossed the border to fire rockets at coalition bases, ambush convoys and patrols and assault non-governmental organizations. The area around the Shkin base 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 and Uruzgan. After Anaconda the Pentagon requested British Royal Marines, highly trained in mountain warfare, to be deployed. They conducted missions over several weeks with varying results. The Taliban, who during the summer of 2002 numbered in the hundreds, avoided combat and hid in caves and tunnels or in Pakistan during operations.
After evading coalition forces throughout mid-2002, Taliban remnants gradually regained confidence and prepared to launch the insurgency that Omar had promised. During September, Taliban forces began a jihad recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pamphlets distributed in secret appeared in many villages in southeastern Afghanistan called for jihad.
Small mobile training camps were established along the border to train recruits in guerrilla warfare, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report. Most were drawn from tribal area madrassas in Pakistan. Bases, a few with as many as 200 fighters, emerged in the tribal areas by the summer of 2003. The will of the Pakistani paramilitaries stationed at border crossings to prevent such infiltration was questioned, while Pakistani military operations proved of little use.
The Taliban established a new mode of operation, gathering into groups of around 50 to launch attacks on isolated outposts, and then breaking up into groups of 5–10 to evade counterattacks. Coalition forces were attacked indirectly, through rocket attacks on bases and improvised explosive devices.
To coordinate the strategy, Omar named a 10-man leadership council, with himself as its leader. Five operational zones were assigned to Taliban commanders such as Dadullah, who took charge in Zabul province. Al-Qaeda forces in the east had a bolder strategy of attacking Americans using elaborate ambushes.
The first sign of the strategy came on 27 January 2003, during Operation Mongoose, when a band of fighters were assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 25 km (15 mi) north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed with no U.S. casualties. The site was suspected to be a base for supplies and fighters coming from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time.
As the summer continued, Taliban attacks gradually increased in frequency. Dozens of Afghan government soldiers, non-governmental organization and humanitarian workers, and several U.S. soldiers died in the raids, ambushes and rocket attacks. Besides guerrilla attacks, Taliban fighters began building up forces in the district of Dai Chopan in Zabul Province.
Dai Chopan is a remote and sparsely populated area composed of tall mountains interspersed with narrow gorges. Taliban fighters decided to make a stand there. Over the course of the summer, up to 1,000 guerrillas moved there. Over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan police, were killed in August 2003.
In late August 2005, Afghan government forces backed by U.S. troops and aerial bombardment advanced upon Taliban positions. After a one-week battle, Taliban forces were routed with up to 124 fighters killed.
2006: Southern Afghanistan
From January 2006, a multinational ISAF contingent started to replace U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force, 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 Dutch, 300 Australian, 290 Danish and 150 Estonian troops. 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 Teams with the British leading in Helmand while the Netherlands and Canada would lead similar deployments in Orūzgān and Kandahar, respectively. Local Taliban figures pledged to resist.
Southern Afghanistan faced in 2006 the deadliest violence since the Taliban's fall. NATO operations were led by British, Canadian and Dutch commanders. Operation Mountain Thrust was launched on 17 May 2006, with. In July, Canadian Forces, supported by U.S., British, Dutch and Danish forces, launched Operation Medusa.
On 18 September 2006 Italian special forces of Task Force 45 and airborne troopers of the 'Trieste' infantry regiment of the Rapid Reaction Corps composed of Italian and Spanish forces, took part in 'Wyconda Pincer' operation in the districts of Bala Buluk and Pusht-i-Rod, in Farah province. Italian forces killed at least 70 Taliban. The situation in RC-W then deteriorated. Hotspots included Badghis in the very north and Farah in the southwest.
Further NATO operations included the Battle of Panjwaii, Operation Mountain Fury and Operation Falcon Summit. NATO achieved tactical victories and area denial, but the Taliban were not completely defeated. NATO operations continued into 2007.
2007: Coalition offensive
In January and February 2007, British Royal Marines mounted Operation Volcano to clear insurgents from firing-points in the village of Barikju, north of Kajaki. Other major operations during this period included Operation Achilles (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, took place to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in the hope of blunting their expected spring offensive.
On 4 March 2007 U.S. Marines killed at least 12 civilians and injured 33 in Shinwar district, Nangrahar, in a U.S. marine response to a bomb ambush. The event became known as the Shinwar Massacre. The 120 member Marine unit responsible for the attack was asked[by whom?] to leave the country, because the incident damaged the unit's relations with the local Afghan population.
Later in March 2007, the US added more than 3,500 troops.
On 12 May 2007, ISAF forces killed Mullah Dadullah. Eleven other Taliban fighters died in the same firefight.
On 16 August, eight civilians including a pregnant woman and a baby died when Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel, Paktika Province. Seven soldiers have been charged with war crimes.
Western officials and analysts estimated the strength of Taliban forces at about 10,000 fighters fielded at any given time. Of that number, only 2,000 to 3,000 were highly motivated, full-time insurgents. The rest were part-timers, made up of alienated, young Afghans, angered by bombing raids or responding to payment. In 2007, more foreign fighters came than ever before, according to 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 were reportedly more fanatical and violent, often bringing superior video-production or bombmaking expertise.
On 2 November security forces killed a top-ranking militant, Mawlawi Abdul Manan, after he was caught crossing the border. The Taliban confirmed his death. On 10 November the Taliban ambushed a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. This attack brought the U.S. death toll for 2007 to 100, making it the Americans' deadliest year in Afghanistan.
2008: Reassessment and renewed commitment
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 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 from 26,607 in January to 48,250 in June. In September 2008, President Bush announced the withdrawal of over 8,000 from Iraq and a further increase of up to 4,500 in Afghanistan.
In June 2008, British prime minister Gordon Brown announced the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan would increase to 8,030 – a rise of 230. The same month, the UK lost its 100th serviceman.
On 13 June, Taliban fighters demonstrated their ongoing strength, liberating all prisoners in Kandahar jail. The operation freed 1200 prisoners, 400 of whom were Taliban prisoners of war, causing a major embarrassment for NATO.
On 13 July 2008, a coordinated Taliban attack was launched on a remote NATO base at Wanat in Kunar province. On 19 August, French troops suffered their worst losses in Afghanistan in an ambush. Later in the month, an airstrike targeted a Taliban commander in Herat province and killed 90 civilians.
On 3 September, the war spilled onto Pakistani territory for the first time when heavily armed commandos, believed to be U.S. Army Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses close to a known enemy stronghold. The attack killed between seven and twenty people. Local residents claimed that most of the dead were civilians. Pakistan condemned the attack, calling the incursion "a gross violation of Pakistan's territory".
On 6 September, in an apparent reaction, Pakistan announced an indefinite disconnection of supply lines.
On 11 September, militants killed two U.S. troops in the east. This brought the total number of U.S. losses to 113, more than in any prior year. Several European countries set their own records, particularly the UK, who suffered 108 casualties.
Taliban attacks on supply lines
In November and December 2008, multiple incidents of major theft, robbery, and arson attacks afflicted NATO supply convoys in Pakistan. Transport companies south of Kabul were extorted for money by the Taliban. These incidents included the hijacking of a NATO convoy carrying supplies in Peshawar, the torching of cargo trucks and Humvees east of the Khyber pass and a half-dozen raids on NATO supply depots near Peshawar that destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December 2008.
Issues with Pakistan
An unnamed senior Pentagon official told the BBC that at some point between 12 July and 12 September 2008, President Bush issued a classified order authorizing raids against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan 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 U.S. soldiers who crossed the border in pursuit of militant forces.
On 25 September 2008, Pakistani troops fired on ISAF helicopters. This caused confusion and anger in the Pentagon, which asked for a full explanation into the incident and denied that U.S. helicopters were in Pakistani airspace.
A further split occurred when U.S. troops apparently landed on Pakistani soil to carry out an operation against militants in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. 'Pakistan reacted angrily to the action, saying 20 innocent villagers had been killed by US troops'. However, despite tensions, the U.S. increased the use of remotely piloted drone aircraft in Pakistan's border regions, in particular the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) and Balochistan; as of early 2009, drone attacks were up 183% since 2006.
By the end of 2008, the Taliban apparently had severed remaining ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, perhaps fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan.
In a meeting with General Stanley McChrystal, Pakistani military officials urged international forces to remain on the Afghan side of the border and prevent militants from fleeing into Pakistan. Pakistan noted that it had deployed 140,000 soldiers on its side of the border to address militant activities, while the coalition had only 100,000 soldiers to police the Afghanistan side.
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 Central Asian republics. Initial permission to move supplies through the region was given on 20 January 2009, after a visit to the region by General David Petraeus. The first shipment along the NDN route left on 20 February from Riga, Latvia, then traveled 5,169 km (3,212 mi) to the Uzbek town of Termez on the Afghanistan border. In addition to Riga, other European ports included Poti, Georgia and Vladivostok, Russia. U.S. commanders hoped that 100 containers a day would be shipped along the NDN. By comparison, 140 containers a day were typically shipped through the Khyber Pass. By 2011, the NDN handled about 40% of Afghanistan-bound traffic, versus 30% through Pakistan.
On 11 May 2009, Uzbekistan 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 U.S. following the 2005 Andijon massacre and subsequent expulsion of U.S. forces from Karshi-Khanabad airbase, U.S. forces were not involved in the shipments. Instead, South Korea's Korean Air, which overhauled Navoi's airport, officially handled logistics.
Originally only non-lethal resources were allowed on the NDN. In July 2009, however, shortly before a visit by new President Barack Obama to Moscow, Russian authorities announced that U.S. troops and weapons could use the country's airspace to reach Afghanistan.
Human rights advocates were (as of 2009) concerned that the U.S. was again working with the government of Uzbekistan, which is often accused of violating human rights. U.S. officials promised increased cooperation with Uzbekistan, including further assistance to turn Navoi into a regional distribution center for both military and civilian ventures.
Azerbaijan, which sent peacekeeping forces as part of ISAF, also provided airspace and airports. Over one-third of all of the nonlethal equipment including fuel, clothing, and food used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku at one point.
Increase in U.S. 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. Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside them. The troops were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.
In mid-February, it was announced that 17,000 additional troops would be deployed in two brigades and support troops; the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade of about 3,500 and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade with about 4,000. U.S. commander General McKiernan had called for as many as 30,000 additional troops, effectively doubling the number of troops.
In November, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry sent two classified cables to Washington expressing concerns about sending more troops before the Afghan government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise. 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 development and reconstruction. In subsequent cables, Eikenberry repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in "astronomical costs" – tens of billions of dollars – and would only deepen the Afghan government's dependence on the United States.
On 26 November, Karzai made a public plea for direct negotiations with the Taliban leadership. Karzai said there is an "urgent need" for negotiations and made it clear that the Obama administration had opposed such talks. There was no formal US response.
On 1 December, Obama announced at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point that the U.S. would send 30,000 more troops. Antiwar organizations in the U.S. responded quickly, and cities throughout the U.S. saw protests on 2 December. Many protesters compared the decision to deploy more troops in Afghanistan to the expansion of the Vietnam War under the Johnson administration.
On 4 September, during the Kunduz Province Campaign a devastating NATO air raid was conducted 7 kilometres southwest of Kunduz where Taliban fighters had hijacked civilian supply trucks, killing up to 179 people, including over 100 civilians.
Operation Khanjar and Operation Panther's Claw
On 25 June US officials announced the launch of Operation Khanjar ("strike of the sword"). About 4000 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and 650 Afghan soldiers participated. Khanjar followed a British-led operation named Operation Panther's Claw in the same region. Officials called 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 long-term ISAF presence.
Initially, Afghan and American soldiers moved into towns and villages along the Helmand River to protect the civilian population. The main objective was to push 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 20 August.
According to a 22 December briefing by Major General Michael T. Flynn, 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 were already up by 300 percent since 2007 and by 60 percent since 2008, according to the briefing. NATO intelligence at the time 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 10 August McChrystal, newly appointed as 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 aggressively spread their influence into north and west Afghanistan and stepped up their attack in an attempt to disrupt presidential polls. Calling the Taliban a "very aggressive enemy", he added that the U.S. strategy was to stop their momentum and focus on protecting and safeguarding Afghan civilians, calling it "hard work".
The Taliban's claim that the over 135 violet incidents disrupting elections was largely disputed. However, the media was asked to not report on any violent incidents. Some estimates reported voter turn out as much less than the expected 70 percent. In southern Afghanistan where the Taliban held the most power, voter turnout was low and sporadic violence was directed at voters and security personnel. The chief observer of the European Union election mission, General Philippe Morillon, said the election was "generally fair" but "not free".
Western election observers had difficulty accessing southern regions, 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 on the road between Kabul and Kandahar, stopping vehicles and asking to see their fingers. The video went showed ten men who had voted, listening to a Taliban militant. The Taliban pardoned the voters because of Ramadan. The Taliban attacked towns with rockets and other indirect fire. Amid claims of widespread fraud, both top contenders, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory. Reports suggested that turnout was lower than in the prior election.
After Karzai's alleged win of 54 per cent, which would prevent a runoff, over 400,000 Karzai votes had to be disallowed after accusations of fraud. Some nations criticized the elections as "free but not fair".
2010: American–British offensive and Afghan peace initiative
In public statements U.S. officials had previously praised Pakistan's military effort against militants during its offensive in South Waziristan in November 2009. Karzai started peace talks with Haqqani network groups in March 2010, and there were other peace initiatives including the Afghan Peace Jirga 2010. In July 2010, a U.S. 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." A report on meeting up with school representatives mentioned students throwing rocks at soldiers and not welcoming their arrival, as had been reported on several occasions elsewhere. President Zardari said that Pakistan had spent over 35 billion U.S. dollars during the previous eight years fighting 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 the number of injured coalition soldiers, mainly Americans, significantly increased. Beginning in May 2010 NATO special forces began to concentrate on operations to capture or kill specific Taliban leaders. As of March 2011, the U.S. military claimed that the effort had resulted in the capture or killing of more than 900 low- to mid-level Taliban commanders. 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.
Deployment of additional U.S. 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 as the main source. U.S. troops in Afghanistan outnumbered those in Iraq for the first time since 2003.
The CIA, following a request by General McChrystal, planned to increase teams of operatives, including elite SAD officers, with U.S. military special operations forces. This combination worked well in Iraq and was largely credited with the success of that surge. The CIA also increased its campaign using Hellfire missile 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 supported a sixfold increase in Special Forces operations. 700 airstrikes occurred 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 ended. Petraeus said, "We've got our teeth in the enemy's jugular now, and we're not going to let go."
The CIA created Counter-terrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT) staffed by Afghans at the war's beginning. This force grew to over 3,000 by 2010 and was considered one of the "best Afghan fighting forces". Firebase Lilley was one of SAD's nerve centers. These units were not only effective in operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, but have expanded their operations into Pakistan. They were also important factors in both the "counterterrorism plus" and the full "counter-insurgency" options discussed by the Obama administration in the December 2010 review.
On 25 July 2010, the release of 91,731 classified documents from the Wikileaks organization was made public. The documents cover U.S. military incident and intelligence 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 included many references to other incidents involving civilian casualties like the Kunduz airstrike and Nangar Khel incident. 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 (usually known as the ISI) is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan."
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 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 release of a video allegedly showing uniformed Pakistan soldiers executing unarmed civilians. After the Torkham border closing, Pakistani Taliban attacked NATO convoys, killing several drivers and destroying around 100 tankers.
2011: U.S. and NATO drawdown
Battle of Kandahar
The Battle of Kandahar was part of an offensive named after the Battle of Bad'r that took place on 13 March 624, between Medina and Mecca. The Battle followed an 30 April announcement that the Taliban would launch their Spring offensive.
On 7 May the Taliban launched a major offensive on government buildings in Kandahar. The Taliban said their goal was to take control of the city. At least eight locations were attacked: the governor's compound, the mayor's office, the NDS headquarters, three police stations and two high schools. The battle continued onto a second day. The BBC's Bilal Sarwary called it "the worst attack in Kandahar province since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, and a embarrassment for the Western-backed Afghan government."
Death of Osama bin Laden
On 2 May U.S. officials announced that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed in Operation Neptune Spear, conducted by the CIA and U.S. Navy SEALs, in Pakistan. Crowds gathered outside the White House chanting "USA, USA" after the news emerged.
On 22 June President Obama announced that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 troops would return by the summer of 2012. After the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops, only 80,000 remained. In July 2011 Canada withdrew its combat troops, transitioning to a training role.
Following suit, other NATO countries announced troop reductions. The United Kingdom stated that it would gradually withdraw its troops, however it did not specify numbers or dates. France announced that it would withdraw roughly 1,000 soldiers by the end of 2012, with 3,000 soldiers remaining. Hundreds would come back at the end of 2011 and in the beginning of 2012, when the Afghan National Army took control of Surobi district. The remaining troops would continue to operate in Kapisa. Their complete withdrawal was expected by the end of 2014 or earlier given adequate security.
Belgium announced that half of their force would withdraw starting in January 2012. Norway announced it had started a withdrawal of its near 500 troops and would be completely out by 2014. Equally, the Spanish Prime Minister announced the withdrawal of troops beginning in 2012, including up to 40 percent by the end of the first half of 2013, and complete withdrawal by 2014.
2011 U.S.–NATO attack in Pakistan
After Neptune Spear, an accidental, direct attack on Pakistan's armed forces by ISAF forces occurred on 26 November, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan blocked NATO supply lines and ordered Americans to leave Shamsi Airfield. 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 Athar Abbas. "This could have serious consequences in the level and extent of our cooperation.
2012: Strategic Agreement
Taliban attacks continued at the same rate as they did in 2011, remaining around 28,000 Taliban "enemy initiated" attacks.
Reformation of the United Front (Northern Alliance)
In late 2011 the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) was created by Ahmad Zia Massoud, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq in what many analysts have described as a reformation of the military wing of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to oppose a return of the Taliban to power. Meanwhile, much of the political wing reunited under the National Coalition of Afghanistan led by Abdullah Abdullah becoming the main democratic opposition movement in the Afghan parliament. Former head of intelligence Amrullah Saleh has created a new movement, Basej-i Milli (Afghanistan Green Trend), with support among the youth mobilizing about 10,000 people in an anti-Taliban demonstration in Kabul in May 2011.
In January 2012, the National Front of Afghanistan raised concerns about the possibility of a secret deal between the US, Pakistan and the Taliban during a widely publicized meeting in Berlin. U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert wrote, "These leaders who fought with embedded Special Forces to initially defeat the Taliban represent over 60-percent of the Afghan people, yet are being entirely disregarded by the Obama and Karzai Administrations in negotiations." After the meeting with US congressmen in Berlin the National Front signed a joint declaration stating among other things:
"We firmly believe that any negotiation with the Taliban can only be acceptable, and therefore effective, if all parties to the conflict are involved in the process. The present form of discussions with the Taliban is flawed, as it excludes anti-Taliban Afghans. It must be recalled that the Taliban extremists and their Al-Qaeda supporters were defeated by Afghans resisting extremism with minimal human embedded support from the United States and International community. The present negotiations with the Taliban fail to take into account the risks, sacrifices and legitimate interests of the Afghans who ended the brutal oppression of all Afghans.—National Front Berlin Statement, January 2012
High-profile U.S. military incidents
Beginning in January 2012 incidents involving US troops occurred which were described by The Sydney Morning Herald as "a series of damaging incidents and disclosures involving US troops in Afghanistan […]". These incidents created fractures in the partnership between Afghanistan and ISAF, raised the question whether discipline within U.S. troops was breaking down, undermined "the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people" and strained the relations between Afghanistan and the United States. Besides an incident involving US troops who posed with body parts of dead insurgents and an video apparently showing a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile these "high-profile U.S. military incidents in Afghanistan" also included the 2012 Afghanistan Quran burning protests and the Panjwai shooting spree.
Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement
On 2 May 2012, Presidents Karzai and Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, after the US president had arrived unanounced in Kabul on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. The U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, officially entitled the "Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America", provides the long-term framework for the two countries' relationship after the drawdown of U.S. forces. The Strategic Partnership Agreement went into effect on 4 July 2012, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 8 July 2012 at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan. On 7 July 2012, as part of the agreement, the U.S. designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally after Karzai and Clinton met in Kabul. On 11 November 2012, as part of the agreement, the two countries launched negotiations for a bilateral security agreement.
NATO Chicago Summit: Troops withdrawal and long-term presence
On 21 May 2012 the leaders of NATO-member countries endorsed an exit strategy during the NATO Summit. ISAF Forces would transfer command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013, while shifting from combat to advising, training and assisting Afghan security forces. Most of the 130,000 ISAF troops would depart by the end of December 2014. A new NATO mission would then assume the support role.
Karzai visited the U.S. in January 2012. At the time the U.S. stated its openness to withdrawing all of its troops by the end of 2014. On 11 January 2012 Karzai and Obama agreed to transfer combat operations from NATO to Afghan forces by spring 2013 rather than summer 2013.
"What's going to happen this spring is that Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country", Obama said. "They [ISAF forces] will still be fighting alongside Afghan troops...We will be in a training, assisting, advising role." Obama added He also stated the reason of the withdrawals that "We achieved our central goal, or have come very close...which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can't attack us again," .
Obama also stated that he would determine the pace of troop withdrawal after consultations with commanders. He added that any U.S. mission beyond 2014 would focus solely on counterterrorism operations and training. Obama insisted that a continuing presence must include an immunity agreement in which US troops are not subjected to Afghan law. "I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be compromised, in a way that Afghan law will not be compromised," Karzai replied.
Both leaders agreed that the United States would transfer Afghan prisoners and prisons to the Afghan government and withdraw troops from Afghan villages in spring 2013. "The international forces, the American forces, will be no longer present in the villages, that it will be the task of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection," the Afghan president said.
On 18 June 2013 the transfer of security responsibilities was completed. The last step was to transfer control of 95 remaining districts. Karzai said, "When people see security has been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before." NATO leader Rasmussen said that Afghan forces were completing a five-stage transition process that began in March 2011. "They are doing so with remarkable resolve," he said. "Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces … now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police." ISAF remained slated to end its mission by the end of 2014. Some 100,000 ISAF forces remained in the country.
U.S.–Afghanistan Bilateral Security agreement
As part of the U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement the United States and Afghanistan reached an agreement on a bilateral security agreement, on 20 November 2013. If approved, the agreement would allow the U.S. to deploy military advisors to train and equip Afghan security forces, along with U.S. special-operations troops for anti-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. President Obama will determine the size of the force. The bilateral security agreement was signed on September 30, 2014.
2014: Withdrawal continues and the insurgency increases
After 2013, Afghanistan has been shaken hard with suicide bombings by the Taliban. A clear example of this is a bombing of a Lebanese restaurant in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul on 18 February 2014. Among the dead in this attack was UN staff and the owner of the restaurant, who died protecting his business. 21 people altogether were killed. Meanwhile, the withdrawal continues with 200 more US troops alone coming home. The UK have halved their force and are slowing withdrawing with all but two bases being closed down. On 20 March 2014, more than 4 weeks after a bomb in a military bus by the Taliban rocked the city once again, a raid on the Serena hotel in Kabul by the Taliban resulted in the deaths of 9 people, including the 4 perpetrators. The attack came just 8 days after Swedish radio journalist Nils Horner was shot dead by the Taliban.
In March 2014, The Christian Science Monitor reported, "The good news is that so far, Russia has shown no inclination to use the NDN [Northern Distribution Network, key supply line to Afghanistan that runs through Russia] as leverage in the wake of US retaliation for its troop movements in Crimea."
On 5 August 2014, a gunman in an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a number of U.S., foreign and Afghan soldiers, killing a U.S. general, Harold J. Greene and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers including a German brigadier general and a large number of U.S. soldiers at Camp Qargha, a training base west of Kabul.
Two longterm security pacts, the Bilaterial Security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States of America and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement betwenn NATO and Afghanistan, were signed on September 30, 2014. Both pacts lay out the framework for the foreign troop involvement in Afghnistan after the year 2014.
After 13 years Britain and the United States officially ended their combat operation in Afghanistan on October 26, 2014. On that day Britain handed over its last base in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion, while the United States handed over its last base, Camp Leatherneck, both based in the southern province of Helmand, to Afghan forces.
Post-2014 presence plans for NATO and the United States
As early as November 2012, the U.S. and NATO were considering the precise configuration of their post-2014 presence in Afghanistan. On 27 May 2014, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end in December 2014. A residual force of 9,800 troops would remain in the country, training Afghan security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against remnants of al-Qaeda. This force would be halved by the end of 2015, and consolidated at Bagram Air Base and in Kabul. Obama also announced that all U.S. forces, with the exception of a "normal embassy presence," would be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. These plans were confirmed with the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan on 30 September 2014.
Impact on Afghan society
Castually estimates for specific years or periods have been published by multiple organizations. According to a UN report, the Taliban were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. A UN report in June 2011 stated that 2,777 civilians were known to have been killed in 2010, (insurgents responsible for 75%). A July 2011 UN report said "1,462 non-combatants died" in the first six months of 2011 (insurgents 80%). In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed, the fifth successive annual rise. According to a UN report, in 2013 there were 2,959 civilian deaths with 74% being blamed on anti-government forces, 8% on Afghan security forces, 3% on ISAF forces, 10% to ground engagements between anti-Government forces and pro-Government forces and 5% of the deaths were unattributed. 60% of Afghans have direct personal experience and most others report suffering a range of hardships. 96% have been affected either personally or from the wider consequences.
Since 2001, more than 5.7 million former refugees have returned to Afghanistan, but 2.2 million others remained refugees in 2013. In January 2013 the UN estimated that 547,550 were internally displaced persons, a 25% increase over the 447,547 IDPs estimated for January 2012
From 1996–1999, the Taliban controlled 96% of Afghanistan's poppy fields and made opium its largest source of revenue. Taxes on opium exports became one of the mainstays of Taliban income. According to Rashid, "drug money funded the weapons, ammunition and fuel for the war." In The New York Times, the Finance Minister of the United Front, Wahidullah Sabawoon, declared the Taliban had no annual budget but that they "appeared to spend US$300 million a year, nearly all of it on war". He added that the Taliban had come to increasingly rely on three sources of money: "poppy, the Pakistanis and bin Laden".
By 2000 Afghanistan accounted for an estimated 75% of the world's opium supply and in 2000 produced an estimated 3276 tonnes from 82,171 hectares (203,050 acres). Omar then banned opium cultivation and production dropped to an estimated 74 metric tonnes from 1,685 hectares (4,160 acres). Some observers say the ban – which came in a bid for international recognition at the United Nations – was issued only to raise opium prices and increase profit from the sale of large existing stockpiles. 1999 had yielded a record crop and had been followed by a lower but still large 2000 harvest. The trafficking of accumulated stocks continued in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, the UN mentioned the "existence of significant stocks of opiated accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests". In September 2001 – before 11 September attacks against the U.S. – the Taliban allegedly authorized Afghan peasants to sow opium again.
Soon after the invasion opium production increased markedly. By 2005, Afghanistan was producing 90% of the world's opium, most of which was 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".
War crimes (a serious violation of the laws and customs of war giving rise to individual criminal responsibility) have been committed by both sides, including civilian massacres, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, use of torture and the murder of prisoners of war. Additional common crimes include theft, arson, and the destruction of property not warranted by military necessity.
In 2011 The New York Times reported that the Taliban was responsible for 3⁄4 of all civilian deaths in the War in Afghanistan. In 2013 the UN stated that the Taliban had been placing bombs along transit routes.
In December 2001 the Dasht-i-Leili massacre took place, where between 250 and 3,000 Taliban fighters who had surrendered, were shot and/or suffocated to death in metal truck containers during transportation by Northern Alliance forces. Reports place U.S. ground troops at the scene. The Irish documentary Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death investigated these allegations and claimed that mass graves of thousands of victims were found by UN investigators and that the US blocked investigations into the incident.
On 21 June 2003, David Passaro, a CIA contractor and former United States Army Ranger, killed Abdul Wali, a prisoner at a U.S. base 16 km (10 mi) south of Asadabad, in Kunar Province. Passaro was found guilty of one count of felony assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of misdemeanor assault. On 10 August 2009, he was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in prison.
In 2005, The New York Times obtained a 2,000-page United States Army report concerning the homicides of two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners by U.S. armed forces in 2002 at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan. The prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were chained to the ceiling and beaten, which caused their deaths. Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners' deaths were homicides. Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners' legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus. Fifteen soldiers were charged.
During the summer of 2010, ISAF charged five United States Army soldiers with the murder of three Afghan civilians in Kandahar province and collecting their body parts as trophies in what came to be known as the Maywand District murders. In addition, seven soldiers were charged with crimes such as hashish use, impeding an investigation and attacking the whistleblower, Specialist Justin Stoner. Eleven of the twelve soldiers were convicted on various counts.
A British Royal Marine Sergeant, identified as Sergeant Alexander Blackman from Taunton, Somerset, was convicted at court martial in Wiltshire of having murdered an unarmed, reportedly wounded Afghan fighter in Helmand Province in September 2011. On 6 December 2013, Sergeant Blackman received a life sentence, with a minimum of ten years before he is eligible for parole, from the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire. Furthermore he has been dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines.
On 11 March 2012, the Kandahar massacre occurred when sixteen civilians were killed and six wounded in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Nine of the victims were children, and eleven of the dead were from the same family. United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was taken into custody and charged with sixteen counts of premeditated murder. After pleading guilty to sixteen counts of premeditated murder, Bales was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
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 noted, 1) following the Afghanistan surge announcement in 2009, Defense Department spending on Afghanistan increased by 50%, going from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month. During that time, troop strength increased from 44,000 to 84,000, and was expected to be at 102,000 for fiscal year 2011; 2) The total cost from inception to the fiscal year 2011 was expected to be $468 billion. The estimate for the cost of deploying one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan is over US$1 million a year.
In a 2008 interview, the then-head U.S. Central Command General David H. Petraeus, insisted that the Taliban were gaining strength. He cited a recent uptick in attacks in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan. Petraeus insisted that the challenges in Afghanistan were more complicated than the ones he had faced in Iraq during his tour and required removing widespread sanctuaries and strongholds.
Observers 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 the country instead of the region.
In 2009, Afghanistan moved three places in Transparency International's annual index of corruption, becoming the world's second most-corrupt country just ahead of Somalia. In the same month, Malalai Joya, 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 and her concerns about the future. "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."
Pakistan plays a central role in the conflict. A 2010 report published by the London School of Economics says that Pakistan's ISI has an "official policy" of support to the Taliban. "Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude," the report states. Amrullah Saleh, former director of Afghanistan's intelligence service, stated, "We talk about all these proxies [Taliban, Haqqanis] but not the master of proxies, which is the Pakistan army. The question is what does Pakistan's army want to achieve …? They want to gain influence in the region" About the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan he stated: "[T]hey fight for the U.S. national interest but … without them we will face massacre and disaster and God knows what type of a future Afghanistan will have."
Afghan security forces
Afghan National Army
U.S. policy called for boosting the Afghan National Army 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 allowed the U.S. to begin withdrawing its forces in July 2011.
In 2010, the Afghan National Army had limited fighting capacity. Even the best Afghan units lacked training, discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one new unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers had been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting. Some were suspected of collaborating with the Taliban. "They don't have the basics, so they lay down," said Capt. Michael Bell, who was 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 were illiterate.
The Afghan Army was plagued by inefficiency and endemic corruption. U.S. training efforts were drastically slowed by the problems. U.S. trainers reported missing vehicles, weapons and other military equipment, and outright theft of fuel. Death threats were leveled against U.S. officers who tried to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Afghan soldiers often snipped the command wires of IEDs instead of marking them and waiting for U.S. forces to come to detonate them. This allowed insurgents to return and reconnect them. U.S. trainers frequently removed the cell phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation would be compromised. American trainers often spent large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters were accurate – that they are not padded with "ghosts" being "paid" by Afghan commanders who stole the wages.
Desertion was a significant problem. 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.
Afghan National Police
The Afghan National Police provides support to the Afghan army. Police officers in Afghanistan are also largely illiterate. Approximately 17 percent of them tested positive for illegal drugs in 2010. They were widely accused of demanding bribes. Attempts to build a credible Afghan police force were faltering badly, according to NATO officials. 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.
Beginning in 2011, insurgent forces in Afghanistan began using a tactic of insider attacks on ISAF and Afghan military forces. In the attacks, Taliban personnel or sympathizers belonging to, or pretending to belong to, the Afghan military or police forces attack ISAF personnel, often within the security of ISAF military bases and Afghan government facilities. In 2011, for example, 21 insider attacks killed 35 coalition personnel. Forty-six insider attacks killed 63 and wounded 85 coalition troops, mostly American, in the first 11 months of 2012. The attacks continued but began diminishing towards the planned 31 December 2014 ending of combat operations in Afghanistan by ISAF. However, on 5 August 2014, a gunman in an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a number of international military personnel, killing a U.S. general and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers, including a German brigadier general and 8 U.S. troops, at a training base west of Kabul.
Polls of Afghans displayed strong opposition to the Taliban and significant support of the U.S. military presence. However the idea of permanent U.S. military bases was not popular in 2005.
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 Taliban, 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 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; 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 south and east 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 Kandahar tribal elder. "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 residents insisted that the dead were civilians.
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.
A large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup 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 three countries out of the 37 surveyed – the U.S., Israel and India – did majorities favor military action. 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%) and Mexico (94%).
An Ipsos-Reid 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, pluralities wanted NATO troops out as soon as possible. In 32 out of 47, clear majorities wanted war over as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries said 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 U.S. (50%), Australia (60%), and Britain (48%) – did public opinion lean more toward keeping troops there until the situation has stabilized.
Following that June 2008 global survey, however, public opinion in Australia and Britain diverged from that in the U.S. Aa majority of Australians and Britons now want their troops home. A September 2008 poll found that 56% of Australians opposed continuation of their country's military involvement. A November 2008 poll found that 68% of Britons wanted their troops withdrawn within the next 12 months.
In the U.S., 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. 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% favoring some troop increases, 39%–44% wanting reduction, and 7–9% wanting no changes. Just 29% of Democrats favored troop increases while 57% wanted to begin reducing troops. Only 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 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.
An April 2011 Pew Research Center poll showed little change in American views, with about 50% saying that the effort was going very well or fairly well and only 44% supporting NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.
Protests, demonstrations and rallies
The war was been the subject of large protests around the world starting with the large-scale demonstrations in the days leading up to the invasion and every year since. Many protesters consider the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan to be unjustified aggression. The deaths of Afghan civilians caused directly and indirectly by the U.S. and NATO bombing campaigns is a major underlying focus of the protests. In January 2009, Brave New Foundation launched Rethink Afghanistan, a national campaign for non-violent solutions in Afghanistan built around a documentary film by director and political activist Robert Greenwald. Dozens of organizations planned (and eventually held) a national march for peace in Washington, D.C. on 20 March 2010.
Human rights abuses
Multiple accounts document human rights violations in Afghanistan.
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. 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. Some religious leaders have condemned Taliban terrorist attacks and said these kinds of attacks are against Islamic ethics.
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 it had evidence 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." The Taliban committed human rights violations against women in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.
White phosphorus use
White phosphorus has been condemned by human rights organizations as cruel and inhumane because it causes severe burns. White phosphorus burns on the bodies of civilians wounded in clashes near Bagram were confirmed. The U.S. claims at least 44 instances in which militants have used white phosphorus in weapons or attacks. In May 2009, the U.S. 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 when regular smoke munitions were not available. The Afghan government investigated the use of white phosphorus munitions.
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- see video
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