Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was the official name used by the U.S. government for the Global War on Terrorism. On 7 October 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced that airstrikes targeting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had begun in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom primarily refers to the War in Afghanistan, but it was also affiliated with counterterrorism operations in other countries, such as OEF-Philippines and OEF-Trans Sahara.
After 13 years, on 28 December 2014, President Barack Obama announced the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Subsequent operations in Afghanistan by the United States' military forces, both non-combat and combat, occurred under the name Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Operation Enduring Freedom most commonly referred to the U.S.-led combat mission in Afghanistan. The codename was also used for counter-terrorism operations in other countries targeting Al Qaeda and remnants of the Taliban, such as OEF-Philippines and OEF-Trans Sahara, primarily through government funding vehicles.
- Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), 7 October 2001 – 31 December 2014. Succeeded by Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P, formerly Operation Freedom Eagle), 15 January 2002 – 24 February 2015
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Pankisi Gorge
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS; see also Insurgency in the Maghreb)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Caribbean and Central America (OEF-CCA)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Kyrgyzstan, 18 December 2001 – 3 June 2014
The U.S. government used the term "Operation Enduring Freedom" to officially describe the War in Afghanistan, from the period between 7 October 2001 and 31 December 2014. Subsequent operations in Afghanistan by the United States' military forces, both non-combat and combat, occurred under the name Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
The operation was originally called "Operation Infinite Justice", but as similar phrases have been used by adherents of several religions as an exclusive description of God, it is believed to have been changed to avoid offense to Muslims who are the majority religion in Afghanistan. In September 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush's remark that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while", which prompted widespread criticism from the Islamic world, may also have contributed to the renaming of the operation.
The term "OEF" typically refers to the phase of the War in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. Other operations, such as the Georgia Train and Equip Program, are only loosely or nominally connected, such as through government funding vehicles. All the operations, however, have a focus on counterterrorism activities.
Operation Enduring Freedom, which was a joint U.S., U.K., and Afghan operation, was separate from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was an operation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations including the U.S. and the U.K. The two operations ran in parallel, although it had been suggested that they merge.
In response to the attacks of 11 September, the early combat operations that took place on 7 October 2001 to include a mix of strikes from land-based B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bombers, carrier-based F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighters, and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from both U.S. and British ships and submarines signaled the start of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The initial military objectives of OEF, as articulated by President George W. Bush in his 20 September address to a Joint Session of Congress and his 7 October address to the country, included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al-Qaeda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan.
In January 2002, over 1,200 soldiers from the United States Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) deployed to the Philippines to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their push to uproot terrorist forces on the island of Basilan. Of those groups included are Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. The operation consisted of training the AFP in counter-terrorist operations as well as supporting the local people with humanitarian aid in Operation Smiles.
In October 2002, the Combined Task Force 150 and United States military Special Forces established themselves in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. The stated goals of the operation were to provide humanitarian aid and patrol the Horn of Africa to reduce the abilities of terrorist organizations in the region. Similar to OEF-P, the goal of humanitarian aid was emphasized, ostensibly to prevent militant organizations from being able to take hold amongst the population as well as reemerge after being removed.
The military aspect involves coalition forces searching and boarding ships entering the region for illegal cargo as well as providing training and equipment to the armed forces in the region. The humanitarian aspect involves building schools, clinics and water wells to enforce the confidence of the local people.
Since 2001, the cumulative expenditure by the U.S. government on Operation Enduring Freedom has exceeded $150 billion.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan
Seizing upon a power vacuum after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan after their invasion, the Taliban governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Their extreme interpretation of Islamic law prompted them to ban music, television, sports, and dancing, and enforce harsh judicial penalties (See Human rights in Afghanistan). Amputation was an accepted form of punishment for stealing, and public executions could often be seen at the Kabul football stadium. Women's rights groups around the world were frequently critical as the Taliban banned women from appearing in public or holding many jobs outside the home. They drew further criticism when they destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan, historical statues nearly 1,500 years old, because the Buddhas were considered idols.
In 1996, Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan upon the invitation of the Northern Alliance leader Abdur Rabb ur Rasool Sayyaf. When the Taliban came to power, bin Laden was able to forge an alliance between the Taliban and his al-Qaeda organization. It is understood that al-Qaeda-trained fighters known as the 055 Brigade were integrated with the Taliban army between 1997 and 2001. It has been suggested that the Taliban and bin Laden had very close connections.
U.S.-led coalition action
- Deliver to the U.S. all of the leaders of al-Qaeda
- Release all imprisoned foreign nationals
- Close immediately every terrorist training camp
- Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities
- Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection
On 22 September 2001 the United Arab Emirates and later Saudi Arabia withdrew their recognition of the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan, leaving neighboring Pakistan as the only remaining country with diplomatic ties.
On 4 October 2001, it was reported that the Taliban covertly offered to turn bin Laden over to Pakistan for trial in an international tribunal that operated according to Islamic shar'ia law. On 7 October 2001, the Taliban proposed to try bin Laden in Afghanistan in an Islamic court. This proposition was immediately rejected by the US.
On 14 October 2001, the Taliban proposed to hand bin Laden over to a third country for trial, but only if they were given evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the events of 11 September 2001.
The UN Security Council, on 16 January 2002, unanimously established an arms embargo and the freezing of identifiable assets belonging to bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the remaining Taliban.
Combat operations start
On Sunday 7 October 2001, American and British warplanes began targeting Taliban forces and al-Qaeda. Cruise missiles were fired from warships.
The Northern Alliance, aided by Joint Special Operations teams consisting of Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group, aircrew members from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), and Air Force Combat Controllers, fought against the Taliban. Aided by U.S. bombing and massive defections, they captured Mazar-i-Sharif on 9 November. They then rapidly gained control of most of northern Afghanistan, and took control of Kabul on 13 November after the Taliban unexpectedly fled the city. The Taliban were restricted to a smaller and smaller region, with Kunduz, the last Taliban-held city in the north, captured on 26 November. Most of the Taliban fled to Pakistan.
The war continued in the south of the country, where the Taliban retreated to Kandahar. Whilst in Kandahar the Taliban agreed to surrender but the deal was rejected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as it would have provided amnesty to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. After Kandahar fell in December, remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda continued to mount resistance. Meanwhile, in November 2001 the U.S. military and its allied forces established their first ground base in Afghanistan to the south west of Kandahar, known as FOB Rhino.
The Battle of Tora Bora, involving U.S., British and Northern Alliance forces took place in December 2001 to further destroy the Taliban and suspected al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In early March 2002 the United States military, along with allied Afghan military forces, conducted a large operation to destroy al-Qaeda in an operation code-named Operation Anaconda.
The operation was carried out by elements of the United States 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne Division, the U.S. special forces groups TF 11, TF Bowie, TF Dagger, TF K-Bar, British Royal Marines, the Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK), Hærens Jegerkommando and Marinejegerkommandoen, Canada's 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Canada's Joint Task Force 2, the German KSK, and elements of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment and of the New Zealand Special Air Service and the Afghan National Army.
After managing to evade U.S. forces throughout the summer of 2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence. A U.S. and Canadian led operation (supported by British and Dutch forces), Operation Mountain Thrust was launched in May 2006 to counter renewed Taliban insurgency.
Since January 2006, the NATO International Security Assistance Force undertook combat duties from Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan, the NATO force chiefly made up of British, Canadian and Dutch forces (and some smaller contributions from Denmark, Romania and Estonia and air support from Norway as well as air and artillery support from the U.S.) (see the article Coalition combat operations in Afghanistan in 2006). The United States military also conducts military operations separate from NATO as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in other parts of Afghanistan, in areas such as Kandahar, Bagram, and Kabul (including Camp Eggers and Camp Phoenix.)
The United States was supported by several nations during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan in 2001–2003 and in subsequent coalition operations directly or indirectly in support of OEF. See the article Afghanistan War order of battle for the current disposition of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The U.S.-led coalition initially removed the Taliban from power and seriously crippled al-Qaeda and associated militants in Afghanistan. However, success in quelling the Taliban insurgency since the 2001 invasion has faltered. As the war dragged on, the Taliban demonstrated they could not be defeated also thanks to sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan.
On 9 October 2004, Afghanistan elected Hamid Karzai president in its first direct elections. The following year, Afghans conducted the 2005 Afghan parliamentary election on 18 September. Since the invasion, hundreds of schools and mosques have been constructed, millions of dollars in aid have been distributed, and the occurrence of violence has been reduced.
While military forces interdicted insurgents and assured some form of security, Provincial reconstruction teams were tasked with infrastructure building, such as constructing roads and bridges, assisting during floods, and providing food and water to refugees. Many warlords have participated in an allegiance program, formally recognizing the legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan, and formally surrendering their soldiers and weapons. Subsequent actions have led to questions about their true loyalties.
In 2020, the US left Afghanistan to the Taliban under an agreement ensuring a safe passage for American forces out of the country by mid 2021. On 15 August 2021, Afghanistan was back in the hands of Taliban, with US and allied forces withdrawing from Kabul Airport.
Hardliner newspapers in Iran and religious scholars in Lebanon suggested "Infinite Imperialism," "Infinite Arrogance," or "Infinite Injustice" might have been more appropriate name for the operation.
AFP, reporting on a news story in the Sunday, 3 April 2004, issue of The New Yorker, wrote that retired Army Colonel Hy Rothstein, "who served in the Army Special Forces for more than 20 years, ...commissioned by The Pentagon to examine the war in Afghanistan concluded the conflict created conditions that have given 'warlordism, banditry and opium production a new lease on life'..."
The conduct of U.S. forces was criticised in a report entitled Enduring Freedom – Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan by U.S.-based human rights group Human Rights Watch in 2004. Some Pakistani scholars, such as Masood Ashraf Raja, editor of Pakistaniaat, have also provided a more specific form of criticism that relates to the consequences of the Global War on Terrorism on the region.
Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P)
Abu Sayyaf Group
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Al Harakat Al Islamiyya, is deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" by the United States government. Specifically, it is an Islamist separatist group based in and around the southern islands of the Republic of the Philippines, primarily Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao.
Since inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Its claimed overarching goal is to create a Pan-Islamic superstate across the Malay portions of Southeast Asia, spanning, from east to west, the large island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan and Jolo islands), the large island of Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar).
Jemaah Islamiyah is a militant Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy in Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the south of Thailand and the Philippines. Jemaah Islamiyah originally used peaceful means to achieve its goals, but later resorted to terrorism because of its connections with al-Qaeda.
Financial links between Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf and al-Qaeda, have been found to exist. Jemaah Islamiyah means "Islamic Group" or "Islamic Community" and is often abbreviated JI.
Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have killed hundreds of civilians. Also, it is suspected of carrying out the Bali car bombing on 12 October 2002, in which suicide bombers attacked a nightclub killing 202 people and wounding many more. Most of the casualties were Australian tourists. After this attack, the U.S. State Department designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Jemaah Islamiyah is also suspected of carrying out the Zamboanga bombings, the Metro Manila bombings, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing and the 2005 Bali terrorist bombing.
In January 2002, 1,200 Members of United States Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) were deployed to the Philippines to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in uprooting al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf. The members of SOCPAC were assigned to assist in military operations against the terrorist forces as well as humanitarian operations for the island of Basilan, where most of the conflict was expected to take place.
The United States Special Forces (SF) Unit trained and equipped special forces and scout rangers of the AFP, creating the Light Reaction Company (LRC). The LRC and elements of SOCPAC deployed to Basilan on completion of their training. The stated goals of the deployment were denying the ASG sanctuary, surveiling, controlling, and denying ASG routes, surveiling supporting villages and key personnel, conducting local training to overcome AFP weaknesses and sustain AFP strengths, supporting operations by the AFP "strike force" (LRC) in the area of responsibility (AOR), conducting and supporting civil affairs operations in the AOR.
The desired result was for the AFP to gain sufficient capability to locate and destroy the ASG, to recover hostages and to enhance the legitimacy of the Philippine government. Much of the operation was a success: the ASG was driven from Basilan and one U.S. hostage was recovered. The Abu Sayyaf Group's ranks, which once counted more than 800 members, was reduced to less than 100. The humanitarian portion of the operation, Operation Smiles, created 14 schools, 7 clinics, 3 hospitals and provided medical care to over 18,000 residents of Basilan. Humanitarian groups were able to continue their work without fear of further kidnappings and terrorists attacks by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA)
Unlike other operations contained in Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF-HOA does not have a specific terrorist organization as a target. OEF-HOA instead focuses its efforts to disrupt and detect terrorist activities in the region and to work with host nations to deny the reemergence of terrorist cells and activities. Operations began in mid-2002 at Camp Lemonnier by a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) augmented by support forces from Fort Stewart, Fort Hood, and Fort Story. In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established at Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier, taking over responsibilities from the CJSOTF. CJTF-HOA comprised approximately 2,000 personnel including U.S. military and Special Operations Forces (SOF), and coalition force members, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150). The coalition force consists of ships from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, India, Italy, Pakistan, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The primary goal of the coalition forces is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region. Since 2003, the U.S. Military also conducts operations targeting Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Somalia, these operations had reportedly killed between 113 and 136 militants by early 2016. On 7 March 2016, a further 150 were killed in U.S. airstrikes on an al Shabaab training camp north of Mogadishu.
CJTF-HOA has devoted the majority of its efforts to train selected armed forces units of the countries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics. Humanitarian efforts conducted by CJTF-HOA include the rebuilding of schools and medical clinics, as well as providing medical services to those countries whose forces are being trained. The program expands as part of the Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Initiative as CJTF personnel also assist in training the forces of Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali.
"Operation Enduring Freedom"
- 7 October 2001 – 28 December 2014
- Casualties U.S. Coalition: 3,486 Dead
- Taliban/Al-Qaeda:25,500–40,500 Dead
Anti-piracy operations were undertaken by the coalition throughout 2006 with a battle fought in March when US vessels were attacked by pirates. In January 2007, during the war in Somalia, an AC-130 airstrike was conducted against al-Qaeda members embedded with forces of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) operating in southern Somalia near Ras Kamboni. US naval forces, including the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, were positioned off the coast of Somalia to provide support and to prevent any al-Qaeda forces escaping by sea. Actions against pirates also occurred in June and October 2007 with varying amounts of success.
"Operation Resolute Support/Freedom's Sentinel"
- 1 January 2015 – Present
- Casualties U.S. Coalition: 1 January 2015 – Present | 70 Dead* – Subject to change
Effective 1 January 2015, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced that the new U.S. mission in Afghanistan will focus on training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces and designated as Operation Freedom's Sentinel. 19 About 13,500 U.S. troops are expected in Afghanistan through 2015 and will be assisted by troops from NATO allies.
Since 2002, the United States military has created military awards and decorations related to Operation Enduring Freedom
NATO also created a military decoration related to Operation Enduring Freedom:
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Operation Enduring Freedom.|
- The Enduring Freedom Foundation
- Moorthy, Neelesh (6 July 2016). "Obama increases U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan past 2016". Politifact.
- Koontz, Christopher N, ed. (2008). Enduring Voices: Oral Histories of the US Army Experience in Afghanistan, 2003–2005. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-112-1. full text available online