War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001,[31] as the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched, along with the British military, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. The UK has, since 2002, led its own military operation, Operation Herrick, as part of the same war in Afghanistan. The character of the war evolved from a violent struggle by Coalition forces against Al-Qaeda and its Taliban supporters, to a complex counterinsurgency effort by Coalition forces, against Afghans who claim to be trying to expel those Coalition forces. The war has killed tens of thousands of people, the majority of whom have been civilians.

The first phase of the war was the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, when the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, which they claimed had the goal of “removing the safe haven to Al-Qaeda and its use of the Afghan territory as a base of operations for anti-U.S. terrorist activities”.[citation needed] In that first phase, coalition forces, working with the Afghan opposition forces of the Northern Alliance, quickly ousted the Taliban regime. During the following Karzai administration, the character of the war shifted to an effort aimed at smothering an insurgency hostile to the Coalition-backed Karzai government, in which the insurgents preferred not to directly confront the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops, but blended into the local population and mainly used improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings.

The U.S. government claimed that aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members to be put on trial, to destroy the organization of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave safe harbor to it. The Bush administration stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between terrorist organizations and nations or governments that harbored them.

Another ongoing operation is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul and the surrounding areas. NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003. By July 23, 2009, ISAF had around 64,500 troops from 42 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force. The NATO commitment is particularly important to the United States because it appears to give international legitimacy to the war.[32]

The US and UK led the aerial bombing, in support of ground forces supplied primarily by the Afghan Northern Alliance. In 2002, American, British and Canadian infantry were committed, along with special forces from several allied nations, including Australia. Later, NATO troops were added.

The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained strength.[33][34] Since 2006, Afghanistan has experienced increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production, with participation by Northern Alliance drug lords in the Karzai regime,[35][36] and a corrupt government with limited control outside of Kabul.[37] The Taliban can sustain itself indefinitely, according to a December 2009 briefing by the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan.[38] On December 1, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he would escalate U.S. military involvement by deploying an additional 30,000 soldiers over a period of six months.[39] He also proposed to begin troop withdrawals 18 months from that date.[40][41] The following day, the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, cautioned that the timeline was flexible and “is not an absolute”[42] and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, when asked by a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee if it is possible that no soldiers would be withdrawn in July 2011, responded, “The president, as commander in chief, always has the option to adjust his decisions.” [43]

On January 26, 2010, at the International Conference on Afghanistan in London, which brought together some 70 countries and organizations,[44] Afghan President Hamid Karzai told world leaders that he intended to reach out to the top echelons of the Taliban within a few weeks with a peace initiative.[45] Karzai set the framework for dialogue with Taliban leaders when he called on the group’s leadership to take part in a “loya jirga”—or large assembly of elders—to initiate peace talks.[46]

Doubts on the success of the war in Afghanistan intensified after the release of United States diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as the European Union President Herman Van Rompuy was quoted saying to the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard W. Gutman, that “EU no longer believes in the success of the military mission in Afghanistan”. He also added “Europe is doing it [war in Afghanistan] and will go along out of deference to the United States, but not out of deference to Afghanistan

Afghan Civil War: 1992–2001

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

After Soviet troops withdrew in 1989, the Kabul government fell to the mujahideen in 1992. In the years that followed, various factions of the mujahideen fought each other for control. In 1996 the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist movement formed in 1994, captured the capital Kabul and subsequently overran approximately 90% of the country, leaving only a small corner in the northeast under control of the Northern Alliance.

Although members of the international community, including the United States, initially viewed the Taliban as a potential source of stability for the war-ravaged country,[48] their tolerance for hosting Islamic extremists combined with their reluctance to negotiate with their enemies soon soured this. In 1996, Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization began using Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a base of operations. 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.[49] While Al-Qaeda maintained its own establishments in Afghanistan, it also supported training camps belonging to other organizations. 10,000 to 20,000 people passed through these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance but a smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda.[50]

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, and the international community imposed sanctions of the Taliban in 1999 calling for bin Laden to be surrendered to U.S. custody. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed the demands, however.

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 execute from President Bill Clinton.[51] These efforts did however build many of the relationships that would prove essential in the 2001 U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan.

US attack against Afghanistan planned before September 11

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

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 administration official Condoleezza Rice in January 2001 that involved covert action in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a safe haven there. The plan allegedly involved covert support for the Northern Alliance, air strikes, and the introduction of U.S. special operations forces into Afghanistan.[52]

One day before the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration agreed on a plan to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by force if it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden. The plan involved using escalating methods of applying pressure over a three year period. At that September 10 meeting of the Bush administration’s top national security officials, it was agreed that the Taliban would be presented with a final ultimatum to hand over Osama bin Laden. If the Taliban refused, covert military aid would be channeled by the U.S. to anti-Taliban groups. If both those options failed, “the deputies agreed that the United States would seek to overthrow the Taliban regime through more direct action.”[53]

Naiz Naik, former Foreign Secretary of the government of Pakistan, alleged that at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 senior U.S. officials warned him that unless bin Laden was handed over quickly, the U.S. would take military action to kill or capture bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar sometime in the middle of October 2001. The wider objective of the planned operation, according to Naik, was to topple the Taliban regime and to install a more “moderate” government. Naik also claimed he was told that the operation would be launched from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and that U.S. military advisors were already in place.

Legal basis for war

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

The United Nations Charter, which has been ratified by the United States and to which other members of the invasion coalition are signatories, provides that all UN member states must settle their international disputes by peaceful means, and no member nation can use military force except in self-defense. The United States Constitution states that international treaties, such as the United Nations Charter, that are ratified by the U.S. are part of the supreme law of the land in the U.S.[55] The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) did not authorize the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).

Defenders of the legitimacy of the US-led invasion argue that UN Security Council authorization was not required since the invasion was an act of collective self-defense provided for under Article 51 of the UN Charter, and therefore was not a war of aggression.[55][56] Critics maintain that the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan were not legitimate self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the 9/11 attacks were not “armed attacks” by another state but rather were perpetrated by groups of individuals or non-state actors. Further, even if a state had perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, no imminent threat of an armed attack on the U.S. existed after September 11, and the U.S. would not have waited three weeks before commencing the bombing campaign against Afghanistan if there had been such a threat: the necessity for self-defense must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”.[57]

The Bush administration for its part did not seek a declaration of war by the US Senate, and labeled Taliban troops as supporters of terrorists rather than soldiers, denying them the protections of the Geneva Convention and due process of law. This position has been successfully challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court[58] and questioned even by military lawyers responsible for prosecuting affected prisoners.[59] On December 20, 2001, more than two months after the US-led attack commenced, the UNSC authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to take all measures necessary to fulfill its mandate of assisting the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security.[60] Command of the ISAF passed to NATO on August 11, 2003.

2001: Initial attack

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

After the refusal of the Taliban regime to cease harbouring al Qaeda, on October 7, 2001 the U.S. government launched military operations in Afghanistan. Teams from the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) were the first U.S. forces to enter Afghanistan and begin combat operations. They were soon joined by U.S. Army Special Forces from the 5th Special Forces Group and other units from USSOCOM.[62][63][64] These forces worked with Afghan opposition groups on the ground, in particular the Northern Alliance. The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia also deployed forces and several other countries provided basing, access and overflight permission.

On October 7, 2001, airstrikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport, at Kandahar (home of the Taliban’s Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad. CNN released exclusive footage of Kabul being bombed to all the American broadcasters at approximately 5:08 p.m. October 7, 2001.[65]

At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes on national television and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair also addressed the UK. Bush stated that Taliban military sites and terrorist training grounds would be targeted. In addition, food, medicine, and supplies would be dropped to “the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan”.[66]

A pre-recorded videotape of Osama bin Laden had been released before the attacks in which he condemned any attacks against Afghanistan. Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite news channel, reported that these tapes were received shortly before the attack.
Air campaigns

Bombers operating at high altitudes well out of range of anti-aircraft fired bombs the Afghan training camps and Taliban air defenses. U.S. aircraft, including Apache helicopter gunships from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, operated with impunity throughout the campaign with no losses due to Taliban air defenses.

The strikes initially focused on the area in and around the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. Within a few days, most Taliban training sites were severely damaged and the Taliban’s air defenses were destroyed. The campaign then focused on command, control, and communication targets which weakened the ability of the Taliban forces to communicate. However, the line facing the Afghan Northern Alliance held, and no tangible battlefield successes had yet occurred on that front. Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance demanded the air campaign focus more on the front lines. Meanwhile, thousands of Pashtun tribal men from Pakistan poured into the country, reinforcing the Taliban against the U.S. led forces.
Example of the U.S. propaganda pamphlets dropped over Mazari Sharif.

The next stage of the campaign 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. For the first time in years, Northern Alliance commanders finally began to see the substantive results that they had long hoped for on the front lines.

At the beginning of November, the Taliban front lines were bombed with daisy cutter bombs, and by AC-130 gunships. The Taliban fighters had no previous experience with American firepower, and often even stood on top of bare ridgelines where Special Forces could easily spot them and call in close air support. By November 2, Taliban frontal positions were devastated, and a Northern Alliance march on Kabul seemed possible for the first time.

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

During the early months of the war the U.S. military had a limited presence on the ground. The plan was that Special Forces, and intelligence officers with a military background, would serve as liaisons with Afghan militias opposed to the Taliban, would advance after the cohesiveness of the Taliban forces was disrupted by American air power.[67][68][69]

The Tora Bora Mountains lie roughly east of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, which is itself close to the border with Pakistan. American intelligence analysts believed that the Taliban and al Qaeda had dug in behind fortified networks of well-supplied caves and underground bunkers. The area was subjected to a heavy continuous bombardment by B-52 bombers.[67][68][69][70]

The U.S. forces and the Northern Alliance also began to diverge in their objectives. While the U.S. was continuing the search for Osama bin Laden, the Northern Alliance was pressuring for more support in their efforts to finish off the Taliban and control the country.
The Battle of Mazar-i Sharif
Further information: Fall of Mazar-i-Sharif
Army Special Forces on November 10, upon arriving into the city with Northern Alliance fighters

The battle for Mazari Sharif was considered important, not only because it is the home of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali or “Blue Mosque”, a sacred Muslim site, but also because it is the location of a significant transportation hub with two main airports and a major supply route leading into Uzbekistan.[71] It would also enable humanitarian aid to alleviate Afghanistan’s looming food crisis, which had threatened more than six million people with starvation. Many of those in most urgent need lived in rural areas to the south and west of Mazar-i-Sharif.[71][72] On November 9, 2001, Northern Alliance forces, under the command of generals Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor, swept across the Pul-i-Imam Bukhri bridge, meeting some resistance,[73][74] and seized the city’s main military base and airport.

U.S. Special Operation Forces (namely ODA 595, CIA paramilitary officers and Air Force Combat Control Teams) [75][76][77] on horseback and using Close Air Support platforms, took part in the push into the city of Mazari Sharif in Balkh Province by the Northern Alliance. After a bloody 90-minute battle, Taliban forces, who had held the city since 1998, withdrew from the city, triggering jubilant celebrations among the townspeople whose ethnic and political affinities are with the Northern Alliance.[72][78]

The Taliban had spent three years fighting the Northern Alliance for Mazar-i-Sharif, precisely because its capture would confirm them as masters of all Afghanistan.[78] The fall of the city was a “body blow”[78] to the Taliban and ultimately proved to be a “major shock”,[75] since the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) had originally believed that the city would remain in Taliban hands well into the following year,[79] and any potential battle would be “a very slow advance”.[80]

Following rumors that Mullah Dadullah was headed to recapture the city with as many as 8,000 Taliban fighters, a thousand American 10th Mountain Soldiers were airlifted into the city, which provided the first solid foothold from which Kabul and Kandahar could be reached.[81][82] While prior military flights had to be launched from Uzbekistan or Aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, now the Americans held their own airport in the country which allowed them to fly more frequent sorties for resupply missions and humanitarian aid. These missions allowed massive shipments of humanitarian aid to be immediately shipped to hundreds of thousands of Afghans facing starvation on the northern plain.[78][83]

It was revealed that the airfield had been boobytrapped by the Taliban as they left, with explosives planted around the property, as well as being badly damaged by their own Air Interdiction missions in order to prevent it being used by the enemy.[73] The destroyed runways on the airfield were patched by the U.S. Air Force Red Horse personnel and local Afghans hired to fill bomb craters with asphalt and tar by hand, and the first cargo plane was able to land ten days after the battle.[73] The airbase wasn’t declared operational until December 11.[84]

The American-backed forces now controlling the city began immediately broadcasting from Radio Mazar-i-Sharif, the former Taliban Voice of Sharia channel on 1584 kHz,[85] including an address from former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.[86] Music was also broadcast over Kabul radio for the first time in five years, and the songs were introduced by a female announcer—another major breakthrough for a city where women had been banned from education, work, and many other civil liberties since 1996.[87]
The fall of Kabul

On the night of November 12, Taliban forces fled from the city of Kabul, leaving under the cover of darkness. By the time Northern Alliance forces arrived in the afternoon of November 13, only bomb craters, burned foliage, and the burnt-out shells of Taliban gun emplacements and positions were there to greet them. A group of about twenty hardline Arab fighters hiding in the city’s park were the only remaining defenders. This Taliban group was killed in a 15-minute gun battle, being heavily outnumbered and having had little more than a telescope to shield them. After these forces were neutralized Kabul was in the hands of the U.S./NATO forces and the Northern Alliance.[88]

The fall of Kabul marked the beginning of a collapse of Taliban positions across the map. Within 24 hours, all the Afghan provinces along the Iranian border, including the key city of Herat, had fallen. Local Pashtun commanders and warlords had taken over throughout northeastern Afghanistan, including the key city of Jalalabad. Taliban holdouts in the north, mainly Pakistani volunteers, fell back to the northern city of Kunduz to make a stand. By November 16, the Taliban’s last stronghold in northern Afghanistan was besieged by the Northern Alliance. Nearly 10,000 Taliban fighters, led by foreign fighters, refused to surrender and continued to put up resistance. By then, the Taliban had been forced back to their heartland in southeastern Afghanistan around Kandahar.[89]

By November 13, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, with the possible inclusion of Osama bin Laden, had regrouped and were concentrating their forces in the Tora Bora cave complex, on the Pakistan border 50 kilometers (30 mi) southwest of Jalalabad, to prepare for a stand against the Northern Alliance and U.S./NATO forces. Nearly 2,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fortified themselves in positions within bunkers and caves, and by November 16, U.S. bombers began bombing the mountain fortress. Around the same time, CIA and Special Forces operatives were already at work in the area, enlisting and paying local warlords to join the fight and planning an attack on the Tora Bora complex.[90]
The fall of Kunduz

Just as the bombardment at Tora Bora was stepped up, the siege of Kunduz that began on November 16 was continuing. Finally, after nine days of heavy fighting and American aerial bombardment, Taliban fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces on November 25 – November 26. Shortly before the surrender, Pakistani aircraft arrived ostensibly to evacuate a few hundred intelligence and military personnel who had been in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion to aid the Taliban’s ongoing fight against the Northern Alliance. However, during this airlift, it is alleged that up to five thousand people were evacuated from the region, including Taliban and al-Qaeda troops allied to the Pakistanis in Afghanistan, see Airlift of Evil.[91][92][93]
The battle of Qala-i-Jangi

On November 25, the day that Taliban fighters holding out in Kunduz surrendered and were being herded into the Qala-I-Janghi fortress near Mazar-I-Sharif, a few Taliban attacked some Northern Alliance guards, taking their weapons and opening fire. This incident soon triggered a widespread revolt by 300 prisoners, who soon seized the southern half of the complex, once a medieval fortress, including an armory stocked with small arms and crew-served weapons. One American CIA paramilitary operative who had been interrogating prisoners, Johnny Micheal Spann, was killed, marking the first American combat death in the war.

The revolt was finally put down after seven days of heavy fighting between an SBS unit along with some US Army Special Forces and Northern Alliance, AC-130 gunships and other aircraft took part providing strafing fire on several occasions, as well as a bombing airstrikes.[94] A total of 86 of the Taliban prisoners survived, and around 50 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The squashing of the revolt marked the end of the combat in northern Afghanistan, where local Northern Alliance warlords were now firmly in control.
Consolidation: the taking of Kandahar
Army Special Forces with Hamid Karzai in Kandahar province

By the end of November, Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace, was its last remaining stronghold, and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 tribal fighters, led by Hamid Karzai, a loyalist of the former Afghan king, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar before the Taliban seized power, pressured Taliban forces from the east and cut off the northern Taliban supply lines to Kandahar. The threat of the Northern Alliance loomed in the north and northeast.

Meanwhile, the first significant numbers of U.S. combat troops had arrived. Nearly 1,000 Marines, 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 November 25. This was the coalition’s first strategic foothold in Afghanistan, and was the stepping stone to establishing other operating bases. The first significant combat involving U.S. ground forces occurred a day after Rhino was captured when 15 armored vehicles approached the base and were attacked by helicopter gunships, destroying many of them. Meanwhile, the airstrikes continued to pound Taliban positions inside the city, where Mullah Omar was holed up. Omar, the Taliban leader, remained defiant although his movement only controlled 4 out of the 30 Afghan provinces by the end of November and called on his forces to fight to the death.

On December 6, the U.S. government rejected any amnesty for Omar or any Taliban leaders. Shortly thereafter on December 7, Omar slipped out of the city of Kandahar with a group of his hardcore loyalists and moved northwest into the mountains of Uruzgan Province, reneging on the Taliban’s promise to surrender their fighters and their weapons. He was last reported seen driving off with a group of his fighters on a convoy of motorcycles.

Other members of the Taliban leadership fled into Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia and Paktika Provinces. Nevertheless, Kandahar, the last Taliban-controlled city, had fallen, and the majority of the Taliban fighters had disbanded. The border town of Spin Boldak was surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Afghan tribal forces under Gul Agha seized the city of Kandahar while the Marines took control of the airport outside and established a U.S. base.
Battle of Tora Bora
Main article: Battle of Tora Bora
Tommy Franks meets with Army Special Forces

Al-Qaeda fighters were still holding out in the mountains of Tora Bora, however, while an anti-Taliban tribal militia steadily pushed bin Laden back across the difficult terrain, backed by UK Special Forces and withering air strikes by the U.S. Facing defeat, the al-Qaeda forces agreed to a truce to give them time to surrender their weapons. In retrospect, however, many believe that the truce was a ruse to allow important al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden, to escape. On December 12, the fighting flared again, probably initiated by a rear guard buying time for the main force’s escape through the White Mountains into the tribal areas of Pakistan. Again, tribal forces backed by British and U.S. special operations troops and air support pressed ahead against fortified al-Qaeda positions in caves and bunkers scattered throughout the mountainous region.

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

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

To fill the political void, in December 2001 the United Nations hosted the Bonn Conference in Germany. The meetings of various Afghan leaders here were organized by the United Nations Security Council. The Taliban were not included. Participants included representatives of four Afghan opposition groups. Observers included representatives of neighbouring and other involved major countries, including the United States.

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

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378 of November 14, 2001, included “Condemning the Taliban for allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for the export of terrorism by the Al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups and for providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and others associated with them, and in this context supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to replace the Taliban regime”.[95]

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

Before the U.S.-led invasion, there were fears that the invasion and resultant disruption of services would cause widespread starvation and refugees. The United Nations World Food Programme temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks but resumed them after the fall of the Taliban.
The International Security Assistance Force
Main article: International Security Assistance Force
Logo of ISAF. Pashto writing: کمک او همکاری (Komak aw Hamkari) meaning “Help and Cooperation”.

Operating under British Lieutenant General Nick Parker,[96] the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) includes soldiers from 42 countries with U.S. troops making up about half its force.[97] ISAF had initially been established as a stabilization force by the United Nations Security Council on December 20, 2001, to secure Kabul. Its mandate did not extend beyond this area for the first few years.[98] On August 11, 2003, NATO assumed political command and coordination of ISAF.[98] On July 31, 2006, ISAF assumed command of the south of the country, and by October 5, 2006, of the east.

2002: Operation Anaconda

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

Following Tora Bora, U.S. forces and their Afghan allies consolidated their position in the country. Following a Loya jirga or grand council of major Afghan factions, tribal leaders, and former exiles, an interim Afghan government was established in Kabul under Hamid Karzai. U.S. forces established their main base at Bagram airbase just north of Kabul. Kandahar airport also became an important U.S. base area. Several outposts were established in eastern provinces to hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives. The number of U.S-led coalition troops operating in the country would eventually grow to over 10,000.
An Anti-Taliban Forces (ATF) fighter wraps a bandolier of ammunition for his 7.62 mm PK machine gun around his body as ATF personnel help secure a compound in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, January 2002.

Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda had not given up. Al-Qaeda forces began regrouping in the Shahi-Kot mountains of Paktia province throughout January and February 2002. A Taliban fugitive in Paktia province, Mullah Saifur Rehman, also began reconstituting some of his militia forces in support of the anti-U.S. fighters. They totalled over 1,000 by the beginning of March 2002. The intention of the insurgents was to use the region as a base area for launching guerrilla attacks and possibly a major offensive in the style of the Mujahideen who battled Soviet forces during the 1980s.

U.S. allied to Afghan militia intelligence sources soon picked up on this buildup in Paktia province and prepared a massive push to counter it. On March 2, 2002, U.S. and Afghan forces launched an offensive on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces entrenched in the mountains of Shahi-Kot southeast of Gardez. The Mujahideen forces, who used small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars, were entrenched into caves and bunkers in the hillsides at an altitude that was largely above 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

They used “hit and run” tactics, opening fire on the U.S. and Afghan forces and then retreating back into their caves and bunkers to weather the return fire and persistent U.S. bombing raids. To compound the situation for the coalition troops, U.S. commanders initially underestimated the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces as a last isolated pocket numbering fewer than 200. It turned out that the guerrillas numbered between 1,000–5,000 according to some estimates and that they were receiving reinforcements.[100]

By March 6, eight Americans and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed and reportedly 400 opposing forces had also been killed in the fighting. The coalition casualties stemmed from a friendly fire incident that killed one soldier, the downing of two helicopters by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire that killed seven soldiers, and the pinning down of U.S. forces being inserted into what was coined as “Objective Ginger” that resulted in dozens of wounded.[101] However, several hundred guerrillas escaped the dragnet heading to the Waziristan tribal areas across the border in Pakistan.

During Operation Anaconda and other missions during 2002 and 2003, special forces from several western nations were also involved in operations. These included the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, the Canadian Joint Task Force 2, the German KSK, the New Zealand Special Air Service and Norwegian Marinejegerkommandoen.
[edit] Post-Anaconda operations

Following the battle at Shahi-Kot, it is believed that the al-Qaeda fighters established sanctuaries among tribal protectors in Pakistan, from which they regained their strength and later began launching cross-border raids on U.S. forces by the summer months of 2002. Guerrilla units, numbering between 5 and 25 men, still regularly crossed the border from their sanctuaries in Pakistan to fire rockets at U.S. bases and ambush American convoys and patrols, as well as Afghan National Army troops, Afghan militia forces working with the U.S-led coalition, and non-governmental organizations. The area around the U.S. base at Shkin in Paktika province saw some of the heaviest activity.

Meanwhile, Taliban forces remained in hiding in the rural regions of the four southern provinces that formed their heartland, Kandahar, Zabul, Helmand Province, and Uruzgan. In the wake of Operation Anaconda The Pentagon requested that British Royal Marines who are highly trained in mountain warfare, be deployed. They conducted a number of missions over several weeks with varying results. The Taliban, who during the summer of 2002 numbered in the hundreds, avoided combat with U.S. forces and their Afghan allies and melted away into the caves and tunnels of remote Afghan mountain ranges or across the border into Pakistan during operations.

2003–2005: Renewed Taliban insurgency

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

After managing to evade U.S. forces throughout mid-2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence and started to begin preparations to launch the insurgency that Mullah Muhammad Omar had promised during the Taliban’s last days in power.[103] During September, Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch a renewed “jihad” or holy war against the Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan that called for jihad.[104]

Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train recruits in guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report.[105] Most of the recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. Major bases, a few with as many as 200 men, were created in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan by the summer of 2003. The will of the Pakistani paramilitaries stationed at border crossings to prevent such infiltration was called into question, and Pakistani military operations proved of little use.[106]

The Taliban gradually reorganized and reconstituted their forces over the winter, preparing for a summer offensive. They established a new mode of operation: gathered into groups of around 50 to launch attacks on isolated outposts and convoys of Afghan soldiers, police, or militia and then breaking up into groups of 5–10 men to evade subsequent offensives. U.S. forces in the strategy were attacked indirectly, through rocket attacks on bases and improvised explosive devices.

To coordinate the strategy, Omar named a 10-man leadership council for the resistance, with himself at the head.[106] Five operational zones were created, assigned to various Taliban commanders such as the key Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah, in charge of Zabul province operations.[106] Al-Qaeda forces in the east had a bolder strategy of concentrating on the Americans and catching them when they could with elaborate ambushes.

The first sign that Taliban forces were regrouping came on January 27, 2003, during Operation Mongoose, when a band of fighters allied with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami were discovered and assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 15 miles (24 km) north of Spin Boldak.[107] 18 rebels were reported killed and no U.S. casualties reported. The site was suspected to be a base to funnel supplies and fighters from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time.
US Marines searching for Taliban fighters in the spring of 2005

As the summer continued, the attacks gradually increased in frequency in the “Taliban heartland.” 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 using guerrilla attacks, Taliban fighters began building up their forces in the district of Dai Chopan, a district in Zabul Province that also straddles Kandahar and Uruzgan and is at the very center of the Taliban heartland.

Dai Chopan district is a remote and sparsely populated corner of southeastern Afghanistan composed of towering, rocky mountains interspersed with narrow gorges. Taliban fighters decided it would be the perfect area to make a stand against the Afghan government and the coalition forces. Over the course of the summer, perhaps the largest concentration of Taliban militants gathered in the area since the fall of the regime, with up to 1,000 guerrillas regrouping. Over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan police, were killed in August 2003 as Taliban fighters gained strength.
[edit] Coalition response
A number of 1.25lb M112 Demolition Charges, consisting of a C-4 compound, sit atop degraded weaponry scheduled for destruction

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

2006: NATO in southern Afghanistan

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

From January 2006, a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) started to replace the U.S. troops of Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force in Southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British,[108] 2,300 Canadian,[109] 1,963 from the Netherlands, 300 from Australia,[110] 290 from Denmark,[111] and 150 from Estonia.[112] 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 Province while the Netherlands and Canada would lead similar deployments in Orūzgān Province and Kandahar Province respectively. Local Taliban figures voiced opposition to the incoming force and pledged to resist it.[113]

Southern Afghanistan faced in 2006 the deadliest spate of violence in the country since the ousting of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in 2001, as the newly deployed NATO troops battled resurgent militants. NATO operations have been led by British, Canadian and Dutch commanders. Operation Mountain Thrust was launched on May 17, 2006, with the purpose of rooting out Taliban forces. In July, Canadian Forces, supported by U.S., British, Dutch and Danish forces, launched Operation Medusa in an attempt to clear the areas of Taliban fighters.

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

2007: Coalition offensive

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

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.[114] Other major operations during this period were 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).[115] Further operations, such as Operation Silver and Operation Silicon, were conducted to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in the hopes of blunting their expected spring offensive.[116][117]

On March 4, 2007, at least 12 civilians were killed and 33 were injured by U.S. Marines in Shinwar district in Nangrahar province of Afghanistan[118] as the Americans reacted to a bomb ambush. The event has become known as the Shinwar Massacre.[119] The 120 member Marine unit responsible for the attack was asked to leave the country because the incident damaged the unit’s relations with the local Afghan population.[120]

On May 12, 2007, ISAF forces killed Mullah Dadullah, a Taliban commander in charge of leading operations in the south of the country; eleven other Taliban fighters were killed in the same firefight.

During the summer, NATO forces achieved tactical victories over the Taliban at the Battle of Chora in Orūzgān Province, where Dutch and Australian ISAF forces are deployed.

On August 16, 2007, eight civilians including a pregnant women and a baby died when Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel, Paktika Province. Seven soldiers have been charged with war crimes.

On October 28, 2007, about 80 Taliban fighters were killed in a 24 hour battle with forces from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.[121] During the last days of October, Canadian forces surrounded around 300 militants near Arghandab and killed at least 50 of them. This was said to have stopped a potential Taliban offensive on Kandahar.

The strength of Taliban forces was estimated by Western officials and analysts at about 10,000 fighters fielded at any given time, according to an October 30 report in The New York Times. Of that number, “only 2,000 to 3,000 are highly motivated, full-time insurgents”, the Times reported. The rest are part-timers, made up of alienated, young Afghan men angry at bombing raids or fighting to get money. In 2007, more foreign fighters were showing up in Afghanistan than ever before, according to Afghan and United States officials. Approximately 100 to 300 full-time combatants are foreigners, usually from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps even Turkey and western China. They tend to be more fanatical and violent, and they often bring skills such as the ability to post more sophisticated videos on the Internet or bombmaking expertise.[122]

On November 2, 2007, Afghan security forces killed a top-ranking militant, Mawlawi Abdul Manan, after he was caught trying to cross into Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan. The Taliban confirmed his death.[123] On November 10, 2007, the Taliban ambushed a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. This attack brought the U.S. death toll for 2007 to 100, making it the deadliest year for Americans in Afghanistan.[124]

The Battle of Musa Qala took place in December 2007. Afghan units were the principal fighting force, supported by British forces.[125] Taliban forces were forced to pull out of Musa Qala.

2008: Reassessment and renewed commitment

December 21st, 2010 | c803046

Admiral Mike Mullen, Staff 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.”[126]

In the first five months of 2008, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased by over 80% with a surge of 21,643 more troops, bringing the total number of U.S troops in Afghanistan from 26,607 in January to 48,250 in June.[5] In September, 2008, President Bush announced the withdrawal of over 8,000 troops from Iraq in the coming months and a further increase of up to 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.[127]

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 personnel.[128] The same month, the UK lost its 100th serviceman killed in the war since 2001.[129]

On June 13, Taliban fighters demonstrated their ongoing strength, liberating all prisoners in Kandahar jail. The well-planned operation freed 1200 prisoners, 400 of whom were Taliban prisoners of war, causing a major embarrassment for NATO in one of its operational centres in the country.[130]
French soldiers from the 27ème bataillon de Chasseurs alpins and French Task Force Tiger patrolling the many valleys of Kapisa province.

On July 13, 2008, a coordinated Taliban attack was launched on a remote NATO base at Wanat in Kunar province. On August 19, French troops suffered their worst losses in Afghanistan in an ambush‎.[131] Later in the month, an airstrike which targeted a Taliban commander in Herat province killed 90 civilians.

Late August saw one of the largest operations by NATO forces in Helmand province, Operation Eagle’s Summit, with the aim bringing electricity to the region.[132]

On September 3, the war spilled over on to Pakistani territory for the first time when heavily armed commandos, believed to be US Army Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold. The attack killed between seven and twenty people. According to local residents, most of the dead were civilians. Pakistan responded furiously, condemning the attack. The foreign ministry in Islamabad called the incursion “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory”.[133][134]

On September 6, in an apparent reaction to the recent cross-border attack, the federal government announced disconnection of supply lines to the allied forces stationed in Afghanistan through Pakistan for an indefinite period.[135]

On September 11, militants killed two U.S. troops in the eastern part of the country. This brought the total number of US losses to 113, making 2008 the deadliest year for American troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war.[136] The year was also the deadliest for several European countries in Afghanistan, particularly for the UK, who suffered a similar level of casualties to the USA with the loss of 108 personnel.[20]
Taliban attacks on supply lines through Pakistan

In November and December 2008, there were multiple incidents of major theft, robbery, and arson attacks against NATO supply convoys in Pakistan.[137][138][139] Transport companies south of Kabul have also been reported to pay protection money to the Taliban.[139][140] In an attack on November 11, 2008, Taliban fighters in Peshawar hijacked a convoy carrying NATO supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan. The militants took two military Humvees and paraded them in front of the media as trophies.[138]

The coalition forces bring 70 per cent of supplies through Pakistan every month, of a total of 2,000 truckloads in all.[140]

The area east of the Khyber pass in Pakistan has seen very frequent attacks. Cargo trucks and Humvees have been set ablaze by Taliban militants.[141] A half-dozen raids on depots with NATO supplies near Peshawar destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December 2008.[141] The Taliban destroyed an iron bridge on the highway between Peshawar and the Khyber pass in February 2009.[142]
Coalition issues with Pakistan

An unnamed senior Pentagon official told the BBC that at some point between July 12 and September 12, 2008, President George W. Bush issued a classified order to authorize U.S. raids against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan however said it would not allow foreign forces onto its territory and that it would vigorously protect its sovereignty.[143] In September, the Pakistan military stated that it had issued orders to “open fire” on American soldiers who crossed the Pakistan border in pursuit of militant forces.[144]

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

A further split occurred when American troops apparently landed on Pakistani soil to carry out an operation against militants in the North-West Frontier Province but ‘Pakistan reacted angrily to the action, saying 20 innocent villagers had been killed by US troops’.[145] However, despite tensions between Pakistan and the U.S., the United States has continued to increase the use of remotely piloted drone aircraft in Pakistan’s border regions, in particular the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) and Baluchistan; as of early 2009, drone attacks were up 183% since 2006.[146]

A poll by Gallup Pakistan in the summer of 2008 found only 9 percent of Pakistanis in favor of the U.S. drone attacks and 67 percent against, with a majority ranking the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than its archrival, India, or the Pakistani Taliban.[147]

By the end of 2008, the Taliban apparently had severed remaining ties with al-Qaeda.[148] According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of Al-Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan.[149]

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