War in Afghanistan
|2001-present war in Afghanistan|
|Part of the War on Terrorism, Afghan Civil War
A Canadian soldier points out Taliban positions during a Taliban ambush in southern Helmand Province.
||October 7, 2001–(conflict still ongoing)
||Still ongoing, Taliban regime toppled, Taliban insurgency.
||September 11, 2001 attacks.
|Osama bin Laden,
| Tommy Franks,
|Al-Qaeda dead: At least 1,900
Taliban dead: At least 7,000
|Coalition military dead: 516
Northern Alliance dead: At least 200
Afghan security forces dead: At least 1,400
|Civilian dead: 5,000-7,000
|2001 war in Afghanistan|
|Tora Bora – Anaconda – Mountain Thrust – Panjwaii – Medusa – Mountain Fury – Falcon Summit
|Afghan Civil War|
|Soviet involvement · Civil War (1989-1992) · Civil War (1992-1996) · Civil War (1996-2001)· U.S. involvement
The 2001-present war in Afghanistan started in October 2001, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, marking the beginning of its War on Terrorism campaign, seeking to oust the Taliban and find al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The Afghan Northern Alliance provided the majority of forces, while the U.S. and fellow NATO members the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, and Spain, along with Australia, Pakistan, and New Zealand, provided support. The U.S. military name of the conflict was Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
The officially-stated purpose of the invasion was to destroy al-Queda and deny them sanctuary and freedom of movement within Afghanistan and to remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and haven to al-Qaeda.
From May 1996, Osama bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan along with other members of al-Qaeda, operating terrorist training camps in a loose alliance with the Taliban. Following the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, the US military launched submarine-based cruise missiles at these camps with limited effect on their overall operations. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, investigators rapidly accumulated evidence implicating bin Laden, who initially publicly denied any involvement in the attacks. In 2006, it has been reported that the FBI has "no hard evidence" implicating bin Laden in the attacks of September 11. However, shortly before the 2004 U.S. presidential election, in a taped statement, bin Laden publicly acknowledged al-Qaeda's involvement in the attacks on the U.S., and admitted his direct link to the attacks. He said the attacks were carried out because "we are a free people who do not accept injustice, and we want to regain the freedom of our nation."
In an audiotape posted on a website that the US claims is "frequently used by al-Qaeda", on May 21, 2006, bin Laden said he had personally directed the 19 hijackers. However the US government declines to authenticate this video.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States was formed by the United States government and is commonly referred to as the 9/11 Commission. It released its report on July 22, 2004, concluding the attacks were conceived and implemented by members of al-Qaeda. In the weeks prior to the military action in Afghanistan, U.S. President George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban, to:
- deliver Al-Qaeda leaders located in Afghanistan to the United States
- release all imprisoned foreign nationals, including American citizens
- protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in Afghanistan
- close terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and "hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities"
- give the United States full access to terrorist training camps to verify their closure
President Bush further stated the demands were not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban refused to directly speak to Bush, stating that talking with a non-Muslim political leader would be an insult to Islam. But they made statements through their embassy in Pakistan: the Taliban rejected the ultimatum on September 21, 2001, saying there was no evidence in their possession linking bin Laden to the September 11 attacks, and that if the US could supply such evidence, the handover would commence. The US declined.
On September 22, 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 October 4, 2001 it is believed that the Taliban covertly offered to turn bin Laden over to Pakistan for trial in an international tribunal that operated according to Islamic Sharia law. Pakistan is believed to have rejected the offer.
Moderates within the Taliban allegedly met with American embassy officials in Pakistan in mid-October to work out a way to convince Mullah Muhammed Omar to turn bin Laden over to the U.S. and avoid its impending retaliation. President Bush rejected these offers made by the Taliban as insincere. On October 7, 2001, before the onset of military operations, the Taliban made an open offer to try bin Laden in Afghanistan in an Islamic court. This counteroffer was immediately rejected by the U.S. as insufficient.
The U.S. may have decided long before 9/11 to invade Afghanistan in October 2001. On September 18, 2001 Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, said "senior U.S. officials" told him in mid-July 2001 that U.S. military action against Afghanistan would be commenced by the middle of October 2001. Further, Mr. Naik reported that, based on the information he allegedly received from the U.S. officials, it was doubtful that the U.S. would abandon its plan to invade Afghanistan even if the Taliban immediately surrendered bin Laden. Mr. Naik said he was told that Uzbekistan would also participate in the operation and that "17,000 Russian troops were on standby"; as of late 2006, no Uzbek or Russian forces took part in any U.S. or NATO -led operations in Afghanistan.
On October 7, 2001 the United States, aided by the United Kingdom and supported by a coalition of other countries including the NATO alliance, began the military invasion of Afghanistan, including bombing Taliban and al-Qaeda related camps. It was not until October 14, 2001 that the Taliban openly offered to hand bin Laden over to a third country for trial, but only if they were given evidence of bin Laden's involvement in 9/11. The U.S. rejected this offer as well and continued with military operations, code named Operation Enduring Freedom.
The UN Security Council had issued Resolution 1333 on December 19, 2000 directed towards the Taliban demanding that the Taliban turn over bin Laden to the United States or a third country for trial in the deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in August 1998, and close terrorist training camps, with the threat of trade sanctions, freezing Taliban assets abroad, etc. However, UNSC did not authorize use of force on Afghanistan by any new resolution subsequent to the September 11 attacks.
CNN released exclusive footage of Kabul being bombed to all the American broadcasters at approximately 5:08pm September 11, 2001. Who was doing the air raids that targeted the city's airport, among other things, has never been answered, although one explanation at the time was that Northern Alliance helicopters carried out the attacks.
At approximately 16:30 UTC (12:30 EDT, 21:00 local time) on Sunday October 7, 2001, American and British forces began an aerial bombing campaign targeting Taliban forces and al-Qaeda. Strikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport and military nerve-centre of Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and also in the city of Jalalabad (training camps). The U.S. government justified these attacks as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks and the failure of the Taliban to meet any U.S. demands. The Taliban condemned these attacks and called them an "attack on Islam."
At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes on national television and British Prime Minister Tony Blair also addressed the UK. Bush stated that at the same time as Taliban military and terrorists' training grounds would be targeted, food, medicine, and supplies would be dropped to "the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan.
A number of different technologies were employed in the strike. US Air Force general Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that approximately 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched by British and U.S. submarines and ships, 15 strike aircraft from aircraft carriers and 25 bombers, such as B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 Fighting Falcon were involved in the first wave. Two C-17 Globemaster transport jets were to deliver 37,500 daily rations by airdrop to refugees inside Afghanistan on the first day of the attack.
A pre-recorded videotape of Osama bin Laden had been released before the attack 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. In this recording bin Laden claimed that the United States would fail in Afghanistan and then collapse, just as the Soviet Union did, and called for a war of Muslims, a jihad, against the entire non-Muslim world.
Bombers operating at high altitudes well out of range of anti-aircraft fire began to bomb the al-Qaeda training camps and Taliban air defenses. During the initial build-up before the actual attack, there had been speculation in the media that the Taliban might try to use U.S.-built Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that were the bane of Soviet helicopters during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. If any of these missiles existed at the time of the air campaign, they were never used and the U.S. didn't lose any aircraft to enemy fire. Beyond that, the Taliban had little to offer in the way of anti-aircraft weaponry, relying mostly on left-over arms and weapons from the Soviet invasion. U.S. aircraft, including Apache helicopter gunships, operated with impunity throughout the campaign, while cruise missiles pounded the country.
The strikes initially focused on the area in and around the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. Within a few days, most al-Qaeda training sites had been severely damaged and the Taliban's air defenses had been destroyed. The campaign then focused on command, control, and communication targets. The Taliban began losing the ability to coordinate, and their morale began to sink. But the line facing the Afghan Northern Alliance held, and no tangible battlefield successes had yet occurred. Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance, not seeing a breakthrough, demanded the bombing focus more on the front lines. Critics began to see the war losing its way. Civilian casualties also began to mount. Several Red Cross warehouses were bombed. Meanwhile, thousands of Pashtun militiamen from Pakistan poured into the country, joining the fight against the U.S. led forces.
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 serious results that they had long hoped for. The Taliban support structure was beginning to erode under the pressure of the strikes. U.S. Special Forces then launched an audacious raid deep into the Taliban's heartland of Kandahar, even striking one of Mullah Omar's compounds. However, the campaign's progress seemed to remain very slow. The last week of October had ended, and it was now the beginning of November.
At this time, the next stage of the air campaign began to fulfill long-awaited Northern Alliance expectations. The Taliban front lines were bombed with 15,000-pound daisy cutter bombs, and by AC-130 gunships. Poor Taliban tactics increased the effects of the strikes. The 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 decimated, 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 CIA/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.
On November 9, 2001, the battle for Mazari Sharif began. U.S. bombers carpet-bombed Taliban defenders concentrated in the Chesmay-e-Safa gorge that marks the entrance to the city. At 2 P.M, Northern Alliance forces then swept in from the south and west, seizing the city's main military base and airport. The forces then mopped up the remnants of the Taliban in the gorge in front of the city, meeting only light resistance. Within 4 hours, the battle was over. By sunset, what remained of the Taliban was retreating to the south and east. Mazari Sharif was taken. The next day, Northern Alliance forces seeking retribution combed the city, shooting suspected Taliban supporters in on-the-spot executions. Approximately 520 Taliban, demoralized and defeated, many of whom were fighters from Pakistan, were massacred when they were discovered hiding in a school. Looting was also widespread throughout Mazari Sharif.
The same day the massacres of former Taliban supporters was taking place in Mazari Sharif, November 10, Northern Alliance forces swept through five northern provinces in a rapid advance. The fall of Mazari Sharif had triggered a complete collapse of Taliban positions. Many local commanders switched sides rather than fight. The regime was beginning to unravel at the seams throughout the north. Many of the their front line troops were outflanked and then surrounded in the northern city of Kunduz as the Northern Alliance drove past them southwards. Even in the south, their hold on power seemed tenuous at best. The religious police stopped their regular patrols. A complete implosion of the Taliban regime seemed imminent.
Finally, on the night of November 12, Taliban forces fled from the city of Kabul, leaving under 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 brief 15-minute gun battle, being heavily outnumbered and having had little more than some shrub to shield them. After these forces were neutralized Kabul was in the hands of the US/NATO forces and the Northern Alliance.
The fall of Kabul marked the beginning of a collapse of Taliban positions across the map. Within 24 hours, all of 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, comprised of mainly Pakistani volunteers, fell back to the northern city of Konduz 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 stubborn resistance. By then, the Taliban had been forced back to their heartland in southeastern Afghanistan around Kandahar.
By November 13, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, with the possible inclusion of Osama bin Laden, had regrouped and were concentrating their forces in the Tora Bora cave complex, on the Pakistan border 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Jalalabad, to prepare for a stand against the Northern Alliance and US/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.
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 to evacuate a few hundred intelligence and military personnel who had been in Afghanistan previous to the U.S. invasion for the purpose of aiding the Taliban's ongoing fight against the Northern Alliance. It is believed that up to five thousand people in total were evacuated from the region, including Taliban and al-Qaeda troops allied to the Pakistanis in Afghanistan.
On November 25, the day that Taliban fighters holding out in Konduz finally surrendered and were being herded into the Qala-e-Jangi prison complex 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 600 prisoners, who soon seized the southern half of the complex, once a medieval fortress, including magazine of small arms and crew-served weapons. One American CIA operative who had been interrogating prisoners, Mike Spann, was killed, marking the first American combat death in the war. The revolt was finally put down after three days of heavy strafing fire by AC-130 gunships and Black Hawk helicopters, as well as a bombing airstrikes. Fewer than 100 of the several hundred Taliban prisoners survived, and around 50 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The quashing of the revolt marked the end of the combat in northern Afghanistan, where local Northern Alliance warlords were now firmly in control.
By the end of November, Kandahar, the movement's birthplace, was the last remaining Taliban stronghold and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 tribal fighters, led by Hamid Karzai, a Westernized and polished loyalist of the former Afghan king, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar before the Taliban seized power, put pressure on 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 U.S. combat troops had arrived. Nearly 1,000 Marines, ferried in by CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, set up a Forward Operating Base in the desert south of Kandahar on November 25. The first significant combat involving U.S. ground forces occurred a day later 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 despite the fact that 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.
Tommy Franks meets with Army Special Forces.
As the Taliban teetered on the brink of losing their last bastion, the U.S. focus increased on the Tora Bora. Local tribal militias, numbering over 2,000 strong and paid and organized by Special Forces and CIA paramilitaries, continued to mass for an attack as heavy bombing continued of suspected al-Qaeda positions. 100-200 civilians were reported killed when 25 bombs struck a village at the foot of the Tora Bora and White Mountains region. On December 2, a group of 20 U.S. commandos was inserted by helicopter to support the operation. On December 5, Afghan militia wrested control of the low ground below the mountain caves from al-Qaeda fighters and set up tank positions to blast enemy forces. The al-Qaeda fighters withdrew with mortars, rocket launchers, and assault rifles to higher fortified positions and dug in for the battle.
By December 6, Omar finally began to signal that he was ready to surrender Kandahar to tribal forces. His forces broken by heavy U.S. bombing and living constantly on the run within Kandahar to prevent himself from becoming a target, even Mullah Omar's morale lagged. Recognizing that he could not hold on to Kandahar much longer, he began signaling a willingness in negotiations to turn the city over to the tribal leaders, assuming that he and his top men received some protection. The U.S. government rejected any amnesty for Omar or any Taliban leaders. On December 7, Mullah Mohammad 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. However, 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.
Main article: Battle of Tora Bora
Al-Qaeda fighters were still holding out in the mountains of Tora Bora, however. Anti-Taliban tribal militia continued a steady advance through the difficult terrain, backed by withering air strikes guided in by U.S. Special Forces. Facing defeat and reluctant to fight fellow Muslims, 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. Once again, tribal forces backed by 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. 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. deaths were reported.
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. 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.
Main article: Operation Anaconda
Soldiers board a Chinook in Operation Anaconda.
U.S. and allied 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 rebel 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 of dead-enders numbering fewer than 200. It turned out that the guerrillas number over 1,000, perhaps as high as 5,000 according to some estimates, and that they were receiving reinforcements.
By March 6, eight Americans and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed and reportedly 400 opposing forces had also been killed in the fighting. The coalition casualties stemmed from a friendly fire 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. Ground fire from Afghan militia and American forces in a number of skirmishes, along with heavy aerial bombardment, resulted in over 400 al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels killed, according to U.S. estimates. Regardless of the correct number of guerrillas killed, it is clear that several hundred somehow escaped the dragnet and melted away, almost certainly by moving in small groups along mountain trails to the tribal areas across the border into Pakistan. The Pakistani forces meant to serve as a blocking force apparently lacked either the will or the capability, or possibly both, to seal off the border.
In another incident of friendly fire on April 18, 2002, 4 Canadian soldiers were killed and eight others were injured due to a bomb that was dropped by an American F-16 fighter jet. The pilot Harry Schmidt stated that he dropped the bomb in self-defense at what he believed to be an enemy ambush; it turned out that the Canadian soldiers were on a routine military exercise. See Tarnak Farm incident.
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 cross 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 has seen some of the heaviest activity.
Meanwhile, Taliban forces continued to remain 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 very limited results. The Taliban, who during the summer of 2002 numbered in the hundreds, avoided combat with U.S. forces and their Afghan allies as much as possible and melted away into the caves and tunnels of remote Afghan mountain ranges or across the border into Pakistan during operations.
After the attacks on 9/11, the Canadian Forces immediately deployed its elite Special Operations unit Joint Task Force Two. It was used as a vital role in calling airstrikes on Al-Qaeda and Taliban positions. Once the regular forces were on the grounds in Jan-Feb 2002 the Canadians were used supporting the war effort until Operation Anaconda began. During the operation, a Canadian sniper team broke, and re-broke the kill record for a long distance sniper kill set in the Vietnam War by an American Marine. Operation Anaconda was also the first time since the Korean War the Canadian soldiers relieved American soldiers in a combat operation. On April 18, 2002, in an event known as the Tarnak Farm incident, an American F-16 jet dropped a laser guided bomb on a group of Canadian soldiers who were conducting night time training on a known live fire range. Four Canadians were killed and eight were wounded in the bombing. In 2003, the Canadian Forces moved to the northern city of Kabul where it became the commanding nation of the newly formed ISAF. In the spring of 2005 it was announded that the Canadian Forces would move back to the volatile Kandahar province as the US forces handed command to the Canadians in the region.
Canadian soldiers in a firefight with Taliban militants in South Afghanistan.
When the Canadian Forces returned to Kandahar after being deployed to Kabul in 2003, the Taliban began a major offensive and the Canadians were caught in the middle. After a spring in which a record number of attacks against Canadian soldiers had been set, which included six deaths to the CF, the Taliban in Kandahar and Helmand provinces were massing and Operation Mountain Thrust was launched in the beginning of the summer. Canadians were one of the leading combatants and the first fighting in the Battle of Panjwaii took place. Complex mud-walled compounds made the rural Panjwaii district take on an almost urban style of fighting in some places. Daily firefights, artillery bombardments, and allied airstrikes turned the tides of the battle in favour of the Canadians.
After Operation Mountain Thrust came to an end, Taliban fighters flooded back into the Panjwaii district in numbers that had not been seen yet in a single area in the "post Anaconda" war. The Canadian Forces, which came under NATO command at the end of July, launched Operation Medusa in an attempt to clear the areas of Taliban fighters once and for all. The fighting of Operation Medusa led the way to the second, and most fierce Battle of Panjwaii in which daily gun-battles, ambushes, mortar/rocket attacks were targeting the Canadian troops. The Taliban had massed with an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 fighters. The Taliban were reluctant to give up the area, and after being surrounded by the Canadian Forces, they dug in and fought a more conventional style battle. After weeks of fighting, the Taliban had been cleared from the Panjwaii area and Canadian reconstruction efforts in the area began. In November 1, 2006 Dutch Major-General Ton Van Loon took over NATO Regional Command South in Afghanistan for a six months period from the Canadians. Since the war began in 2001, the Canadian Forces have suffered forty-four killed and more than 200 wounded. A Canadian diplomat has also been killed.
About 4000 people has been killed in 2006, 3000 of them were Taliban or foreign jihadists.
After managing to evade U.S. forces throughout the summer of 2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence and started to begin preparations to launch the insurgency that Mullah Muhammad Omar had promised during the Taliban's last days in power. During September, Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch a renewed "jihad" or holy war against the Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan that called for jihad. Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train new recruits in guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report. Most of the new recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. Major bases, a few with as many as 200 men, were created in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan by the summer of 2003. The will of the Pakistani paramilitaries stationed at border crossings to prevent such infiltration was called into question, and Pakistani military operations proved of little use.
The Taliban gradually reorganized and reconstituted their forces over the winter, preparing for a summer offensive. They established a new mode of operation: gather 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, Mullah Omar named a 10-man leadership council for the resistance, with himself at the head. Five operational zones were created, assigned to various Taliban commanders such as the key Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah, in charge of Zabul province operations. Al-Qaeda forces in the east had a bolder strategy of concentrating on the Americans and catching them when they could with elaborate ambushes.
The first sign that Taliban forces were regrouping came on January 27, 2003 during Operation Mongoose, when a band of fighters allied with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami were discovered and assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 15 miles (24 km) north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed and no U.S. casualties reported. The site was suspected to be a base to funnel supplies and fighters from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time.
As the summer continued, the attacks gradually increased in frequency in the "Taliban heartland." Dozens of Afghan government soldiers, non-governmental organization and humanitarian workers, and several U.S. soldiers died in the raids, ambushes, and rocket attacks. In addition to the 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.
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.
By the first week of September, however, Taliban forces had been scattered from their base at Dai-Chopan. Operation Mountain Thrust was launched on May 17, 2006 with the purposes of rooting out Taliban forces. On July 3, 2006 it was reported that British Army leaders were warning Prime Minister Blair that victory was not yet certain in Afghanistan, and were calling for more reinforcements. More than 1,100 Taliban fighters were killed and almost 400 captured in the month and a half long operation.
Southern Afghanistan has faced in 2006 the deadliest spate in violence in the country since the ouster of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in 2001, as newly deployed NATO troops have battled resurgent militants. Intense fighting continued throughout August and in the beginning of September, NATO launched a new operation (Operation Medusa) to destroy Taliban forces numbering more than 1,200 in Panjwaye and Zhari Districts of Kandahar Province, where the Taliban had almost complete control of the region. In Operation Medusa, NATO reported it had killed more than 500 suspected Taliban fighters. At the same time the Taliban took control, for the second time in two months, of Germsar district in the neighbouring Helmand province.
An analysis of the coalition casualty figures from 1 May to 12 August 2006 by Sheila Bird, vice-president of the UK's Royal Statistical Society, revealed that during the period, an average of five coalition soldiers were killed every week by the Taliban, twice the death rate suffered during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On 2 September 14 UK personnel were killed when an RAF Nimrod MR2 crashed; initial reports were that mechanical failure was responsible.
On September 16, 2006 the NATO-led Operation Mountain Fury begun as a follow up operation to Operation Medusa, to clear Taliban from the eastern provinces of Afghanistan.
According to an Australian TV report, the United States applied psychological pressure to force enemy Taliban fighters out into the open. The report stated that members of the 173d Airborne Brigade burned Taliban bodies for hygienic reasons.
A psychological operations soldier, Sgt. Jim Baker was recorded reading out a message to the Taliban:
"Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be."
Another soldier reportedly broadcast statements such as:
"You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."
According to a Japan Today report, U. S. authorities are investigating the incident to determine whether the troops' efforts may have contravened the Geneva convention.
A rare occurrence of a 5-country multinational fleet, during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Oman Sea.
Main article: War on Terrorism: Allies
The first wave of attacks was carried out solely by American and British forces. In addition to the United Kingdom, a number of other countries provided support to the U.S.-led intervention. In alphabetical order, these were:
Note: this list is currently incomplete and almost certainly inaccurate (many countries refuse to specify the whereabouts of their elite combat units and so forth)
Main article: Operation Slipper
About 300 Australian SAS troops, air-to-air refueling tankers, Navy frigates, two Orion electronic intelligence gathering aircraft, and F/A-18 fighter aircraft for Diego Garcia. One Australian SAS commando was killed in a landmine explosion. 400 more soldiers are being deployed as part of a reconstruction effort.
Main article: Canada's role in the invasion of Afghanistan
About 2,500 troops, six ships and six aircraft. Since 9/11, more than 15,000 Canadian personnel have served in Afghanistan and the Gulf. Twenty ships have been deployed to date. An airbase is also maintained in the Persian Gulf. Sources say that only 40 JTF2 Commandos were deployed in the initial stages of the war. However, a far larger number of Canadian soldiers is currently present in Afghanistan. On February 27, 2006, the Canadian Forces had taken over the overall command of all allied forces in Southern Afghanistan. 44 soldiers, a diplomat, and a civilian have died as part of OEF and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). See Canadian Forces casualties in Afghanistan. In the summer of 2006, the Canadian Forces took the lead role in Operation Medusa and was the main coalition nation fighting in the Battle of Panjwaii.
150 troops, of which 10 are deployed in the Kandahar area. The remainder are with French soldiers near Kabul or with German soldiers in the Mazar-e-Sharif region. From 2007 their numbers will increase to 300, and again in 2008 to 400.
Special forces (601st Special Forces Group) located at Camp Mauer. Assigned to special recon tasks. Deployed on March 28, 2004, home on September 17, 2004, commanding officer Col. Ondřej Páleník. Redeployment expected in 2006.
Originally special forces and a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft; six F-16 ground-attack aircrafts were deployed later. Three Danish ISAF soldiers were killed (along with two Germans while defusing ordance. Currently there are 390 soldiers, 316 of these in the Helmand Province.
4,500 troops including 3,500 for the Marine Nationale (one CVBG, comprising the FS Charles de Gaulle, frigates La Motte-Picquet, Jean de Vienne and Jean Bart, the nuclear attack submarine Rubis, the tanker Meuse and the aviso Commandant Ducuing), 600 for the Armée de l'Air (12 Mirage 2000, Mirage F1 and Mirage IV ground-attack and reconnaissance aircraft) and 600 to ISAF. Six French soldiers have died during OEF (as well as 3 under ISAF): all 6 in various hostile incidents.
In 2001 and beginning again in the summer of 2003, 200 soldiers from various units of the Army Special Forces Brigade (BFST), including marine and air commandos, have conducted operations against the Taliban, under command and in co-operation with U.S. special operations forces present in the area. At least three members of a French Special Forces unit have died in southern Afghanistan in 2006.
Approximately 3,000 troops including special forces (the KSK, Kommando Spezialkräfte), naval vessels, NBC cleanup teams. 18 German soldiers have been killed, but under ISAF: four in two different ordnance-defusing accidents, 7 in a non-hostile helicopter crash, one in a vehicle accident, five in two separate suicide bombings, and one in landmine explosion.
Seven Irish troops participating in ISAF since July 5th 2002. Three personnel under the ISAF in Kabul on information services duties. Four personnel working on liaison duty between the Kabul Multinational Brigade and the Afghan National Directorate of Security, the Kabul city police and the United Nations Assistance Mission. The Irish Defence Forces had originally offered to send special forces to provide training for other troops but this was declined.
Naval warships including the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi. 6 Italian soldiers have died, but under ISAF and not OEF. Italy has 1,900 troops in Afghanistan as part of the ISAF peacekeeping mission. Most of the Italians are based in Kabul, but 750 are serving in the western city of Herat.
In its first military deployment since World War II, contributed naval support for non-combat reinforcement of the operation.
A mine clearing team.
40 Special Forces AITVARAS troops, from 2002-2004. 120 soldiers in Ghowr Province, 2005-present.
In 2002, a tri-national detachment known as the European Participating Air Forces of 18 Danish, Netherlands and Norwegian F-16 ground attack fighters aircraft and one Netherlands KDC-10 refuelling tanker was deployed to Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan to support operations in Afghanistan.
Since August 1, 2006 over 1,400 Dutch troops are active in the province of Uruzgan together with an untold number of special forces; an additional 330 troops have arrived in November as the Dutch took over NATO command from the Canadians. Aircraft include eight F-16 ground-attack fighters (now stationed at Kabul but will move to Kandahar in November 2006), six AH-64 Apache gunships at the Dutch military bases in Uruzgan, and a KDC-10 tanker present in the area to provide aerial refueling capability and a squadron of six Cougar medium sized transport helicopters based at Kandahar Airfield. Possibly learning from their disabilities in former Yugoslavia (Srebrenica) the Dutch arrived with some heavy equipment, including PzH 2000 SP artillery pieces. In summer of 2006 the Dutch encountered their first 2 casualties in the result of a non-combat helicopter crash, and later they lost a pilot in a F-16 crash. Starting November 2006 the total number of Dutch troops, including Dutch Army, Air Force and Special Forces, will be well over 2,000.
In September 2006 Dutch forces took part in Operation Medusa in Kandahar Province and in Operation Mountain Fury. In November 1, 2006 Dutch Major-General Ton Van Loon took over NATO Regional Command South in Afghanistan for a six months period from the Canadians.
In 2002, a tri-national detachment known as the European Participating Air Forces of 18 Danish, Dutch and Norwegian F-16 ground attack fighters aircraft was deployed to Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan to support operations in Afghanistan. Also deployed from Norway were logistic teams, mine clearance teams, a special forces commando group and several C-130 transport aircraft. One Norwegian soldier was killed and another lightly wounded in a rocket propelled grenade attack on a convoy of four Norwegian Mercedes Geländewagen MB-290s 23 May 2004 while returning from a mission in the capital Kabul.
Two C-130 Hercules, Boeing 757, a provincial reconstruction team, comprising engineers, medical personal and vehicle mounted infantry of varying strength between 100-150, and an unstated number of Special Air Service soldiers, assumed to be less than 100, probably around 50.
Despite reluctance in the Arab states towards retaliation against the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan, the Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf offered support. Pakistan and Iran agreed to open borders to receive the expected increased migration of refugees from Afghanistan. Earlier, Pakistan had supported the Taliban, especially during the 1996-1998 period when they were establishing control - later relations between the two were not as close. After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan allocated three airbases to the United States for the invasion of Afghanistan.
As of late 2006, 100 Polish Land Forces soldiers (including engineers) as well as a detachment of GROM special forces. The engineers' tasks include engineering reconnaissance, the construction of fortifications, mine removal and the transport of water and fuel. Polish Navy has sent the ORP Xawery Czernicki, a support ship which can also serve a a base for commando operations. On September 14, 2006 Poland announced it would send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan in the first offer since an urgent NATO appeal for reinforcements, but it said they would only be on the ground by next February.
115 Commandos and 37 air traffic controllers in Kabul. One commando was killed in a roadside bombing. The Commandos were relieved in 2006 by Paratroopers.
25 military police and a C-130 transport aircraft. One soldier was killed in an ambush that later claimed the life of a badly wounded comrade, one was killed in a landmine explosion, and another was killed in a roadside bombing which severely damaged a tank.
Between 120-160 SSG elite troops and mine clearers. At least two have been killed and one wounded in ambush attacks.
Main article: Britain's role in the 2001-present Afghan war
The naval element consisted of one aircraft carrier, one amphibious ship, one destroyer, one frigate, three nuclear fleet submarines and seven Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, SBS and 40 Commando RM (not deployed). The British Army provided the 22 Squadron SAS and later 1,800 troops to the ISAF. The Royal Air Force contributed Tristar and VC-10 tanker aircraft, E-3D Sentry surveillance and control aircraft, Nimrod R1 surveillance aircraft, Nimrod MR2 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, Canberra PR9 reconnaissance aircraft, C-130 Hercules air transport aircraft and Chinook helicopters from 27 Squadron. 41 members of the British Armed Forces have died during OEF (see British forces casualties in Afghanistan), as well as six under ISAF, 14 in a non-hostile aircraft crash, 14 in various attacks and ambushes, and 3 in various other accidents.
Uzbekistan had allowed the U.S. to place troops on the ground as well as use the Uzbek airbase, K2, for support activities and for deployment and command and control of Special Forces into all of Afghanistan except for the Khandahar region.
Main article: International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is an international stabilization force Afghanistan authorized by the United Nations Security Council on December 20, 2001. As of 5 October 2006 ISAF was consisting of about 32,000 personnel of 34 nations.
At July 31, 2006, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force assumed command of the south of the country, and by October 5, 2006 also of the east Afghanistan.
Main article: Civilian casualties of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
According to Marc W. Herold's Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing at least 3,700 and probably closer to 5,000 civilians were killed as a result of U.S. bombing. Herold's study omitted those killed indirectly, when air strikes cut off their access to hospitals, food or electricity. Also exempt were bomb victims who later died of their injuries. When there were different casualty figures from the same incident, in 90% of cases Professor Herold chose a lower figure.
Some people, however, dispute Herold's estimates. Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute and Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives question Herold's heavy use of the Afghan Islamic Press (the Taliban's official mouthpiece) and claim tallies provided them were suspicious. Conetta also claims statistical errors in Herold's study. Conetta's study puts total civilian casualties between 1,000 and 1,300 . A Los Angeles Times study put the number of collateral dead between 1,067 and 1,201.
Meetings of various Afghan leaders were organized by the United Nations and took place in Germany. The Taliban was not included. These meetings produced an interim government and an agreement to allow a United Nations peacekeeping force to enter Afghanistan. The UN resolutions 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-Qaida network and other terrorist groups and for providing safe haven to Usama bin Laden, Al-Qaida and others associated with them, and in this context supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to replace the Taliban regime"
The UN resolution 20 December 2001, "Supporting international efforts to root out terrorism, in keeping with the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming also its resolutions 1368 (2001) of 12 September 2001 and 1373 (2001) of 28 September 2001."
The UN not only condemn the Taliban regime, but ensures that still today there is a peacekeeping mission, under the UN.
It is estimated that in Afghanistan there are 1.5 million suffering from immediate starvation, as well as 7.5 million suffering as a result of the country's dire situation - the combination of civil war, drought-related famine, and, to a large extent, the Taliban's oppressive regime and the U.S.-led invasion.
In Pakistan, the United Nations and private humanitarian organizations have begun gearing up for the massive humanitarian effort necessary in addition to the already major refugee and food efforts. The United Nations World Food Programme temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks. The efforts have, as of early (December 2001), resumed with a daily distribution rate of 3,000 tons a day. It is however estimated that 30,000 tons of food will be needed (by January 2002) to provide sufficient relief to the impoverished masses.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), continued to move ahead with rehabilitation and relief activities, maintaining its operations despite the crisis and the closure of various of Afghanistan's borders. During 2001, it provided food and other assistance to over 450,000 people in Afghanistan, delivering 1,400 tonnes of food to approximately 50,000 internally displaced and vulnerable populations by the end of September, 2001. By October, 2001 it had distributed over 10,000 tonnes of food in Badakshan, with another 4,000 tonnes on its way for distribution to vulnerable people in high altitude areas in the province. FOCUS had also established an agricultural programme through grass-roots village organizations in the province that they estimated could produce up to 30,000 tonnes of cereals annually.
By November 1, U.S. C-17s flying at 30,000 feet (10,000 m) had dropped 1,000,000 food and medicine packets marked with an American flag. Doctors Without Borders called it an act of transparent propaganda and said that using medicines without medical consultation is much more likely to cause harm than good. Action Against Hunger head of operations in Afghanistan Thomas Gonnet said it was an "act of marketing".
A further dangerous problem lies in the fact that the food packets are bright yellow in color - the same color as unexploded bomblets from U.S. cluster bombs, although the cluster bombs are larger, made from sturdy metal and plastic with only a Latin number written on them, while relief packages are covered in loose plastic wraps with pictures of usage and instructions in local alphabets on them.