“In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflict stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering.”
– Malala Yousafzai
15,000 in a support role
Estimated at 30,000
Significant International Actors with troops in Afghanistan:
- Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban-led Islamic state, 1996 to December 2001)
- Al-Qaeda (2001 to Present)
- Taliban (2001 to Present)
- North Alliance (September 2001 to December 2001)
- United States of America (2001 to Present)
- United Kingdom (2002 to 2014)
- Canada (2002 to 2014)
- Australia (2001 to Present)
- Germany (2002 to Present)
- International Security Assistance Force (including troops from 43 NATO countries) (December 2001 to 2014)
- Republic of Afghanistan (December 2001 to 2014)
- Resolute Support (led by NATO) (2015 to Present)
- ISIL – Khorasan Province (2015 to Present)
“The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have both served to hasten western decline: they have both failed to achieve their objectives and in the process demonstrated an underlying western impotence.”
– Martin Jacques
Although Afghanistan has been in a state of conflict since 1978, this page will examine the ‘War in Afghanistan’ that began in September 2001, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Whilst the conflict has a significant combatant death toll, Afghan civilians are among those primarily affected, with many attacks targeting citizens. The conflict has also limited access to services such as healthcare and education, and left many in fear of persecution. After almost seventeen years, there is no clear end in sight for the ‘War in Afghanistan’. The resurgence of the Taliban in 2015 has necessitated continued military involvement.
- The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was formed in December 2001, after the Taliban government was overthrown. It has worked in tandem with the United States of America and other states against Taliban insurgency.
- The United States of America invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The invasion was justified as a means of retaliation against those responsible for the attacks – specifically al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. They have recently promised a more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan in the Trump-era. Decisions regarding a US withdrawal from the war will be based on “conditions on the ground” rather than arbitrary timelines, according to President Trump.
- The initial U.S. invasion was supported by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Australia. These countries continued to provide support and troops throughout the war. Canada and the United Kingdom troops left Afghanistan in 2014.
- The Northern Alliance was a military group that was established when the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan government gained power in 1996. The alliance opposed the Taliban and was supported by the U.S.A. It disbanded in December 2001 when the Taliban government collapsed.
- The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was a force purposed with training Afghan security forces and aiding in rebuilding Afghanistan’s government institutions and services. It was also involved in the war against the Taliban. ISAF was established in 2001, after UN Security Council Resolution 1386. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) later assumed control in 2003 and ended the force in December 2014.
- Operation Resolute Support was established on January 1, 2015 and acted as a successor to ISAF. Led by NATO, the operation entitles having 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, acting predominantly in non-combative roles.
- The Taliban, also known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) between 1996 and 2001, are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group from areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. After the collapse of the IEA in 2001, the Taliban launched an insurgency against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
- Al-Qaeda are a multi-national group of Sunni Islamist extremists. They have supported the Taliban in their insurgency in Afghanistan.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) are a branch of ISIL operating in Afghanistan. Formed in January 2015, the Islamic fundamentalist group oppose both the Afghan state and the Taliban.
- Whilst numerous NGOs have been involved in Afghanistan, the United Nations has been pivotal in the provision of aid and intervention, and has acted in many capacities. The organisation of the 2001 Bonn Conference and establishment of UN Security Council Resolutions 1378 and 1386 in 2001 were intervention measures that aimed to promote stability. Likewise, the establishment of the political mission, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in 2002, by request of the Afghan government, aimed to promote sustainable peace and development. UN subsidiaries such as The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have also provided aid to Afghan citizens.
- 11 September 2001 – Al-Qaeda terrorists hijack four planes in the United States of America. Two crash into the World Trade Centers, one into the Pentagon, and one in a field, resulting in 2996 deaths. In response, President George Bush declares America will ‘win the war against terrorism’ and calls for the Taliban to extradite Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who resides in Afghanistan. The Taliban refuse, demanding evidence of wrongdoing. This is perceived by the U.S. as a delaying tactic.
- 18 September 2001 – President Bush signs the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The resolution permits the use of military force against those responsible for carrying out the 9/11 attacks, and will come to be a legal justification for an imminent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
- 7 October 2001 – The U.S. military, with British support, officially begin Operation Enduring Freedom with the bombing of Taliban forces. Canada, Germany and Australia promise future support.
- 11-14 November 2001 – Several significant Taliban occupancies fall to U.S. and Northern Alliance coalition, including Taloqan, Bamiyan, Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad.
- 5 December 2001 – The United Nations invites prominent Afghan factions, including the Northern Alliance and groups led by the former king, to convene in Bonn, Germany. The Taliban are not invited. The Bonn Agreement is signed, appointing Hamid Karzai as interim administrative head of Afghanistan.
- 9 December 2001 – The Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan officially ends. The Taliban surrender Kandahar – the second largest Afghan city – and leader Mullah Omar flees. Despite this, Al-Qaeda leaders remain in the mountains.
- 16 December 2001 – After a two-week battle between Afghan forces and Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden escapes.
- 20 December 2001 – UN Security Council Resolution 1386 adopted. This establishes the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to promote safety and security in Kabul.
- 2 March 2002 – U.S., Canadian and Afghan forces begin ‘Operation Anaconda’. The operation targets remaining Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the eastern Paktia province. The assault includes approximately 2000 U.S. forces fighting 1000 Taliban fighters.
- 8 August 2003 – NATO takes control of the ISAF. Although ISAF was initially purposed with securing Kabul, it expands in the coming years.
- 28 January 2004 – British soldier killed in suspected suicide attack. The attack marks a distinct rise in suicide bombings by Taliban fighters; in 2005 there would be 21 and in 2006, 141. The use of improvised explosive devices also significantly increases.
- 9 October 2004 – Hamid Karzai is democratically elected as the President of Afghanistan.
- 23 May 2005 – Presidents Karzai and Bush announce each other as strategic partners. The U.S. is given access to Afghan military facilities, and Afghan troops are to be trained and equipped by the U.S. The announcement solidifies U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
- 15 May 2006 – Operation Mountain Thrust begins, led by a force of approximately 11,000 troops from the Afghan National Army and NATO members. The operation aims to target Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan. The assault concluded July 31 2006, where the Coalition claimed victory and the Taliban retreated. Combined causalities from the assault exceeded 1,200.
- 31 July 2006 – ISAF assumes command of South Afghanistan in response to increasingly frequent and violent attacks by the Taliban.
- 5 October 2006 – ISAF assumes command of East Afghanistan, resulting in a number of greater troops in Afghanistan, and a greater number involved in combat.
- 4 March 2007 – The Shinwar massacre occurs. U.S. Marines, fleeing a car bomb and ambush attack, fire upon local people in the Shinwar District of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 and injuring a further 33. All 120 members of the unit leave the country soon after.
- 6 March 2007 – NATO-led Operation Achilles begins; the largest of its kind to date. The assault aims to target Taliban fighters in the Helmand province of Southern Afghanistan. Whilst the Taliban claimed they had a force of 10,000, NATO reports stated that they had 4,000. NATO troops totalled approximately 7,000. The operation concluded May 30, 2006, with a NATO victory. Thirty five NATO troops were killed, and an estimated 750 – 1000 Taliban causalities.
- 16 August 2007 – Polish troops shell the village of Nangar Khel in the Paktika Province of southeastern Afghanistan after a targeted ambush by insurgents damages their vehicle. The attack results in the deaths of eight civilians, including an infant and pregnant woman. Seven soldiers are initially charged with war crimes due to accounts stating that they fired without provocation. The charges are later cleared in 2011.
- 13 June 2008 – Taliban insurgents attack Kandahar prison with cars filled with explosives and suicide bombers. The attack frees many prisoners, including Taliban fighters. Whilst some reports stated that approximately 150 to 200 prisoners remained incarcerated, other accounts noted that all 1,170 prisoners escaped.
- 13 July 2008 – Approximately 200 Taliban fighters attack U.S. soldiers in the Waygal district of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province in the Battle of Wanat. The offensive, led by the Taliban, surrounded the U.S. base near Quam, destroyed heavy munitions and entered the main base. As a result, 9 U.S. soldiers were killed, and a further 27 wounded. According to U.S. reports, between 25 and 65 Taliban fighters were killed, and 45 wounded. Whilst the battle is considered a U.S. victory for their ability to repel insurgents, it is considered a tactical victory for the Taliban.
- 27 August 2008 – Operation Eagle’s Summit begins, aiming to transport a turbine through Taliban-controlled territory to the Kajaki Dam in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan. The turbine would provide electricity and irrigation to the Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The operation concluded on September 5 2008 with the Coalition victory. One Canadian solider died during the operation, whilst NATO reports 200 Taliban troops were killed.
- 3 September 2008 – Helicopters, believed to be manned by U.S. forces, attack houses near a militant stronghold in Pakistan. Reports state that many of those killed were civilians. In retaliation, Pakistan declares a disconnection of supply lines for NATO.
- 17 February 2009 – Newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama establishes his strong support for involvement in Afghanistan, declaring 17,000 more troops are to be sent to Afghanistan. Currently, the U.S. has 37,000 troops stationed there.
- 27 March 2009 – President Obama announces new policy which aims to stabilise Pakistan and provide 4000 more troops to train Afghan security forces.
- 4 September 2009 – As part of the Kunduz Province Campaign, NATO forces launch an air-raid on Taliban fighters who had hijacked civilian supply trucks. The raids killed approximately 179 people, of which 100 were civilians.
- 2 November 2009 – President Karzai wins second term as President amid controversy. Issues of legitimacy and corruption cast doubt upon the ability of Afghan government institutions and security forces to work independently.
- 1 December 2009 – President Obama commits a further 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.
- 2-4 June 2010 – President Karzai organised Afghanistan’s National Consultative Peace Jirga (NCPJ). The three-day meeting aimed to discuss plans to end the Afghan civil-war and current conflict. Whilst the NCPJ was undermined by the Taliban’s rejection of the event, it marked a step in a positive direction.
- November 2010 – NATO summit in Lisbon decides to relinquish control of security and hand over to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. The decision emphasises NATO’s shifted agenda that aims to slowly distance itself from the conflict.
- 2 May 2011 – Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by U.S. forces in Operation Neptune Spear. As the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was provoked by the Taliban’s refusal to extradite Osama Bin Laden (considered the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks) over his responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, his death is highly significant for U.S. forces, and marks the culmination of a ten-year search.
- 22 June 2011 – President Obama announces plans to withdraw 30,000 troops. Other NATO members would follow suit.
- 11 March 2012 – The Kandahar massacre, or Panjwai massacre, occurs, when U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Bales murders sixteen civilians and injures a further six. Nine of his victims were children. The massacre further damages relations between U.S. troops and Afghan civilians which were already strained by the burning of the Quran by U.S. soldiers in February, and resentment owing to civilian deaths.
- 18 June 2013 – Afghan security forces assume control of all security responsibilities.
- 15 June 2014 – Pakistan Armed Forces launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border. The offensive targeted Islamic militant groups, and resulted in their movement to Afghanistan. This subsequently boosted Taliban ranks, and enabled a Taliban resurgence that would begin in earnest in 2015.
- 27 May 2014 – President Obama announces the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops by 2016.
- 28 December 2014 – NATO officially ended all combat operations in Afghanistan. Whilst some troops would remain in support of Afghanistan’s security and stability, they would not act in non-combat roles.
- 1 January 2015 – NATO launches ‘Resolute Support’, in which troops act in an advisory capacity to Afghan security forces.
- 26 January 2015 – ISIL forms ISIL-KP, appointing former Taliban militants Hafiz Saeed Khan and Abdul Rauf Aliza as leader and deputy leader respectively.
- 22 June 2015 – A Taliban car bomb is detonated outside the National Assembly in Kabul. The Kabul Parliament is subsequently attacked, with Taliban fighters entering the building. A car is also exploded in front of parliament gates. Whilst no MPs were wounded and the Taliban fighters killed, it is reported that women and children were killed in the attack.
- 8 July 2015 – Pakistan hosts informal peace talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban. Although no agreement comes to fruition, both parties agree to continue talks later.
- 3 October 2015 – U.S. air raid bombs a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital in North Afghanistan, killing 42 people. Among the causalities are 14 MSF (Doctors Without Borders) members, and 24 patients.
- 15 October 2015 – President Obama declares that some 9,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan, despite earlier statements that only 1,000 would remain.
- 22 September 2016 – A draft peace agreement is signed between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami, a former ally of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
- 13 April 2017 – U.S. military deploys largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. The bomb targets ISIL fighters in eastern Afghanistan, and a system of tunnels and caves. 96 ISIL fighters are killed.
- 21 April 2017 – Taliban fighters attack Camp Shaheen, a base for the Afghan National Army, near Mazar-i-Sharif in the Balkh Province. Whilst the Afghan government stated that 140 people were killed, and 160 injured, some media reports suggested that this number could have been as high as 250.
- 28 April 2017 – Taliban announce the beginning of ‘Operation Mansouri’. Following this, the Taliban secure the Waghaz District in May. Attacks on the Shah Wali Kot district of the Kandahar province, Shorabak district and Maiwand district also occur, resulting in heavy losses for the Afghan army.
- 31 May 2017 – The German embassy in Kabul is attacked by a suicide truck. The attack kills 90 people, and injures a further 350.
- 21 August 2017 – U.S. President Donald Trump announces his support for the Afghan war, and indicated he would expand U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
- February 2018 – 800 US soldiers arrive in Afghanistan as part of an Army training brigade to advise Afghan forces.
- 9 March 2018 – An ISIL-claimed attack kills nine civilians and injures eighteen in Kabul. Elsewhere, in the Takhar province of north-eastern Afghanistan, Taliban fighters kill ten Afghan army soldiers and six police.
- 2 April 2018 – Afghan Air Force said to have conducted airstrike on a religious school in the Kunduz province, leaving 59 dead. Most of the victims were children, according to security forces.
- 22 April 2018 – 63 people were killed in bomb attack on voter registration centres in
Kabul and Baghan province. The Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant claims
responsibility for the Kabul attack (no group has claimed responsibility for the Baghan
- 30 April 2018 – Twin blasts in Kabul kill at least 36 people. Including nine journalists
who had arrived to report on the first explosion and were apparently targeted by a suicide bomber.
- June 2018 – A three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces is successfully observed in Kabul, coinciding with the end of Ramadan. This is the first ceasefire of the conflict and is recognized as a great step towards peace.
- 28 June 2018 – Taliban attacks on Takhar checkpoints leave 14 border police officers dead, and 6 others missing. In the eastern Logar province, 11 people were killed in two Taliban attacks.
- 25 July 2018 – Taliban soldiers take over two districts in the southeastern province of Paktika, forcing Afghan security forces to leave behind large quantities of arms and equipment.
- 25 August 2018 – Afghanistan’s national security adviser resigns. He is replaced by Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan Ambassador to the US.
- 05 September 2018 – Two suicide bombs detonate in a Shi’ite neighborhood of Kabul, killing at least 20 people and wounding 70 more. The attack is claimed the next day by the Islamic State.
- October 2018 – UN reports that civilian deaths in Afghanistan remain at extreme levels, the highest since 2014.
How You Can Help:
- For further information regarding the implications of the War in Afghanistan, refer to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – https://unama.unmissions.org/