War in Afghanistan (2001–present) | Wikipedia audio article

The War in Afghanistan (or the U.S. War in
Afghanistan), code named Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (2001–14) and Operation
Freedom’s Sentinel (2015–present), followed the United States invasion of Afghanistan
of 7 October 2001. The U.S. was supported initially by the United
Kingdom, Canada, and Australia and later by a coalition of over 40 countries, including
all NATO members. The war’s public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda
and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power. The War in Afghanistan is the second longest
war in United States history, behind the Vietnam War.Following the September 11 attacks in
2001 on the U.S., which President George W. Bush blamed on Osama bin Laden who was living
or hiding in Afghanistan, President Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden
and expel al-Qaeda; bin Laden had already been wanted by the U.S. since 1998. The Taliban declined to extradite him unless
they were provided clear evidence of his involvement in the September 11 attacks, and declined
demands to extradite others on the same grounds. The U.S. dismissed the request for evidence
as a delaying tactic, and on 7 October 2001 launched Operation Enduring Freedom with the
United Kingdom. Routinely, the allies cited policy of “not
negotiating with terrorists.” The two were later joined by other forces,
including the Northern Alliance which had been fighting the Taliban in the ongoing civil
war since 1996. In December 2001, the United Nations Security
Council established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to assist the Afghan
interim authorities with securing Kabul. At the Bonn Conference the same month, Hamid
Karzai was selected to head the Afghan Interim Administration, which after a 2002 loya jirga
(grand assembly) in Kabul became the Afghan Transitional Administration. In the popular elections of 2004, Karzai was
elected president of the country, now named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.NATO became
involved in ISAF in August 2003, and later that year assumed leadership of it. At this stage, ISAF included troops from 43
countries with NATO members providing the majority of the force. One portion of U.S. forces in Afghanistan
operated under NATO command; the rest remained under direct U.S. command. Following defeat in the initial invasion,
the Taliban was reorganized by its leader Mullah Omar, and launched an insurgency against
the government and ISAF in 2003. Though outgunned and outnumbered, insurgents
from the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and other groups have waged asymmetric
warfare with guerrilla raids and ambushes in the countryside, suicide attacks against
urban targets and turncoat killings against coalition forces. The Taliban exploited weaknesses in the Afghan
government, which is among the most corrupt in the world, to reassert influence across
rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan. In the initial years there was little fighting,
but from 2006 the Taliban made significant gains and showed an increased willingness
to commit atrocities against civilians. ISAF responded in 2006 by increasing troops
for counterinsurgency operations to “clear and hold” villages and “nation building” projects
to “win hearts and minds”. Violence sharply escalated from 2007 to 2009. While ISAF continued to battle the Taliban
insurgency, fighting crossed into neighboring North-West Pakistan. Troop numbers began to surge in 2009 continued
to increase through 2011 when roughly 140,000 foreign troops operated under ISAF and U.S.
command in Afghanistan. Of these 100,000 were from the U.S. On 1 May 2011, United States Navy SEALs killed
Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan. In May 2012, NATO leaders commended an exit
strategy for withdrawing their forces. UN-backed peace talks have since taken place
between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In May 2014, the United States announced that
its major combat operations would end in December 2014, and that it would leave a residual force
in the country. In October 2014, British forces handed over
the last bases in Helmand to the Afghan military, officially ending their combat operations
in the war. On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF
combat operations in Afghanistan and officially transferred full security responsibility to
the Afghan government. The NATO-led Operation Resolute Support was
formed the same day as a successor to ISAF. As of May 2017, over 13,000 foreign troops
remain in Afghanistan without any formal plans to withdraw, and continue their fight against
the Taliban, which remains by far the largest single group fighting against the Afghan government
and foreign troops.Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war. Over 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors,
over 15,000 Afghan national security forces were killed, as well as over 31,000 civilians.==Before the start of war=====
Origins of Afghanistan’s civil war===Afghanistan’s political order began to break
down with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah by his distant cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan
in a bloodless 1973 Afghan coup d’état. Daoud Khan had served as prime minister since
1953 and promoted economic modernization, emancipation of women, and Pashtun nationalism. This was threatening to neighboring Pakistan,
faced with its own restive Pashtun population. In the mid-1970s, Pakistani Prime Minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to encourage Afghan Islamist leaders such as Burhanuddin Rabbani
and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to fight against the regime. In 1978, Daoud Khan was killed in a coup by
Afghan’s Communist Party, his former partner in government, known as the People’s Democratic
Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The PDPA pushed for a socialist transformation
by abolishing arranged marriages, promoting mass literacy and reforming land ownership. This undermined the traditional tribal order
and provoked opposition across rural areas. The PDPA’s crackdown was met with open rebellion,
including Ismail Khan’s Herat Uprising. The PDPA was beset by internal leadership
differences and was weakened by an internal coup on 11 September 1979 when Hafizullah
Amin ousted Nur Muhammad Taraki. The Soviet Union, sensing PDPA weakness, intervened
militarily three months later, to depose Amin and install another PDA faction led by Babrak
Karmal. The entry of Soviet forces in Afghanistan
in December 1979 prompted its Cold War rivals, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
and China to support rebels fighting against the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In contrast to the secular and socialist government,
which controlled the cities, religiously motivated mujahideen held sway in much of the countryside. Beside Rabbani, Hekmatyar, and Khan, other
mujahideen commanders included Jalaluddin Haqqani. The CIA worked closely with Pakistan’s Inter-Service
Intelligence to funnel foreign support for the mujahideen. The war also attracted Arab volunteers, known
as “Afghan Arabs”, including Osama bin Laden. After the withdrawal of the Soviet military
from Afghanistan in May 1989, the PDPA regime under Najibullah held on until 1992, when
the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the regime of aid, and the defection of Uzbek
general Abdul Rashid Dostum cleared the approach to Kabul. With the political stage cleared of socialists,
the warlords, some of them Islamist, vied for power. By then, Bin Laden had left the country and
the United States’ interest in Afghanistan also diminished.===Warlord rule (1992–1996)===In 1992, Rabbani officially became president
of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, but had to battle other warlords for control of Kabul. In late 1994, Rabbani’s defense minister,
Ahmad Shah Massoud, defeated Hekmatyar in Kabul and ended ongoing bombardment of the
capital. Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political
process with the goal of national consolidation. Other warlords, including Ismail Khan in the
west and Dostum in the north, maintained their fiefdoms. In 1994, Mohammed Omar, a mujahideen member
who taught at a Pakistani madrassa, returned to Kandahar and formed the Taliban movement. His followers were religious students, known
as the Talib and they sought to end warlordism through strict adherence to Islamic law. By November 1994, the Taliban had captured
all of Kandahar Province. They declined the government’s offer to join
in a coalition government and marched on Kabul in 1995.===Taliban Emirate vs Northern Alliance===The Taliban’s early victories in 1994 were
followed by a series of costly defeats. Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. Analysts such as Amin Saikal described the
group as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan’s regional interests, which the Taliban
denied. The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early
1995, but were driven back by Massoud.On 27 September 1996, the Taliban, with military
support by Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul and founded
the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed their fundamentalist interpretation
of Islam in areas under their control, issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the
home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. According to the Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid,
“between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in
Afghanistan” on the side of the Taliban.Massoud and Dostum, former arch-enemies, created a
United Front against the Taliban, commonly known as the Northern Alliance. In addition to Massoud’s Tajik force and Dostum’s
Uzbeks, the United Front included Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of
commanders such as Abdul Haq and Haji Abdul Qadir. Abdul Haq also gathered a limited number of
defecting Pashtun Taliban. Both agreed to work together with the exiled
Afghan king Zahir Shah. International officials who met with representatives
of the new alliance, which the journalist Steve Coll referred to as the “grand Pashtun-Tajik
alliance”, said, “It’s crazy that you have this today … Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara
… They were all ready to buy in to the process … to work under the king’s banner for an
ethnically balanced Afghanistan.” The Northern Alliance received varying degrees
of support from Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India. The Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998
and drove Dostum into exile. The conflict was brutal. According to the United Nations (UN), the
Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed
systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been “15
massacres” between 1996 and 2001. The Taliban especially targeted the Shia Hazaras. In retaliation for the execution of 3,000
Taliban prisoners by Uzbek general Abdul Malik Pahlawan in 1997, the Taliban executed about
4,000 civilians after taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.Bin Laden’s 055 Brigade was responsible
for mass killings of Afghan civilians. The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses
in many villages describing “Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats
and skinning people”.By 2001, the Taliban controlled as much as 90% of Afghanistan,
with the Northern Alliance confined to the country’s northeast corner. Fighting alongside Taliban forces were some
28,000–30,000 Pakistanis (usually also Pashtun) and 2,000–3,000 Al-Qaeda militants. Many of the Pakistanis were recruited from
madrassas. A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department
confirmed that “20–40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani.” The document said that many of the parents
of those Pakistani nationals “know nothing regarding their child’s military involvement
with the Taliban until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan”. According to the U.S. State Department report
and reports by Human Rights Watch, other Pakistani nationals fighting in Afghanistan were regular
soldiers, especially from the Frontier Corps, but also from the Pakistani Army providing
direct combat support.====Al-Qaeda====
In August 1996, Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan and arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He had founded Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s
to support the Mujahideen’s war against the Soviets, but became disillusioned by infighting
among warlords. He grew close to Mullah Omar and moved Al-Qaeda’s
operations to eastern Afghanistan.The 9/11 Commission in the U.S. found that under the
Taliban, al-Qaeda was able to use Afghanistan as a place to train and indoctrinate fighters,
import weapons, coordinate with other jihadists, and plot terrorist actions. While al-Qaeda maintained its own camps in
Afghanistan, it also supported training camps of other organizations. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 men passed through
these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against
the United Front. A smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda.After
the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton
ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. officials pressed the Taliban to surrender
bin Laden. In 1999, the international community imposed
sanctions on the Taliban, calling for bin Laden to be surrendered. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed these demands. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Special
Activities Division paramilitary teams were active in Afghanistan in the 1990s in clandestine
operations to locate and kill or capture Osama bin Laden. These teams planned several operations, but
did not receive the order to proceed from President Clinton. Their efforts built relationships with Afghan
leaders that proved essential in the 2001 invasion.====Change in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan
====During the Clinton administration, the U.S.
tended to favor Pakistan and until 1998–1999 had no clear policy toward Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, the U.S. State Department’s
Robin Raphel told Massoud to surrender to the Taliban. Massoud responded that, as long as he controlled
an area the size of his hat, he would continue to defend it from the Taliban. Around the same time, top foreign policy officials
in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to try to persuade the United
Front not to take advantage of a chance to make crucial gains against the Taliban. They insisted it was the time for a cease-fire
and an arms embargo. At the time, Pakistan began a “Berlin-like
airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban”, financed with Saudi money.U.S. policy toward
Afghanistan changed after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden was indicted
for his involvement in the embassy bombings. In 1999 both the U.S. and the United Nations
enacted sanctions against the Taliban via United Nations Security Council Resolution
1267, which demanded the Taliban surrender Osama bin Laden for trial in the U.S. and
close all terrorist bases in Afghanistan. The only collaboration between Massoud and
the U.S. at the time was an effort with the CIA to trace bin Laden following the 1998
bombings. The U.S. and the European Union provided no
support to Massoud for the fight against the Taliban. By 2001 the change of policy sought by CIA
officers who knew Massoud was underway. CIA lawyers, working with officers in the
Near East Division and Counter-terrorist Center, began to draft a formal finding for President
George W. Bush’s signature, authorizing a covert action program in Afghanistan. It would be the first in a decade to seek
to influence the course of the Afghan war in favor of Massoud. Richard A. Clarke, chair of the Counter-Terrorism
Security Group under the Clinton administration, and later an official in the Bush administration,
allegedly presented a plan to incoming Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
in January 2001. A change in U.S. policy was effected in August
2001. The Bush administration agreed on a plan to
start supporting Massoud. A meeting of top national security officials
agreed that the Taliban would be presented with an ultimatum to hand over bin Laden and
other al-Qaeda operatives. If the Taliban refused, the U.S. would provide
covert military aid to anti-Taliban groups. If both those options failed, “the deputies
agreed that the United States would seek to overthrow the Taliban regime through more
direct action.”====
Northern Alliance on the eve of 9/11====Ahmad Shah Massoud was the only leader of
the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control, Massoud set
up democratic institutions and signed the Women’s Rights Declaration. As a consequence, many civilians had fled
to areas under his control. In total, estimates range up to one million
people fleeing the Taliban. In late 2000, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik
nationalist and leader of the Northern Alliance, invited several other prominent Afghan tribal
leaders to a jirga in northern Afghanistan “to settle political turmoil in Afghanistan”. Among those in attendance were Pashtun nationalists,
Abdul Haq and Hamid Karzai.In early 2001, Massoud and several other Afghan leaders addressed
the European Parliament in Brussels, asking the international community to provide humanitarian
help. The Afghan envoy asserted that the Taliban
and al-Qaeda had introduced “a very wrong perception of Islam” and that without the
support of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden, the Taliban would not be able to sustain their
military campaign for another year. Massoud warned that his intelligence had gathered
information about an imminent, large-scale attack on U.S. soil.On 9 September 2001, two
French-speaking Algerians posing as journalists killed Massoud in a suicide attack in Takhar
Province of Afghanistan. The two perpetrators were later alleged to
be members of al-Qaeda. They were interviewing Massoud before detonating
a bomb hidden in their video camera. Both of the alleged al-Qaeda men were subsequently
killed by Massoud’s guards.===11 September attacks===On the morning of 11 September 2001, a total
of 19 Arab men—15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia—carried out four coordinated attacks
in the United States. Four commercial passenger jet airliners were
hijacked. The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg
cell – intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World
Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and more than 2,000 people in the
buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours
from damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into
the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near
Shanksville, in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted
to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington,
D.C., to target the White House, or the U.S. Capitol. No one aboard the flights survived. According to the New York State Health Department,
the death toll among responders including firefighters and police was 836 as of June
2009. Total deaths were 2,996, including the 19
hijackers.===U.S. ultimatum to Taliban===
The Taliban publicly condemned the 11 September attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum
to the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, “close immediately every terrorist training
camp, hand over every terrorist and their supporters, and give the United States full
access to terrorist training camps for inspection.” Osama bin Ladin was protected by the traditional
Pashtun laws of hospitality. In the weeks ahead and at the beginning of
the US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden’s guilt, and
consequently offered to hand over Osama bin Laden. US President, George W. Bush, rejected the
idea, citing policies such as “we do not negotiate with terrorists.” Britain deputy prime minister, John Prescott,
claimed the group expressions amount to an admission of guilt for the September 11 attacks. After the US invasion, Taliban repeatedly
requested for due diligence investigation and willingness to handover Osama to a third
country for due prosecutions. US refused and continued bombardments of Kabul
airport and other cities. Haji Abdul Kabir, the third most powerful
figure in the ruling Taliban regime , told reporters: “If the Taliban is given evidence
that Osama bin Laden is involved, we would be ready to hand him over to a third country.” At an October 15, 2001 meeting in Islamabad,
Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, offered to remove Osama bin
Laden to the custody of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to be tried for
the 9/11 terror attacks. The OIC is a large organization of 57 member
states. Muttawakil by this point had dropped the condition
that the U.S. furnish evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks as
a precondition for the transfer of Osama bin Laden by Afghanistan to the OIC for trial.==History=====U.S. invasion of Afghanistan===Immediately after the attacks, General Tommy
Franks, then-commanding general of Central Command (CENTCOM), initially proposed to President
George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the U.S. invade Afghanistan
using a conventional force of 60,000 troops, preceded by six months of preparation. Rumsfield and Bush feared that a conventional
invasion of Afghanistan could bog down as had happened to the Soviets and the British. Rumsfield rejected Franks’s plan, saying “I
want men on the ground now!” Franks returned the next day with a plan utilizing
U.S. Special Forces. On 26 September 2001, fifteen days after the
9/11 attack, the U.S. covertly inserted members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division led
by Gary Schroen as part of team Jawbreaker into Afghanistan, forming the Northern Afghanistan
Liaison Team. They linked up with the Northern Alliance
as part of Task Force Dagger.Two weeks later, Task Force Dagger; Operational Detachment
Alpha (ODA) 555 and 595, both 12-man Green Beret teams from 5th Special Forces Group,
plus Air Force combat controllers, were airlifted by helicopter from the Karshi-Khanabad Air
Base in Uzbekistan more than 300 kilometers (190 mi) across the 16,000 feet (4,900 m)
Hindu Kush mountains in zero-visibility conditions by two SOAR MH-47E Chinook helicopters. The Chinooks were refueled in-flight three
times during the 11-hour mission, establishing a new world record for combat rotorcraft missions
at the time. They linked up with the CIA and Northern Alliance. Within a few weeks the Northern Alliance,
with assistance from the U.S. ground and air forces, captured several key cities from the
Taliban. The U.S. officially launched Operation Enduring
Freedom on 7 October 2001, with the assistance of the United Kingdom. The two were later joined by other countries. The U.S. and its allies drove the Taliban
from power and built military bases near major cities across the country. Most al-Qaeda and Taliban were not captured,
escaping to neighboring Pakistan or retreating to rural or remote mountainous regions.On
20 December 2001, the United Nations authorized an International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF), with a mandate to help the Afghans maintain security in Kabul and surrounding
areas. It was initially established from the headquarters
of the British 3rd Mechanised Division under Major General John McColl, and for its first
years numbered no more than 5,000. Its mandate did not extend beyond the Kabul
area for the first few years. Eighteen countries were contributing to the
force in February 2002. At the Bonn Conference in December 2001, Hamid
Karzai was selected to head the Afghan Interim Administration, which after a 2002 loya jirga
in Kabul became the Afghan Transitional Administration. In the popular elections of 2004, Karzai was
elected president of the country, now named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.===Post-Anaconda operations===
Following the battle at Shahi-Kot, al-Qaeda fighters established sanctuaries on the Pakistani
border, where they launched cross-border raids beginning in the summer of 2002. Guerrilla units, numbering between 5 and 25
men, regularly crossed the border to fire rockets at coalition bases, ambush convoys
and patrols and assault non-governmental organizations. The area around the Shkin base in Paktika
province saw some of the heaviest activity. Taliban fighters remained in hiding in the
rural regions of four southern provinces: Kandahar, Zabul, Helmand and Uruzgan. After Anaconda the Department of Defense requested
British Royal Marines, highly trained in mountain warfare, to be deployed. In response, 45 Commando deployed under the
operational codename Operation Jacana in April 2002. They conducted missions (including Operation
Snipe, Operation Condor, and Operation Buzzard) over several weeks with varying results. The Taliban avoided combat.In May 2002 Combined
Joint Task Force 180 became the senior U.S. military headquarters in the country, under
Lieutenant General Dan K. McNeill. Later in 2002, CJSOFT became a single integrated
command under the broader CJTF-180 that commanded all US forces assigned to OEF-A, it was built
around an Army Special Forces Group (often manned by National Guard units) and SEAL teams. A small JSOC element (formerly Task Force
Sword/11) not under direct CTJF command – embedded within CJSOFT, it was manned by a joint SEAL
and Ranger element that rotated command, it was not under direct ISAF command, although
it operated in support of NATO operations.===2003–2005 Taliban resurgence, war with
Afghan forces===Pamphlets early 2003 turned up strewn in towns
and countryside, by Taliban and other groups, urging Islamic faithful to rise up against
US forces and other foreign soldiers in holy war.On 27 January 2003, during Operation Mongoose,
a band of fighters were assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 25 km
(15 mi) north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed with no U.S.
casualties. The site was suspected to be a base for supplies
and fighters coming from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large
Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time. In May 2003, Taliban’s Supreme Court’s chief
justice, Abdul Salam, proclaimed that the Taliban were back, regrouped, rearmed, ready
for guerrilla war to expel US forces from Afghanistan. Omar assigned five operational zones to Taliban
commanders such as Dadullah, who took charge in Zabul province.Small mobile training camps
were established along the border to train recruits in guerrilla warfare, said senior
Taliban warrior Mullah Malang in June 2003. Most were drawn from tribal area madrassas
in Pakistan. Bases, a few with as many as 200 fighters,
emerged in the tribal areas by the summer of 2003. Pakistani will to prevent infiltration was
uncertain, while Pakistani military operations proved of little use. As the summer of 2003 continued, Taliban attacks
gradually increased in frequency. Dozens of Afghan government soldiers, NGO
humanitarian workers, and several U.S. soldiers died in the raids, ambushes and rocket attacks. Besides guerrilla attacks, Taliban fighters
began building up forces in the district of Dai Chopan in Zabul Province. The Taliban decided to make a stand there. Over the course of the summer, up to 1,000
guerrillas moved there. Over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan
police, were killed in August 2003.On 11 August 2003, NATO assumed control of ISAF. following
NATO, taking the helm at ISAF. Some U.S. forces in Afghanistan operated under
NATO command; the rest remained under direct U.S. command. Taliban leader Mullah Omar reorganized the
movement, and in 2003, launched an insurgency against the government and ISAF.In late 2004,
the then hidden Taliban leader Mohammed Omar announced an insurgency against “America and
its puppets” (referring to transitional Afghan government forces) to “regain the sovereignty
of our country”.In late August 2005, Afghan government forces attacked, backed by U.S.
troops with air support. After a one-week battle, Taliban forces were
routed with up to 124 fighters killed. On 31 July 2006, ISAF assumed command of the
south of the country, and by 5 October 2006, of the east. Once this transition had taken place, ISAF
grew to a large coalition involving up to 46 countries, under a U.S. commander.===2006: War between NATO forces and Taliban
===From January 2006, a multinational ISAF contingent
started to replace U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. The British 16 Air Assault Brigade (later
reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force, along with troops and helicopters
from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300
British, 2,300 Canadian, 1,963 Dutch, 300 Australian, 290 Danish and 150 Estonian troops. Air support was provided by U.S., British,
Dutch, Norwegian and French combat aircraft and helicopters. In January 2006, NATO’s focus in southern
Afghanistan was to form Provincial Reconstruction Teams with the British leading in Helmand
while the Netherlands and Canada would lead similar deployments in Orūzgān and Kandahar,
respectively. Local Taliban figures pledged to resist. NATO operations in Southern Afghanistan in
2006 were led by British, Canadian and Dutch commanders. Operation Mountain Thrust was launched on
17 May 2006. On 29 May 2006, while according to American
website The Spokesman-Review Afghanistan faced “a mounting threat from armed Taliban fighters
in the countryside”, a US military truck that was part of a convoy in Kabul lost control
and plowed into twelve civilian vehicles, killing one and injuring six people. The surrounding crowd got angry and a riot
arose, lasting all day ending with 20 dead and 160 injured. When stone-throwing and gunfire had come from
a crowd of some 400 men, the US troops had used their weapons “to defend themselves”
while leaving the scene, a US military spokesman said. A correspondent for the Financial Times in
Kabul suggested that this was the outbreak of “a ground swell of resentment” and “growing
hostility to foreigners” that had been growing and building since 2004, and may also have
been triggered by a US air strike a week earlier in southern Afghanistan killing 30 civilians,
where she assumed that “the Taliban had been sheltering in civilian houses”.In July, Canadian
Forces, supported by U.S., British, Dutch and Danish forces, launched Operation Medusa. A combined force of Dutch and Australians
launched a successful offensive between late April to mid July 2006 to push the Taliban
out of the Chora and Baluchi areas. On 18 September 2006 Italian special forces
of Task Force 45 and airborne troopers of the “Trieste” infantry regiment of the Rapid
Reaction Corps composed of Italian and Spanish forces, took part in the Wyconda Pincer operation
in the districts of Bala Buluk and Pusht-i-Rod, in Farah Province. Italian forces killed at least 70 Taliban. The situation in RC-W then deteriorated. Hotspots included Badghis in the far north
and Farah in the southwest. Further NATO operations included the Battle
of Panjwaii, Operation Mountain Fury and Operation Falcon Summit. NATO achieved tactical victories and area
denial, but the Taliban were not completely defeated. NATO operations continued into 2007.===2007: US build-up, ISAF war against Taliban
===In January and February 2007, British Royal
Marines mounted Operation Volcano to clear insurgents from firing-points in the village
of Barikju, north of Kajaki. Other major operations during this period
included Operation Achilles (March–May) and Operation Lastay Kulang. The UK Ministry of Defence announced its intention
to bring British troop levels in the country up to 7,700 (committed until 2009). Further operations, such as Operation Silver
and Operation Silicon, took place to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in the hope
of blunting their expected spring offensive. In February 2007, Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan
inactivated. Combined Joint Task Force 76, a two-star U.S.
command headquartered on Bagram Airfield, assumed responsibility as the National Command
Element for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan,
or CSTC-A, the other two-star U.S. command, was charged with training and mentoring the
Afghan National Security Forces. On 4 March 2007, U.S. Marines killed at least
12 civilians and injured 33 in Shinwar district, Nangrahar, in a response to a bomb ambush. The event became known as the “Shinwar massacre”. The 120 member Marine unit responsible for
the attack were ordered to leave the country by Army Major General Frank Kearney, because
the incident damaged the unit’s relations with the local Afghan population. Later in March 2007, the U.S. during the Bush
Administration deployed another more than 3,500 troops to Afghanistan to expand the
fight against the Taliban.On 12 May 2007, ISAF forces killed Mullah Dadullah. Eleven other Taliban fighters died in the
same firefight. During the summer, NATO forces achieved tactical
victories at the Battle of Chora in Orūzgān, where Dutch and Australian ISAF forces were
deployed. On 16 August, eight civilians including a
pregnant woman and a baby died when, few hours after an insurgent IED ambush damaged a Polish
wheeled armored vehicle, Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel, Paktika Province. Seven soldiers were charged with war crimes,
after locals stated the Polish unit fired mortar rounds and machine guns into a wedding
celebration without provocation, but they were cleared of all charges in 2011.On 28
October about 80 Taliban fighters were killed in a 24-hour battle in Helmand.Western officials
and analysts estimated the strength of Taliban forces at about 10,000 fighters fielded at
any given time. Of that number, only 2,000 to 3,000 were highly
motivated, full-time insurgents. The rest were volunteer units, made up of
young Afghans, angered by deaths of Afghan civilians in military airstrikes and American
detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged. In 2007, more foreign fighters came into Afghanistan
than ever before, according to officials. Approximately 100 to 300 full-time combatants
were foreigners, many from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps
even Turkey and western China. They were reportedly more violent, incontrollable
and extreme, often bringing superior video-production or bombmaking expertise.On 2 November security
forces killed a top-ranking militant, Mawlawi Abdul Manan, after he was caught crossing
the border. The Taliban confirmed his death. On 10 November the Taliban ambushed a patrol
in eastern Afghanistan. This attack brought the U.S. death toll for
2007 to 100, making it the Americans’ deadliest year in Afghanistan.The Battle of Musa Qala
took place in December. Afghan units were the principal fighting force,
supported by British forces. Taliban forces were forced out of the town.===Reassessment and renewed commitment 2008
===Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said that while the situation in Afghanistan is “precarious and urgent”,
the 10,000 additional troops needed there would be unavailable “in any significant manner”
unless withdrawals from Iraq are made. The priority was Iraq first, Afghanistan second.In
the first five months of 2008, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased by
over 80% with a surge of 21,643 more troops, bringing the total from 26,607 in January
to 48,250 in June. In September 2008, President Bush announced
the withdrawal of over 8,000 from Iraq and a further increase of up to 4,500 in Afghanistan.In
June 2008, British prime minister Gordon Brown announced the number of British troops serving
in Afghanistan would increase to 8,030 – a rise of 230. The same month, the UK lost its 100th serviceman. On 13 June, Taliban fighters demonstrated
their ongoing strength, liberating all prisoners in Kandahar jail. The operation freed 1200 prisoners, 400 of
whom were Taliban, causing a major embarrassment for NATO.On 13 July 2008, a coordinated Taliban
attack was launched on a remote NATO base at Wanat in Kunar province. On 19 August, French troops suffered their
worst losses in Afghanistan in an ambush with 10 soldiers killed in action and 21 injured. Later in the month, an airstrike targeted
a Taliban commander in Herat province and killed 90 civilians. Late August saw one of NATO’s largest operations
in Helmand, Operation Eagle’s Summit, aiming to bring electricity to the region.On 3 September,
commandos, believed to be U.S. Army Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked
three houses close to a known enemy stronghold in Pakistan. The attack killed between seven and twenty
people. Local residents claimed that most of the dead
were civilians. Pakistan condemned the attack, calling the
incursion “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory”. On 6 September, in an apparent reaction, Pakistan
announced an indefinite disconnection of supply lines.On 11 September, militants killed two
U.S. troops in the east. This brought the total number of U.S. losses
to 113, more than in any prior year. Several European countries set their own records,
particularly the UK, who suffered 108 casualties.===Taliban attacks on supply lines 2008===
In November and December 2008, multiple incidents of major theft, robbery, and arson attacks
afflicted NATO supply convoys in Pakistan. Transport companies south of Kabul were extorted
for money by the Taliban. These incidents included the hijacking of
a NATO convoy carrying supplies in Peshawar, the torching of cargo trucks and Humvees east
of the Khyber pass and a half-dozen raids on NATO supply depots near Peshawar that destroyed
300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December 2008.===US action into Pakistan 2008–2009===An unnamed senior Pentagon official told the
BBC that at some point between 12 July – 12 September 2008, President Bush issued a classified
order authorizing raids against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan said it would not allow foreign forces
onto its territory and that it would vigorously protect its sovereignty. In September, the Pakistan military stated
that it had issued orders to “open fire” on U.S. soldiers who crossed the border in pursuit
of militant forces.On 25 September 2008, Pakistani troops fired on ISAF helicopters. This caused confusion and anger in the Pentagon,
which asked for a full explanation into the incident and denied that U.S. helicopters
were in Pakistani airspace. Chief Pakistani military spokesman Major General
Athar Abbas said that the helicopters had “crossed into our territory in Ghulam Khan
area. They passed over our checkpost so our troops
fired warning shots”. A few days later a CIA drone crashed into
Pakistan territory.A further split occurred when U.S. troops apparently landed on Pakistani
soil to carry out an operation against militants in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Pakistanis reacted angrily to the action,
saying that 20 innocent villagers had been killed by U.S. troops. However, despite tensions, the U.S. increased
the use of remotely piloted drone aircraft in Pakistan’s border regions, in particular
the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan; as of early 2009, drone attacks
were up 183% since 2006.By the end of 2008, the Taliban apparently had severed remaining
ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence
officials, perhaps fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan.In a meeting
with General Stanley McChrystal, Pakistani military officials urged international forces
to remain on the Afghan side of the border and prevent militants from fleeing into Pakistan. Pakistan noted that it had deployed 140,000
soldiers on its side of the border to address militant activities, while the coalition had
only 100,000 soldiers to police the Afghanistan side.===2009 US reinforcements, Taliban progress
Northern Distribution Network====In response to the increased risk of sending
supplies through Pakistan, work began on the establishment of a Northern Distribution Network
(NDN) through Russia and Central Asian republics. Initial permission to move supplies through
the region was given on January 20, 2009, after a visit to the region by General David
Petraeus. The first shipment along the NDN route left
on 20 February from Riga, Latvia, then traveled 5,169 km (3,212 mi) to the Uzbek town of Termez
on the Afghanistan border. In addition to Riga, other European ports
included Poti, Georgia and Vladivostok, Russia. U.S. commanders hoped that 100 containers
a day would be shipped along the NDN. By comparison, 140 containers a day were typically
shipped through the Khyber Pass. By 2011, the NDN handled about 40% of Afghanistan-bound
traffic, versus 30% through Pakistan.On 11 May 2009, Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov
announced that the airport in Navoi (Uzbekistan) was being used to transport non-lethal cargo
into Afghanistan. Due to the still unsettled relationship between
Uzbekistan and the U.S. following the 2005 Andijon massacre and subsequent expulsion
of U.S. forces from Karshi-Khanabad airbase, U.S. forces were not involved in the shipments. Instead, South Korea’s Korean Air, which overhauled
Navoi’s airport, officially handled logistics. Originally only non-lethal resources were
allowed on the NDN. In July 2009, however, shortly before a visit
by new President Barack Obama to Moscow, Russian authorities announced that U.S. troops and
weapons could use the country’s airspace to reach Afghanistan.Human rights advocates were
(as of 2009) concerned that the U.S. was again working with the government of Uzbekistan,
which is often accused of violating human rights. U.S. officials promised increased cooperation
with Uzbekistan, including further assistance to turn Navoi into a regional distribution
center for both military and civilian ventures.====2009 Increase in U.S. troops====In January 2009, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers
from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division moved into the provinces
of Logar, Wardak and Kunar. Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside them. The troops were the first wave of an expected
surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President
Obama. In mid-February 2009, it was announced that
17,000 additional troops would be deployed in two brigades and support troops; the 2nd
Marine Expeditionary Brigade of about 3,500 and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division,
a Stryker Brigade with about 4,000. ISAF commander General David McKiernan had
called for as many as 30,000 additional troops, effectively doubling the number of troops. On 23 September, a classified assessment by
General McChrystal included his conclusion that a successful counterinsurgency strategy
would require 500,000 troops and five years.In November 2009, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry
sent two classified cables to Washington expressing concerns about sending more troops before
the Afghan government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement
that has fueled the Taliban’s rise. Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who
in 2006–2007 commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, also expressed frustration with the relative
paucity of funds set aside for development and reconstruction. In subsequent cables, Eikenberry repeatedly
cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in “astronomical
costs” – tens of billions of dollars – and would only deepen the Afghan government’s
dependence on the United States. On 26 November 2009, Karzai made a public
plea for direct negotiations with the Taliban leadership. Karzai said there is an “urgent need” for
negotiations and made it clear that the Obama administration had opposed such talks. There was no formal U.S. response.On 1 December,
Obama announced at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point that the U.S. would send 30,000
more troops. Antiwar organizations in the U.S. responded
quickly, and cities throughout the U.S. saw protests on 2 December. Many protesters compared the decision to deploy
more troops in Afghanistan to the expansion of the Vietnam War under the Johnson administration.====Kunduz airstrike====On 4 September, during the Kunduz Province
Campaign a devastating NATO air raid was conducted 7 kilometres southwest of Kunduz where Taliban
fighters had hijacked civilian supply trucks, killing up to 179 people, including over 100
civilians.====Operation Khanjar and Operation Panther’s
Claw====On 25 June U.S. officials announced the launch
of Operation Khanjar (“strike of the sword”). About 4000 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine
Expeditionary Brigade and 650 Afghan soldiers participated. Khanjar followed a British-led operation named
Operation Panther’s Claw in the same region. Officials called it the Marines’ largest operation
since the 2004 invasion of Fallujah, Iraq. Operation Panther’s Claw was aimed to secure
various canal and river crossings to establish a long-term ISAF presence. Initially, Afghan and American soldiers moved
into towns and villages along the Helmand River to protect the civilian population. The main objective was to push into insurgent
strongholds along the river. A secondary aim was to bring security to the
Helmand Valley in time for presidential elections, set to take place on 20 August.====Taliban gains====According to a 22 December briefing by Major
General Michael T. Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan, “The Taliban retains
[the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity.” The 23-page briefing states that “Security
incidents [are] projected to be higher in 2010.” Those incidents were already up by 300 percent
since 2007 and by 60 percent since 2008, according to the briefing. NATO intelligence at the time indicated that
the Taliban had as many as 25,000 dedicated soldiers, almost as many as before 9/11 and
more than in 2005.On 10 August McChrystal, newly appointed as U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
said that the Taliban had gained the upper hand. In a continuation of the Taliban’s usual strategy
of summer offensives, the militants aggressively spread their influence into north and west
Afghanistan and stepped up their attack in an attempt to disrupt presidential polls. Calling the Taliban a “very aggressive enemy”,
he added that the U.S. strategy was to stop their momentum and focus on protecting and
safeguarding Afghan civilians, calling it “hard work”.The Taliban’s claim that the over
135 violent incidents disrupting elections was largely disputed. However, the media was asked to not report
on any violent incidents. Some estimates reported voter turn out as
much less than the expected 70 percent. In southern Afghanistan where the Taliban
held the most power, voter turnout was low and sporadic violence was directed at voters
and security personnel. The chief observer of the European Union election
mission, General Philippe Morillon, said the election was “generally fair” but “not free”.Western
election observers had difficulty accessing southern regions, where at least 9 Afghan
civilians and 14 security forces were killed in attacks intended to intimidate voters. The Taliban released a video days after the
elections, filming on the road between Kabul and Kandahar, stopping vehicles and asking
to see their fingers. The video went showed ten men who had voted,
listening to a Taliban militant. The Taliban pardoned the voters because of
Ramadan. The Taliban attacked towns with rockets and
other indirect fire. Amid claims of widespread fraud, both top
contenders, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory. Reports suggested that turnout was lower than
in the prior election.After Karzai’s alleged win of 54 per cent, which would prevent a
runoff, over 400,000 Karzai votes had to be disallowed after accusations of fraud. Some nations criticized the elections as “free
but not fair”.In December, an attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman, used by the CIA to
gather information and to coordinate drone attacks against Taliban leaders, killed at
least six CIA officers.===2010: American–British offensive and
Afghan peace initiative===In public statements U.S. officials had previously
praised Pakistan’s military effort against militants during its offensive in South Waziristan
in November 2009. Karzai started peace talks with Haqqani network
groups in March 2010, and there were other peace initiatives including the Afghan Peace
Jirga 2010. In July 2010, a U.S. Army report read: “It
seems to always be this way when we go there [to meet civilians]. No one wants anything to do with us.” A report on meeting up with school representatives
mentioned students throwing rocks at soldiers and not welcoming their arrival, as had been
reported on several occasions elsewhere. President Zardari said that Pakistan had spent
over 35 billion U.S. dollars during the previous eight years fighting against militancy. According to the Afghan government, approximately
900 Taliban were killed in operations conducted during 2010. Due to increased use of IEDs by insurgents
the number of injured coalition soldiers, mainly Americans, significantly increased. Beginning in May 2010 NATO special forces
began to concentrate on operations to capture or kill specific Taliban leaders. As of March 2011, the U.S. military claimed
that the effort had resulted in the capture or killing of more than 900 low- to mid-level
Taliban commanders. Overall, 2010 saw the most insurgent attacks
of any year since the war began, peaking in September at more than 1,500. Insurgent operations increased “dramatically”
in two-thirds of Afghan provinces.====Troop surge====
Deployment of additional U.S. troops continued in early 2010, with 9,000 of the planned 30,000
in place before the end of March and another 18,000 expected by June, with the 101st Airborne
Division as the main source and a Marine Expeditionary Force in the Helmand Province. U.S. troops in Afghanistan outnumbered those
in Iraq for the first time since 2003.The CIA, following a request by General McChrystal,
planned to increase teams of operatives, including elite SAD officers, with U.S. military special
operations forces. This combination worked well in Iraq and was
largely credited with the success of that surge. The CIA also increased its campaign using
Hellfire missile strikes on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The number of strikes in 2010, 115, more than
doubled the 50 drone attacks that occurred in 2009.The surge in troops supported a sixfold
increase in Special Forces operations. 700 airstrikes occurred in September 2010
alone versus 257 in all of 2009. From July 2010 to October 2010, 300 Taliban
commanders and 800-foot-soldiers were killed. Hundreds more insurgent leaders were killed
or captured as 2010 ended. Petraeus said, “We’ve got our teeth in the
enemy’s jugular now, and we’re not going to let go.”The CIA created Counter-terrorism
Pursuit Teams (CTPT) staffed by Afghans at the war’s beginning. This force grew to over 3,000 by 2010 and
was considered one of the “best Afghan fighting forces”. Firebase Lilley was one of SAD’s nerve centers. These units were not only effective in operations
against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, but have expanded their operations
into Pakistan. They were also important factors in both the
“counterterrorism plus” and the full “counter-insurgency” options discussed by the Obama administration
in the December 2010 review.====Battle of Marjah====
In early February, Coalition and Afghan forces began highly visible plans for an offensive,
codenamed Operation Moshtarak, on the Taliban stronghold near the village of Marjah. It began on 13 February and, according to
U.S. and Afghan officials, was the first operation where Afghan forces led the coalition. Led by the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
(US), the offensive involved 15,000 US, British, Canadian, Estonian, Danish, French, and Afghan
troops. It was the biggest joint operation since the
2001 invasion that ousted the Taliban. The troops were fighting over an area of less
than 100 square miles (260 km2), with a population of 80,000.====WikiLeaks disclosure====On 25 July 2010, the release of 91,731 classified
documents from the WikiLeaks organization was made public. The documents cover U.S. military incident
and intelligence reports from January 2004 to December 2009. Some of these documents included sanitized,
and “covered up”, accounts of civilian casualties caused by Coalition Forces. The reports included many references to other
incidents involving civilian casualties like the Kunduz airstrike and Nangar Khel incident. The leaked documents also contain reports
of Pakistan collusion with the Taliban. According to Der Spiegel, “the documents clearly
show that the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (usually known
as the ISI) is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan.”====
Pakistan and U.S. tensions====Tensions between Pakistan and the U.S. were
heightened in late September after several Pakistan Frontier Corps soldiers were killed
and wounded. The troops were attacked by a U.S. piloted
aircraft that was pursuing Taliban forces near the Afghan-Pakistan border, but for unknown
reasons opened fire on two Pakistan border posts. In retaliation for the strike, Pakistan closed
the Torkham ground border crossing to NATO supply convoys for an unspecified period. This incident followed the release of a video
allegedly showing uniformed Pakistan soldiers executing unarmed civilians. After the Torkham border closing, Pakistani
Taliban attacked NATO convoys, killing several drivers and destroying around 100 tankers.===2011: U.S. and NATO drawdown=======Battle of Kandahar====The Battle of Kandahar was part of an offensive
named after the Battle of Bad’r that took place on 13 March 624, between Medina and
Mecca. The Battle followed an 30 April announcement
that the Taliban would launch their Spring offensive.On 7 May the Taliban launched a
major offensive on government buildings in Kandahar. The Taliban said their goal was to take control
of the city. At least eight locations were attacked: the
governor’s compound, the mayor’s office, the NDS headquarters, three police stations and
two high schools. The battle continued onto a second day. The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary called it “the worst
attack in Kandahar province since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, and a embarrassment
for the Western-backed Afghan government.”====Death of Osama bin Laden====On 2 May U.S. officials announced that al-Qaeda
leader Osama bin Laden had been killed in Operation Neptune Spear, conducted by the
U.S. Navy SEALs, in Pakistan.====Withdrawal====
On 22 June President Obama announced that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end
of 2011 and an additional 23,000 troops would return by the summer of 2012. After the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops,
only 80,000 remained. In July 2011 Canada withdrew its combat troops,
transitioning to a training role. Following suit, other NATO countries announced
troop reductions. The United Kingdom stated that it would gradually
withdraw its troops, however it did not specify numbers or dates. France announced that it would withdraw roughly
1,000 soldiers by the end of 2012, with 3,000 soldiers remaining. Hundreds would come back at the end of 2011
and in the beginning of 2012, when the Afghan National Army took control of Surobi district. The remaining troops would continue to operate
in Kapisa. Their complete withdrawal was expected by
the end of 2014 or earlier given adequate security.Belgium announced that half of their
force would withdraw starting in January 2012. Norway announced it had started a withdrawal
of its near 500 troops and would be completely out by 2014. Equally, the Spanish Prime Minister announced
the withdrawal of troops beginning in 2012, including up to 40 percent by the end of the
first half of 2013, and complete withdrawal by 2014.====2011 U.S.–NATO attack in Pakistan====After Neptune Spear, ISAF forces accidentally
attacked Pakistan’s armed forces on 26 November, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan blocked NATO supply lines and ordered
Americans to leave Shamsi Airfield. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
said the attack was ‘tragic’ and ‘unintended’. “This (regret) is not good enough. We strongly condemn the attacks and reserve
the right to take action,” said DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas. “This could have serious consequences in the
level and extent of our cooperation.”===2012: Strategic agreement===Taliban attacks continued at the same rate
as they did in 2011, around 28,000 attacks. In September 2012, the surge of American personnel
that began in late 2009 ended.====Reformation of the United Front (Northern
Alliance)====In late 2011 the National Front of Afghanistan
(NFA) was created by Ahmad Zia Massoud, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq in
what many analysts have described as a reformation of the military wing of the United Front (Northern
Alliance) to oppose a return of the Taliban to power. Meanwhile, much of the political wing reunited
under the National Coalition of Afghanistan led by Abdullah Abdullah becoming the main
democratic opposition movement in the Afghan parliament. Former head of intelligence Amrullah Saleh
has created a new movement, Basej-i Milli (Afghanistan Green Trend), with support among
the youth mobilizing about 10,000 people in an anti-Taliban demonstration in Kabul in
May 2011.In January 2012, the National Front of Afghanistan raised concerns about the possibility
of a secret deal between the U.S., Pakistan and the Taliban during a widely publicized
meeting in Berlin. U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert wrote, “These
leaders who fought with embedded Special Forces to initially defeat the Taliban represent
over 60-percent of the Afghan people, yet are being entirely disregarded by the Obama
and Karzai Administrations in negotiations.” After the meeting with U.S. congressmen in
Berlin the National Front signed a joint declaration stating among other things: We firmly believe that any negotiation with
the Taliban can only be acceptable, and therefore effective, if all parties to the conflict
are involved in the process. The present form of discussions with the Taliban
is flawed, as it excludes anti-Taliban Afghans. It must be recalled that the Taliban extremists
and their Al-Qaeda supporters were defeated by Afghans resisting extremism with minimal
human embedded support from the United States and International community. The present negotiations with the Taliban
fail to take into account the risks, sacrifices and legitimate interests of the Afghans who
ended the brutal oppression of all Afghans.====High-profile U.S. military incidents
====Beginning in January 2012, incidents involving
U.S. troops occurred which were described by The Sydney Morning Herald as “a series
of damaging incidents and disclosures involving U.S. troops in Afghanistan […]”. These incidents
created fractures in the partnership between Afghanistan and ISAF, raised the question
whether discipline within U.S. troops was breaking down, undermined “the image of foreign
forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and
a perception among many Afghans that U.S. troops lack respect for Afghan culture and
people” and strained the relations between Afghanistan and the United States. Besides an incident involving U.S. troops
who posed with body parts of dead insurgents and a video apparently showing a U.S. helicopter
crew singing “Bye-bye Miss American Pie” before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire
missile these “high-profile U.S. military incidents in Afghanistan” also included the
2012 Afghanistan Quran burning protests and the Panjwai shooting spree.====Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement
====On 2 May 2012, Presidents Karzai and Obama
signed a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, after the U.S. president
had arrived unannounced in Kabul on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. The U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership
Agreement, officially entitled the “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America”, provides the long-term
framework for the two countries’ relationship after the drawdown of U.S. forces. The Strategic Partnership Agreement went into
effect on 4 July 2012, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 8 July 2012 at
the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan. On 7 July 2012, as part of the agreement,
the U.S. designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally after Karzai and Clinton met in Kabul. On 11 November 2012, as part of the agreement,
the two countries launched negotiations for a bilateral security agreement.====NATO Chicago Summit: Troops withdrawal
and long-term presence====On 21 May 2012 the leaders of NATO-member
countries endorsed an exit strategy during the NATO Summit. ISAF Forces would transfer command of all
combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013, while shifting from combat to advising,
training and assisting Afghan security forces. Most of the 130,000 ISAF troops would depart
by the end of December 2014. A new NATO mission would then assume the support
role.===2013: Withdrawal=======Karzai–Obama meeting====
Karzai visited the U.S. in January 2012. At the time the U.S. Government stated its openness to withdrawing
all of its troops by the end of 2014. On 11 January 2012 Karzai and Obama agreed
to transfer combat operations from NATO to Afghan forces by spring 2013 rather than summer
2013. “What’s going to happen this spring is that
Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country”, Obama said. “They [ISAF forces] will still be fighting
alongside Afghan troops…We will be in a training, assisting, advising role.” Obama added He also stated the reason of the
withdrawals that “We achieved our central goal, or have come very close…which is to
de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can’t attack us again.” Obama also stated that he would determine
the pace of troop withdrawal after consultations with commanders. He added that any U.S. mission beyond 2014
would focus solely on counterterrorism operations and training. Obama insisted that a continuing presence
must include an immunity agreement in which U.S. troops are not subjected to Afghan law. “I can go to the Afghan people and argue for
immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be
compromised, in a way that Afghan law will not be compromised,” Karzai replied.Both leaders
agreed that the United States would transfer Afghan prisoners and prisons to the Afghan
government and withdraw troops from Afghan villages in spring 2013. “The international forces, the American forces,
will be no longer present in the villages, that it will be the task of the Afghan forces
to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection,” the Afghan president said.====Security transfer====
On 18 June 2013 the transfer of security responsibilities was completed. The last step was to transfer control of 95
remaining districts. Karzai said, “When people see security has
been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before.” NATO leader Rasmussen said that Afghan forces
were completing a five-stage transition process that began in March 2011. “They are doing so with remarkable resolve,”
he said. “Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national
security forces … now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police.” ISAF remained slated to end its mission by
the end of 2014. Some 100,000 ISAF forces remained in the country.===2014: Withdrawal continues and the insurgency
increases===After 2013, the Taliban escalated suicide
bombings. An example of this is a bombing of a Lebanese
restaurant in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul on 18 February 2014. Among the dead in this attack were UN staff
and the owner of a restaurant, who died protecting his business; 21 people altogether were killed. Meanwhile, the withdrawal continued, with
200 more U.S. troops going home. The UK halved their force and were slowing
withdrawal with all but two bases being closed down. On 20 March 2014, more than 4 weeks after
a bomb in a military bus by the Taliban rocked the city once again, a raid on the Serena
Hotel’s restaurant in Kabul by the Taliban resulted in the deaths of 9 people, including
the 4 perpetrators. The attack came just 8 days after Swedish
radio journalist Nils Horner was shot dead by the Taliban. However, as the U.S. troops withdrew from
Afghanistan, they were replaced by private security companies hired by the United States
government and the United Nations. Many of these private security companies (also
termed military contractors) consisted of ex U.S. Army, U.S. Marine, British, French
and Italian defense personnel who had left the defense after a few years of active service. Their past relations with the defense helped
establish their credentials, simultaneously allowing the U.S. and British to continue
to be involved in ground actions without the requirement to station their own forces. This included companies such as the Ohio-based
military contracting company, Mission Essential Personnel set up by Sunil Ramchand, a former
White House staffer and U.S. Navy veteran.Despite the crisis in Crimea, by March 2014 Russia
had not tried to exert pressure on the U.S. via the Northern Distribution Network supply
line. On 9 June 2014 a coalition air strike mistakenly
killed five U.S. troops, an Afghan National Army member and an interpreter in Zabul Province. On 5 August 2014, a gunman in an Afghan military
uniform opened fire on a number of U.S., foreign and Afghan soldiers, killing a U.S. general,
Harold J. Greene and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers including a German brigadier
general and a large number of U.S. soldiers at Camp Qargha, a training base west of Kabul.Two
longterm security pacts, the Bilaterial Security agreement between Afghanistan and the United
States of America and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement between NATO and Afghanistan, were
signed on 30 September 2014. Both pacts lay out the framework for the foreign
troop involvement in Afghanistan after the year 2014.After 13 years Britain and the United
States officially ended their combat operation in Afghanistan on 26 October 2014. On that day Britain handed over its last base
in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion, while the United States handed over its last base, Camp Leatherneck,
to Afghan forces.As early as November 2012, the U.S. and NATO were considering the precise
configuration of their post-2014 presence in Afghanistan. On 27 May 2014, President Barack Obama announced
that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end in December 2014 (see Withdrawal
of U.S. troops from Afghanistan). 9,800 troops were to remain, training Afghan
security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against remnants of al-Qaeda. This force would be halved by the end of 2015,
and consolidated at Bagram Air Base and in Kabul. All U.S. forces, with the exception of a “normal
embassy presence”, would be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. In 2014, 56 United States service members,
and 101 contractors, died in Afghanistan.On 28 December 2014 NATO officially ended combat
operations in a ceremony held in Kabul. Continued operations by United States forces
within Afghanistan will continue under the name Operation Freedom’s Sentinel; this was
joined by a new NATO mission under the name of Operation Resolute Support. Operation Resolute Support will involve 28
NATO nations, 14 partner nations, 11,000 American troops, and 850 German troops. The Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan,
the remnant U.S./NATO special forces organisation, includes a counter-terrorism task force. In the words of the U.S. Special Operations
Command Factbook for 2015, this task force ‘[c]onducts offensive operations in Afghanistan
to degrade the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Networks in order to prevent them
from establishing operationally significant safe havens which threaten the stability and
sovereignty of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States.’ This task force is similar to previous forces
such as Task Force 373. The UK officially commemorated the end of
its role in the Afghan war in a ceremony held in St Paul’s cathedral on 13 March 2015. Around 500 UK troops remain in “non-combat”
roles.===2015 Taliban resurgence===The Taliban began a resurgence due to several
factors. At the end of 2014, the US and NATO combat
mission ended and the withdrawal of most foreign forces from Afghanistan reduced the risk the
Taliban faced of being bombed and raided. In June 2014, the Pakistani military’s Operation
Zarb-e-Azb, launched in the North Waziristan tribal area in June 2014, dislodged thousands
of mainly Uzbek, Arab and Pakistani militants, who flooded into Afghanistan and swelled the
Taliban’s ranks. The group was further emboldened by the comparative
lack of interest from the international community and the diversion of its attention to crisis
in other parts of the world, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Ukraine. Afghan security forces also lack certain capabilities
and equipment, especially air power and reconnaissance. The political infighting in the central government
in Kabul and the apparent weakness in governance at different levels are also exploited by
the Taliban. In May 2015, Russia has closed a key military
transport corridor which allowed NATO to deliver military supplies to Afghanistan through the
Russian territory.On 5 January, a suicide car bomber attacked the HQ of EUPOL Afghanistan
in Kabul, killing 1 person and injuring 5. The Taliban claimed responsibility. On 15 January, Afghan security officials arrested
five men in Kabul in relation to their suspected involvement in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre
in Pakistan. In mid-January 2015, the Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant established a branch in Afghanistan called Wilayah Khorasan and began
recruiting fighters and clashing with the Taliban. However, an Afghan military officer stated
that he believed the Afghan military could handle any threat that the group presented
in the country.American forces have increased raids against “Islamist militants”, moving
beyond counter-terrorism missions. This is partially due to improved relations
with the United States due to the Ghani presidency. Reasoning used for these raids include protecting
American forces, which has been broadly interpreted. One raid, a joint raid by American and Afghan
forces arrested six Taliban connected to the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. American Secretary of Defense Ash Carter traveled
to Afghanistan in February 2015; during a period when it was discussed that the U.S.
would slow down its withdrawal from Afghanistan.In February 2015, the headquarters element of
the U.S. 7th Infantry Division began to deploy to Afghanistan. It will serve as the Resolute Support Mission’s
Train Advise Assist Command – South headquarters. It will be joined by 10th Mountain Division’s
2nd Brigade Combat Team, and 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.On 18 March, Hafiz Wahidi,
ISIL’s replacement deputy Emir in Afghanistan, was killed by the Afghan Armed Forces, along
with 9 other ISIL militants accompanying him.On 19 March, it was reported by Reuters that
the U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad were likely to remain open beyond the end
of 2015, a senior U.S. official said, as the Federal Government of the United States considered
slowing its military withdrawal to help the new government fight the Taliban. The anticipated policy reversal reflected
U.S. support of Afghanistan’s new and more cooperative president, Ashraf Ghani, and a
desire to avoid the collapse of local security forces that occurred in Iraq after the U.S.
withdrawal there. On 25 March, the Afghan National Army killed
twenty-nine insurgents and injured twenty-one others in a series of operations in the Daikundi,
Ghazni, and Parwan provinces. Eleven people, including one U.S. service
member, died in a Taliban attack on Camp Integrity in Kabul in August.Suicide bombers attacked
Hetal Hotel in May. Norwegian Marinejegerkommandoen special forces
were central in saving 37 Australian hostages while maintaining direct contact with the
Australian ambassador in Kabul.Throughout 2015, the US launched about one thousand bombs
and missiles at targets in Afghanistan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.====Kabul Parliament attack====On 22 June 2015, the Taliban detonated a car
bomb outside the National Assembly in Kabul, and Taliban fighters attacked the building
with assault rifles and RPGs. A Taliban fighter driving a car loaded with
explosives managed to get through security checkpoints before detonating the vehicle
outside the parliament’s gates. Six Taliban insurgents with AK-47 rifles and
RPGs took up positions in a construction site nearby. Members of Parliament were evacuated to safety,
while security forces engaged the insurgents in a two-hour gun battle. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi
said all seven attackers were killed by police and no MPs were wounded. The UN mission in Afghanistan said a woman
and a child were killed in the attack, and forty civilians were injured.====Kunduz Offensive====Heavy fighting has occurred in the Kunduz
province, which was the site of clashes from 2009 onwards. In May, flights into the Northern city of
Kunduz were suspended due to weeks of clashes between the Afghan security forces and the
Taliban outside the city. The intensifying conflict in the Northern
Char Dara District within the Kunduz province led the Afghan government to enlist local
militia fighters to bolster opposition to the Taliban insurgency. In June, the Taliban intensified attacks around
the Northern city of Kunduz as part of a major offensive in an attempt to capture the city. Tens of thousands of inhabitants have been
displaced internally in Afghanistan by the fighting. The government recaptured the Char Dara district
after roughly a month of fighting.In late September, Taliban forces launched an attack
on Kunduz, seizing several outlying villages and entering the city. The Taliban stormed the regional hospital
and clashed with security forces at the nearby university. The fighting saw the Taliban attack from four
different districts: Char Dara to the west, Aliabad to the south-west, Khanabad to the
east and Imam Saheb to the north. The Taliban took the Zakhel and Ali Khel villages
on the highway leading south, which connects the city to Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif through
Aliabad district, and reportedly made their largest gains in the south-west of Kunduz,
where some local communities had picked up weapons and supported the Taliban. Taliban fighters had allegedly blocked the
route to the Airport to prevent civilians fleeing the city. One witness reported that the headquarters
of the National Directorate of Security was set on fire. Kunduz was recaptured by Afghan and American
forces on 14 October 2015.===Taliban negotiations, 2015–2016===
Chinese officials have declared that Afghan stability affects separatist movements in
the region, including in China’s West as well as the security of the China–Pakistan Economic
Corridor. China and Pakistan have been involved in negotiations
between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group-consisting
of Afghan, American, Chinese and Pakistani officials have been inviting the Taliban to
discuss peace talks since January 2016, but currently they are presumably preoccupied
with fighting each other and the government forces. A meeting between representatives of both
sides were expected to take place in early March but the Taliban stated they would not
participate.The bombing of the Kabul parliament has highlighted differences within the Taliban
in their approach to peace talks. In April 2016, President Ashraf Ghani “pulled
the plug” on the Afghan governments failing effort to start peace talks with the Taliban. And due to the Haqqani Networks integration
into the Taliban leadership, it will now be harder for peace talks to take place. Although leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah
Akhundzada, said a peace agreement was possible if the government in Kabul renounced its foreign
allies.===Taliban infighting, 2015–2016===
On 11 November 2015, it was reported that infighting had broken out between different
Taliban factions in Zabul Province. Fighters loyal to the new Taliban leader Mullah
Akhtar Mansoor fought a Pro-ISIL splinter faction led by Mullah Mansoor Dadullah. Even though Dadullah’s faction enjoyed the
support of foreign ISIL fighters, including Uzbeks and Chechens, it was reported that
Mansoor’s Taliban loyalists had the upper hand. According to Ghulam Jilani Farahi, provincial
director of security in Zabul, more than 100 militants from both sides were killed since
the fighting broke out.The infighting has continued into 2016; on 10 March 2016, officials
said that the Taliban clashed with the Taliban splinter group (led by Muhammad Rasul) in
the Shindand district of Herat with up to 100 militants killed; the infighting has also
stifled peace talks.As a result of the infighting, which has resulted in Mansour being consumed
with a campaign to quell dissent against his leadership; Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of the
Haqqani Network was selected to become the deputy leader of the Taliban in the summer
of 2015, during a leadership struggle within the Taliban. Sirajuddin and other Haqqani leaders increasingly
run the day-to-day military operations for the Taliban, in particular; refining urban
terrorist attacks and cultivating a sophisticated international fund-raising network, they have
also appointing Taliban governors and began uniting the Taliban. As a result, the Haqqani Network is now closely
integrated with the Taliban at a leadership level, and is growing in influence within
the insurgency, whereas the network was largely autonomous before, and there are concerns
that the fighting is going to be deadlier. Tensions with the Pakistani military have
also been raised because American and Afghan officials accuse them of sheltering the Haqqanis
as a proxy group.===Taliban offensive in Helmand Province,
2015–2018===In 2015 the Taliban began an offensive in
Helmand Province, taking over parts of the Province. By June 2015, they had seized control of Dishu
and Baghran killing 5,588 Afghan government security forces (3,720 of them were police
officers). By the end of July, the Taliban had overrun
Nawzad District and on 26 August, the Taliban took control of Musa Qala. the status of the
remaining districts, by 18 December 2015, is that Taliban and Afghan security forces
are contesting Nahr-i-Sarraj, Sangin, Kajaki, Nad Ali and Khanashin (Afghan security forces
claim to have previously “ejected” the Taliban from the Khanashin district center, with 42
Taliban fighters killed) whilst Garmsir, Washir, and Nawa-i-Barak are believed to be contested.In
October 2015, Taliban forces had attempted to take Lashkar Gah; the capital of Helmand
province, the Afghan’s 215th Corps and special operations forces launched a counteroffensive
against the Taliban in November, Whilst the assault was repelled, Taliban forces remained
dug into the city’s suburbs as of December 2015. December 2015 saw a renewed Taliban offensive
in Helmand focused on the town of Sangin, Sangin district fell to the Taliban on 21
December, after fierce clashes that killed more than 90 soldiers in two days. It was reported that 30 members of the SAS
alongside 60 US special forces operators joined the Afghan Army in the Battle to retake parts
of Sangin from Taliban insurgents, in addition, about 300 U.S. troops and a small number of
British troops are in Helmand and are advising Afghan commanders at the Corps level.On or
around 23 December, approximately 200 Afghan Police and Army forces were besieged inside
the town’s police headquarters, with ammunition, military equipment and food having to be airdropped
to their positions, with the rest of Sangin being under Taliban control, and an attempted
relief mission failing. As of 27 December 2015, the Taliban control
the districts of Musa Qala, Nawzad, Baghran, and Disho and districts of Sangin, Marja,
Khanishin, Nad Ali, and Kajaki have also experienced sustained fighting according to Mohammad Karim
Attal, the chief of the Helmand Provincial council. Senior American commanders said that the Afghan
troops in the province have lacked effective leaders as well as the necessary weapons and
ammunition to hold off persistent Taliban attacks. Some Afghan soldiers in Helmand have been
fighting in tough conditions for years without a break to see their family, leading to poor
morale and high desertion rates. In early February 2016, Taliban insurgents
renewed their assault on Sangin, after previously being repulsed in December 2015, launching
a string of ferocious attacks on Afghan government forces earlier in the month. As a result, the United States decided to
send troops from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, in order
to prop up the Afghan 215th Corps in Helmand province, particularly around Sangin, joining
US special operations forces already in the area.On 23 February 2016, CNN announced that
Afghan troops pulled out of Nawzad and Musa Qala districts in Helmand Province on 20 and
21 February in what a senior military official said was a “tactical” move. Head of the local provincial council Mohammad
Karim Atal told CNN, “Afghan soldiers had paid a heavy price and had recaptured some
of the areas in those districts by shedding their blood only few months back, but now
because of mismanagement, lack of coordination and weak leadership they left them in the
hands of enemies.”On 14 March 2016, Khanneshin District in Helmand Province fell to the Taliban;
and district by district, Afghan troops are retreating back to urban centers in Helmand. In early April 2016, 600 Afghan troops launched
a major offensive to retake Taliban-occupied areas of Sangin and the area around it, an
Afghan army offensive to retake the town of Khanisheen was repelled by the Taliban, desertions
from the army in the area are rife. By 28 July 2016, the outlook on the situation
in Helmand province was good, U.S. military officials are now expecting a major Taliban
offensive. General Nicholson said, “Now, fighting season’s
not over. We anticipate we’ll see other enemy attempts
to regain territory in Helmand. But thus far, things are on a real positive
trajectory.” Despite US airstrikes, militants besieged
Lashkar Gah, reportedly controlling all roads leading to the city and areas a few miles
away. The US stepped up airstrikes in support of
Afghan ground forces. Afghan forces in Lashkar Gah were reported
as “exhausted” whilst police checkpoints around the capital were falling one by one; whilst
the Taliban sent a new elite commando force into Helmand called “Sara Khitta” in Pashto. Afghan security forces beat back attacks by
Taliban fighters encroaching on Chah-e-Anjir, just 10 km from Lashkar Gah; Afghan special
forces backed by U.S. airstrikes battled increasingly well-armed and disciplined Taliban militants. An Afghan special forces commander said “The
Taliban have heavily armed, uniformed units that are equipped with night vision and modern
weapons.” On 22 August 2016, the US announced that 100
U.S. troops were sent to Lashkar Gah to help prevent the Taliban from overrunning it, in
what Brigadier General Charles Cleveland called a “temporary effort” to advise the Afghan
police. The deployment brought the number of US troops
deployed in and around Lashkar Gah to about 700; according to a spokesman for the provincial
governor of Helmand, U.S. forces have been carrying out operations with Afghan forces
in the Chah Anjir area of Nad-e-Ali district and around the Babaji area.On 1 October 2016,
it was reported that Taliban fighters advanced closer to Lashkar Gah by pushing into a farming
district on the other side of the river from the town. Despite pushing back the Taliban with the
support of US airstrikes in August, the Afghan government is struggling to reverse the tide
of fighting. Local officials said that security forces
were engaging insurgents and were expected to begin offensive operations soon. On 10 October, it was reported that the Taliban
launched a large-scale attack on Lashkar Gah, pushing into the town, and were said to have
taken Bolan and Nawa.On 31 December 2016, the Taliban continued their assault on the
province with attacks on Sangin and Marjah districts. In January 2017, the Marine Corps Times reported
that in spring 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps will deploy a task force of 300 personnel
(known as Task Force Southwest) for nine months to southwestern Afghanistan to advise-and-assist
local security forces in countering Taliban gains in the Helmand province. Officials said the Marines will work alongside
“key leaders” from the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps and the 505th Zone National Police
“to further optimize their capabilities in that region.” Task Force Southwest will comprise mostly
more-senior military personnel selected from units across II Marine Expeditionary Force,
including the 6th Marine Regiment; the Task Force will be replacing the US Army’s Task
Force Forge, which has conducted a similar advisory role for much of 2016. Some estimates suggest the Taliban has retaken
more than 80% of Helmand province. According to Defense Department statistics
9 U.S. service members were killed in action and another 70 were wounded there by hostile
activity throughout 2016. The Washington Post reported that the Afghan
government control 2 districts whilst 6 districts are contested and the 6 others are largely
controlled by the Taliban.On 12 February 2017, the Huffington Post reported that, according
to a UN report, that US aircraft conducted around 30 air strikes in Helmand Province
in the preceding week; according to a U.N. statement, air strikes in Sangin district
on 9 and 10 February killed as many as 18 civilians. Military.com reported that the Helmand governor’s
office said 60 Taliban fighters, including 8 commanders, were killed in the recent fighting
but denied any civilian deaths.During the early hours of 23 March 2017 Sangin district
was captured by the Taliban as they have overrun the district center, the town of Sangin. During earlier phase of the war almost a quarter
of British casualties were caused by fighting for the town, while more recently hundreds
of Afghan troops lost their lives defending it. On 29 April 2017, the Donald Trump administration
deployed an additional 5,000 US Marines to the Southern Helmand Province, this marks
the return of US marines to the province since 2014.The Washington Post reported on 16 April
2018, that the Afghan government believe they have Lashkar Gah and Gereshk under control,
and have expanded security as far south as Garmser district center and as far west as
Marjah district center, but most of those two districts and many others remain under
Taliban influence or control. On 1 April 2018, Afghan forces, with US air
support launched an offensive in Nad-e Ali district.===2016===In January 2016, the US government sent a
directive to the Pentagon which granted new legal authority for the U.S. military to go
on the offensive against Militants affiliated with the ISIL-KP (Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant – Khorasan Province), after the State Department announced the designation
of ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a foreign terrorists organisation. ISIS-K formed in January 2015 after it pledged
its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the number of militants started with around 60
or 70, with most of them coming over the border with Pakistan but now they range between 1,000
and 3,000 militants, mainly defectors from the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban, and
is generally confined to Nangarhar Province but also has/had a presence in Kunar province. For 3 weeks in that month, the U.S. military
carried out at least a dozen operations, including commando raids and airstrikes, many of these
raids and strikes taking place in the Tora Bora region of Nangarhar Province. American commanders in Afghanistan said they
believed that between 90 and 100 Islamic State militants had been killed in these recent
operations. By 11 February, ABC news reported the U.S.
military had carried out 20 airstrikes on ISIS in eastern Afghanistan in the previous
3 weeks. On 21 February, the Wall Street Journal reported
that, just over a week before, Afghan forces supported by U.S. airstrikes launched an operation
dubbed “Eagle 18”, against ISIL forces in Nangarhar province. Ground forces led by the Afghan army and backed
by police and paramilitary groups pushed into Achin district, the group’s main base and
Dislodged Islamic State From their Stronghold, U.S. airstrikes had hit the area almost daily
for weeks, killing militants affiliated with Islamic State and weakening their grip on
the district. Two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the operation
but ISIL militants retreated from Achin and other districts. On 6 March 2016, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf
Ghani announced in the Afghan parliament that the Islamic State has been defeated in the
eastern parts of the country, Afghan forces claimed victory following the 21-day operation
in Achin and Shinwar districts of Nangarhar province, claiming at least 200 militants
killed. The operation was aided by local civilians
who set up checkpoints to help maintain security in their villages and later supplemented the
Afghan forces. On 15 March 2016, an official confirmed that
Islamic State militants had moved into Chahar Dara district of Kunduz province and into
Kunar province.In early April 2016, it was reported that US and Afghan forces had killed
1,979 suspected militants, 736 others wounded and 965 detained between April 2015 and March
2016, ISIS militants have also been trying to flee into Ghazni and Nuristan province,
whilst a rise in defections from the group to the government and the Taliban. On 12 April 2016, the Taliban announced that
they would launch an offensive called Operation Omari. In late June 2016, IS militants attacked police
checkpoints in the Kot area of Nangarhar province, heavy fighting between Islamic State militants
and government security forces has claimed dozens of lives in eastern Afghanistan, as
many as 36 IS militants are reported to have been killed in the assaults, at least a dozen
Afghan security forces and civilians have been killed, with another 18 wounded. The latest attacks indicate the group remains
a potent threat to a government already battling an insurgency dominated by the rival Taliban. Afghan forces have been battling the Taliban
in northeastern Kunduz as part of the Afghan forces’ own spring offensive. On 14 April, hundreds of Taliban and other
insurgents attempted to retake Kunduz, however Afghan forces repelled the assault, according
to Kunduz provincial police chief, allegedly killing 40 and injuring between 8 and 60 Taliban,
whilst Afghan forces suffered 4 killed and 6 wounded. U.S. surveillance aircraft are supporting
Afghan forces as they try to push the Taliban back, there has also been fighting in at least
6 other districts, where a further 28 Taliban fighters were killed with another 28 wounded. On 18 July 2016, at least 100 Taliban fighters
attacked Qalai Zal district, Kunduz Province, in an attempt to take the district, but Afghan
forces pushed them back, 8 Taliban – including a commander – were killed, while 1 Afghan
security force member was killed and three others wounded.The Taliban executed at least
10 people, some of whom were reportedly off-duty soldiers from the Afghan army on 31 May 2016
after kidnapping up to 220 people from buses and cars at a checkpoint on the Kunduz-Takhar
highway. The majority of the passengers were released
after they were interrogated by the Taliban insurgents, however at least 18 individuals
still remained hostage. On 7 June 2016, in Ghazni province 12 members
of Afghan security forces were killed, they include seven policemen, three soldiers, and
two officials from the National Directorate of Security, the next day in the northern
province of Kunduz Taliban fighters stopped a bus on a highway near the provincial capital
and abducted 40 passengers—the second such abduction in the province in less than two
weeks.On 1 June 2016, Taliban insurgents stormed a court in the Afghan city of Ghazni, clashing
with police for at least an hour in an attack in which 10 people, including all five of
the militants, were killed, police said. The attack came days after the Taliban, vowed
to seek revenge for the execution last month of six Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government. Another retaliatory attack for the execution
of prisoners by the Afghan government came on 5 June 2016, leaving at least 5 people
killed and at least 19 others injured at an appeals court in Pul-e Alam in Logar province,
among the five killed in the attack was the newly named head of the appeals court. Later same day an Afghan member of parliament,
Shir Wali Wardak, was killed by a bomb planted near his residence in the capital Kabul, another
11 people were injured by the blast, no group has claimed responsibility.In June 2016, President
Obama approved a policy to give the U.S. military greater ability to accompany and enable Afghan
forces fighting the Taliban; the decision also allows greater use of US air power, particularly
in CAS missions. The US commander in Afghanistan, General John
Nicholson, will now be able to decide when it is appropriate for American troops to accompany
conventional Afghan forces into the field; something they have so far only been allowed
to do with Afghan special forces. A senior US defence official said that the
expanded powers are only meant to be employed “in those select instances in which their
engagement can enable strategic effects on the battlefield”. Previous US rules of engagement in Afghanistan
impose limits on US forces ability to strike at insurgents; being allowed to take action
against the Taliban in moments when their assistance was needed to prevent a significant
Afghan military setback. The Taliban are refocusing their attention
mostly on Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan province, according to U.S. and Afghan military officials,
although the insurgents also have struck elsewhere. The Taliban still have a large presence in
the region with as many as 25,000 fighters with more than 30,000 Afghan security forces
fighting to quell the group’s resurgence. On 24 June, it was reported that in the previous
week, the U.S. military had launched its first airstrikes against the Taliban since the change
in US policy; carrying out a “couple” of airstrikes on targets in southern Afghanistan. In July 2016, President Obama announced that
he plans to leave 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan when he finishes his term – instead of reducing
the number of personnel to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, reflecting the difficulty
of drawing down the US presence in the country. Whilst the UK sent up to 50 additional military
personnel to Afghanistan: 21 will join the counter-terrorism mission, 15 will be involved
in a leadership development at the Afghan army’s officer training academy, and 13 will
join the Resolute Support Mission, joining the 450 British troops already in the country. UK troops had been due to leave Afghanistan
this year but will now have their mission extended into 2017. On 30 June 2016, two suicide bombers attacked
an Afghan police convoy carrying recently graduated cadets on the western outskirts
of the capital Kabul, killing up to 40 cadets, while injuring 40 more. The incident comes 10 days after an attack
on a bus carrying Nepali security guards working for the Canadian embassy in Kabul that killed
14 people.As of July 2016, the US American Time magazine estimated that at least 20%
of Afghanistan was under Taliban control with southernmost Helmand Province as major stronghold,
while US commanding General in Afghanistan, J.M. Nicholson, stated that Afghan official
armed forces’ casualties had risen 20 percent compared to 2015. On 23 July 2016, Afghan and U.S. forces began
an offensive to clear Nangarhar province of Islamic State militants hours after the Kabul
bombing, the operation was dubbed “Wrath of the Storm” involving both Afghan regular army
and special forces and is the Afghan army’s first major strategic offensive of the summer. The operation was backed by U.S. special forces
troops and airstrikes; 5 US special forces troops were wounded by small arms fire or
shrapnel over 24 and 25 July whilst clearing areas of southern Nangarhar with Afghan special
operations troops, it appeared to be the first reported instance of U.S. troops being wounded
in fighting ISIL in Afghanistan. On 26 July, in overnight raid in Kot district
during the operation, supported by foreign air support, one of the most important leaders
of IS in the region, Saad Emarati, one of the founders of the ISIL-KP, was killed along
with 120 other suspected militants killed; by 30 July killed hundreds of IS militants
in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan troops pushed into Kot district after
a heavy air and artillery bombardment that forced Daesh to flee into nearby mountain
areas, Afghan forces met little resistance, finding an already destroyed training camp,
by 30 July, the provincial governor said that 78 Daesh fighters had been killed in the operation. The operation reclaimed large and significant
parts of eastern Afghanistan, forcing Daesh militants back into the mountains of southern
Nangarhar. The estimated size of the ISIL-KP in January
2016 was around 3,000, but by July 2016 the number had been reduced to closely 1,000 to
1,500, with 70% of its fighters come from the TTP. On 4 October 2016, A US soldier from B Company,
2nd Battalion, 10th SFG was killed by a roadside bomb blast in Achin, Nangarhar province, he
was on a patrol with Afghan forces during an operation against ISIL-K militants. This marked the first time a U.S. serviceman
was killed in combat against IS militants in the country. The Washington Post reported that during October,
as part of coordinated attacks on several cities in the country in an attempt to retake
territory lost during the invasion, Farah was besieged for three weeks by the Taliban
and was only ended with US air support. Afghan intelligence officials said four dead
Iranian Commandos were discovered, village elders told Afghan provincial officials that
many Taliban dead and wounded were taken back across the Iranian border, where the insurgents
had been recruited and trained. CNN reported that during the month, US aircraft
dropped 203 bombs, missiles and other munitions on Taliban and local ISIS targets in Afghanistan.In
December 2016, CNN reported that The Afghan air force was just beginning to conduct its
first independent airstrikes; whilst the Afghan government had become increasingly reliant
on Afghan Special Forces to carry out the fight against ISIS and the Taliban – the
17,000-strong force is responsible for 70% of offensive military operations, an operational
tempo that the commander of the international coalition, General John Nicholson acknowledged
is difficult to sustain. As of December 2016, there are 9,800 US service
members in Afghanistan, Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon that the number of US forces
would be reduced to 8,450 by 2017; the US and its 39 coalition partners in Afghanistan
are committed to providing support to Afghanistan for through 2020, in particular, Nicholson
added that the international community had pledged millions of dollars and advisory support
to Afghanistan – these commitments would help grow the size of the Afghan Special Forces. Even with the US providing advisers and airstrikes
to the Afghan forces, the US military believes that the government only controls about 64%
of the country, with the Taliban controlling about 10% and the remainder being contested
by the army and the insurgency; Nicholson also said that US-led operations in 2016 had
killed or captured 50 leaders from al Qaeda and AQIS. On 24 December 2016, Military.com reported
that Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said that ISIL-K’s presence in the country has
been pushed back from nearly a dozen districts to just two or three, the number of its members
in Afghanistan had been reduced to about 1,000 from an estimated strength of between 1,500
and 3,000 members the previous year. Overall, U.S. troops in Afghanistan conducted
more than 350 operations against the IS and al-Qaeda this year, more than 200 al-Qaeda
members were killed or captured. In early December, General John Nicholson
said U.S.-led counter-terrorism operations and Afghan government forces had killed 12
of the organization’s top leaders in the country; U.S. officials have said IS fighters are primarily
located in Nangarhar and Kunar Province’s and Al-Qaida fighters operate in at least
6 provinces also along the country’s eastern border. In January 2017, the Marine Corps Times reported
that according to an inspector general, the Afghan army comprises about 169,000 soldiers,
but in 2016 they suffered a 33 percent attrition rate—a 7 percent increase from 2015.====2016 peace deal====
On 22 September 2016, the Afghan government signed a draft peace deal with Hezb-i-Islami. According to the draft agreement, Hezb-i-Islami
agreed to cease hostilities, cut ties to extremist groups and respect the Afghan Constitution,
in exchange for government recognition of the group and support for the removal of United
Nations and American sanctions against Hekmatyar, who was also promised an honorary post in
the government. The agreement was formalized on 29 September
by both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Hekmatyar who appeared via a video link in
the presidential palace, signing the agreement.===2017=======Events====In early January 2017, the Marine Corps Times
reported that Afghan forces seek to rebuild, following an exhausting 2016 fighting season;
33 districts, which are spread across 16 Afghan provinces, are under insurgent control whilst
258 are under government control and nearly 120 districts remain “contested”.On 9 February
2017, General John W. Nicholson Jr. told Congress that NATO and allied forces in Afghanistan
are facing a “stalemate” and that he needed a few thousand additional troops to more effectively
train and advise Afghan soldiers. He also asserted that Russia was trying to
“legitimize” the Taliban by creating the “false narrative” that the militant organization
has been fighting the Islamic State and that Afghan forces have not, he asserted Russia’s
goal, was “to undermine the United States and NATO” in Afghanistan. However he said that the area in which Islamic
State fighters operate in Afghanistan had been greatly reduced. A U.S. Special Forces soldier was severely
wounded that day when the base he was at was attacked in Helmand province, raising the
number of U.S. troops injured in combat nationwide so far this year to at least 6, Nicholson
indicated the soldier was wounded in Sangin.The Military Times reported that on 26 February
2017, a USAF airstrike that killed the Taliban leadership commander Mullah Abdul Salam in
Kunduz province in a joint operation with Afghan security forces. The airstrike marked a renewed strategy by
U.S. forces under the Trump administration to remove the Taliban leadership/commanders
from the battlefield. The Obama administration strategy had focused
much of its efforts in pushing reconciliation between the Taliban and the central government
of Afghanistan; although in June 2016, to turn back the tide of Taliban gains, President
Obama changed the rules of engagement to give U.S. commanders more flexibility to provide
airstrikes and ground support to struggling Afghan forces, if those efforts were perceived
to provide “strategic effects.” It made a concerted effort to kill high-profile
al-Qaeda and Haqqani terrorists-groups officially designated as terrorist organizations by the
U.S. State Department-while attempting to draw down U.S. and NATO forces in the region,
having a tangible successes.The Army Times reported that in early March 2017, American
and Afghan forces launched Operation Hamza to “flush” ISIS-K from its stronghold in eastern
Afghanistan, engaging in regular ground battles. Stars and Stripes reported that General Dawlat
Waziri, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry, said that for four weeks before
13 April Nangarhar airstrike (which was part of the operation), Afghan special forces unsuccessfully
attempted to penetrate the area because of the difficult terrain and improvised explosive
device (IEDs) planted by ISIS-KP militants. The governor of Achin province Ismail Shinwary,
confirmed to the BBC that two weeks preceding the strike that Afghan special forces, with
the US air support, had begun anti-IS operations in the area two weeks ago.In April 2017, the
Washington Post reported that Captain Bill Salvin, a spokesman for NATO’s mission to
Afghanistan, said that Afghan and international forces had reduced ISIS-K controlled territory
in Afghanistan by two-thirds and had killed around half their fighters in the previous
two years. Since the beginning of 2017, 460 airstrikes
against terrorists (with drone strikes alone killing more than 200 IS militants); he added
that the affiliate has an estimated 600-800 fighters in two eastern Afghan provinces. On 13 April 2017, the United States dropped
the largest non-nuclear bomb, known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB)
Mother of All Bombs, at 34.073336, 70.631215 (latitude and longitude coordinates) near
Momand village upon a Nangahar’s Achin District village in eastern Afghanistan to destroy
tunnel complexes used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province
(ISIL-KP or ISIS-K). The Guardian reported that following the strike,
US and Afghan forces conducted clearing operations and airstrikes in the area and assessed the
damage.On 21 April 2017, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan fighters along with Afghan security
forces allied to them stormed 209th Corps military base near Mazar-e-Sharif, killing
over 140 Afghan soldiers.On 28 April 2017, the Washington Post reported that the Taliban
announced the beginning of their spring offensive dubbed “Operation Mansouri.” On 20 May, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
fully secured Waghaz District in the province of Ghazni, while at the same time stormed
Dih Yak district center and blew up Governor of Ghazni compound in Ghazni city. Another major assault took place on 22 May
in Shah Wali Kot district, Northern Kandahar province, during which Taliban managed to
capture large military base, while inflicting heavy casualties to the Afghan army, reportedly
killing 35 and capturing 4 soldiers as well as 3 Armoured Personnel Carriers. During the same day they had overran a border
outpost in southern Shorabak district, killing 15 soldiers, in addition to another outpost
in district of Khakrez, killing 8 more. The next day rebels assaulted another military
base in Shah Wali Kot and an outpost, killing 4 soldiers and injuring 4 more, while pro-government
forces abandoned a village in northern district of Maruf. On 24 May Taliban assaulted a base in Maiwand
district killing 13 soldiers. Taliban launched another attack in province
of Kandahar on 26 May, killing at least 18 soldiers, injuring 16 more and capturing 4
according to security officials, while the group itself claimed to have killed 35 soldiers
and capturing 7 more, while also seizing 7 Armoured Personnel Carriers and an array of
weapons On 27 May, 13 members of Khost Provincial Force, a CIA funded and equipped paramilitary
group, known for torture and extrajudicial killings, were killed after a Taliban car
bomb blew up in Khost city.On 31 May 2017, the German embassy in Kabul was attacked by
a suicide truck, located in the heavily fortified area of Kabul, killing over 90 and injuring
over 350. No one has claimed responsibility for the
attack yet. The bomb went off at about 08:25 local time
(03:55 GMT) during rush hour. The fortified area is considered the safest
area of Kabul, with 3 m (10 ft) tall blast walls. India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said
its embassy staff were safe. On 23 August 2017, the Taliban captured the
district of Zana Khan in Ghazni Province after a series of clashes with Afghan security forces.The
Guardian reported that following the announcement of Donald Trump new strategy in the country,
More than 900 munitions were released in August and September, bringing the total number of
munitions used in 2017 to nearly 3,000, more than twice the expended munitions in 2016.On
14 October 2017, The Guardian reported that there were then between 600 and 800 ISIL-KP
militants left in Afghanistan, who are mostly concentrated in Nangarhar Province. CNN reported that throughout October, US aircraft
dropped 653 bombs, missiles and other munitions on Taliban and local ISIL targets in Afghanistan;
military officials said that the success against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has freed up air assets
to be deployed to Afghanistan and other theatres.The Washington Post reported that on 20 November
2017, General John W. Nicholson announced that US aircraft were targeting drug production
facilities in Afghanistan under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, saying
that the Taliban was “becoming a criminal organization” that was earning about $200
million a year from drug-related activities. President Ashraf Ghani strongly endorsed the
new campaign of U.S. and Afghan airstrikes against the Taliban-run narcotic centers;
the following day, a spokesman for the Helmand governor’s office said that the past week’s
air operations involving coalition forces and Afghan air force planes conducted “direct
strikes on Taliban hideouts and narcotics centers” (8 strikes by the coalition and 2
by the afghan air force), killing more than 40 Taliban fighters and that a “main processing
center of narcotics was destroyed” along with about 2,200 pounds of drugs. CNN reported that the campaign is known as
Operation Jagged Knife, three of the strikes occurred in Kajaki district, four in Musa
Qala and one in Sangin; a Pentagon spokesman said that the airstrikes were carried out
by US F-16s and B-52s, General Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon that a US F-22 Raptor
and Afghan Air Force A-29s also participated in the strikes. Nicholson estimated that there are approximately
400 to 500 such facilities in Afghanistan and that “these operations will continue on
in the coming days.” CNN also reported that General Nicholson said
“our priority’s been in Iraq and Syria and, as we continue to see success there, we hope
to see more assets coming over to enable us to do more of these kinds of operations,”
the strikes marked the first time commanders used their newly granted authorities to target
Taliban revenue sources. Vice President Mike Pence announced on 21
December 2017 that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told him that more senior Taliban leaders
have been killed in 2017 than in all prior years of the war combined. Pence also stated that the USA was making
great progress with the war in Afghanistan.====Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy====On 21 August 2017, US President Donald Trump
stated that he would expand the American presence in Afghanistan, without giving details on
how or when. Trump did not formulate any timelines, troop
numbers or specific purposes to be met; only that a US withdrawal was not an option now
as it would play into the hands of terrorists and that publicising deadlines and exact plans
would only help those groups prepare. Trump also said that 20 US designated terrorist
organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to The Washington Post, this contradicts
the official US Government list which only has 13 such organizations.The Guardian reported
that Afghan government officials praised the new strategy, not only for increasing troop
numbers and removing with strict timelines, but for increasing pressure on Pakistan-which
they see as a main sponsor of the insurgency. In a televised address, President Trump said
a new approach to Pakistan would be a “pillar” of the new strategy, adding that “we can no
longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and
other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond;” Najibullah Azad, a spokesman
for the Afghan president, said that “the strategy is made in accordance with realities on the
ground”, and that “this is the first time the US government is coming with a very clear-cut
message to Pakistan to either stop what you’re doing or face the negative consequences.” Other statements by Afghan officials such
as Davood Moradian, the director general of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies
in Kabul, said that “the new strategy is premised on ‘peace through strength’, in contrast to
Obama’s failed approach, which was essentially ‘peace through appeasement’.” In response, Pakistani security officials
accused Trump of shifting blame for its failures in the war against the Taliban and other armed
groups in Afghanistan and of endangering the already fraught bilateral relations between
the two countries.On 15 September 2017, the New York Times reported that the CIA was looking
to reportedly seeking authority to conduct its own drone strikes in Afghanistan and other
war zones, according to current and former intelligence and military officials, the change
in authority was being considered by the White House as part of the new strategy, despite
concerns by the Pentagon. On 19 September 2017, the Trump Administration
deployed another 3,000 US troops to Afghanistan. They will add to the approximately 11,000
US troops already serving in Afghanistan, bringing the total to at least 14,000 US troops
stationed in Afghanistan. On 4 October 2017, Fox News reported that
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved a change in rules of engagement as part of the new
strategy so that there is no longer a requirement for US troops to be in contact with enemy
forces in Afghanistan before opening fire.===2018=======Events====In January 2018, the BBC reported that the
Taliban are openly active in 70% of the country (being in full control of 14 districts and
have an active and open physical presence in a further 263) and that Islamic State is
more active in the country than ever before. Following attacks by the Taliban and Islamic
State that killed scores of civilians, President Trump and Afghan officials decided to rule
out any talks with the Taliban.On 15 February 2018, The New York Times reported the rise
of Afghan civilians being intentionally targeted by the Taliban, based on an annual United
Nations report released a week earlier. This report offered a detailed assessment
of the 16 year Afghan war, showing the rise of complex bombing attacks deliberately targeting
civilians in 2017, having 10,453 Afghan civilians wounded or killed. As the US and Afghan government are publishing
fewer statistics, the UN report is one of the most reliable indicators about the war’s
impact by 2018. The report emphasizes the rise of “complex
attacks”, a type of suicide assault that is becoming more deadly, described by the New
York Times as the hallmark of the war in 2018. These attacks are referred to as the Taliban’s
ferocious response to US President Trump’s new strategy of war (an increased pace of
aerial bombardments targeting Taliban and Islamic State Militants), giving the message
that the Taliban can strike at will, even in the capital city, Kabul. The UN report included a statement showing
the Taliban’s position, the Taliban blamed the U.S and its allies for fighting war in
Afghanistan, and it denied targeting civilians. The New York Times quoted Atiqullah Amarkhel,
a retired general and military analyst based in Kabul, saying that the UN report proved
the failure of peace talks, as the Taliban and the US government are both determined
for victory rather than negotiating settlement. He said “More airstrikes mean more suicide
attacks,” proving the intensification of the war by 2018.In September 2018, the United
Nations raised concerns over the increasing number of civilian casualties due to air strikes
in Afghanistan. The U.S. air force dropped around 3,000 bombs
in the first six months of the year, to force Taliban militants for peace talks. In a statement issued by the UNAMA, it reminded
all the parties involved in the conflict “to uphold their obligations to protect civilians
from harm.”On 17 October 2018, days before parliamentary election, Abdul Jabar Qahraman,
an election candidate was killed in an attack by Taliban. The Taliban issued a statement, warning teachers
and students to not participate in the upcoming elections or use schools as polling centers.==Impact on Afghan society=====
Civilian casualties===According to the Watson Institute for International
Studies Costs of War Project, roughly 31,000 civilians had been killed as a result of the
war up to the middle of 2016. A report titled Body Count put together by
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) concluded that 106,000–170,000
civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan at the hands of
all parties to the conflict. A UN report over the year 2009 stated that,
of the 1,500 civilians having died from January until the end of August 2009, 70% were blamed
on “anti-government elements”.The US website of The Weekly Standard stated in 2010, referring
to a UN Report, that 76% of civilian deaths in Afghanistan over the past year had been
“caused by the Taliban”. That is a misquotation of the UNAMA Report,
which does not attribute numbers of deaths directly to the Taliban, but to “anti-government
elements” (AGE) and to “pro-government forces” (PGF). Over the period January until June 2010, indeed
the report published in August 2010 stated that, of all 3,268 civilian casualties (dead
or wounded), 2,477 casualties (76%) were caused by AGE, 386 caused by PGF (11%).Over the whole
of 2010, with a total of 2,777 civilians killed, the UN reported 2,080 civilian deaths caused
by “anti-government elements” (75%), “pro-government forces” caused 440 deaths, and 257 deaths
“could not be attributed to any party”.In July 2011, a UN report said “1,462 non-combatants
died” in the first six months of 2011 (insurgents 80%). In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed,
the fifth successive annual rise. According to a UN report, in 2013 there were
2,959 civilian deaths with 74% being blamed on anti-government forces, 8% on Afghan security
forces, 3% on ISAF forces, 10% to ground engagements between anti-Government forces and pro-Government
forces and 5% of the deaths were unattributed. 60% of Afghans have direct personal experience
and most others report suffering a range of hardships. 96% have been affected either personally or
from the wider consequences.In 2015, according to the United Nations (UN) annual report there
were 3,545 civilian deaths and 7,457 people wounded. The anti-government elements were responsible
for 62 percent of the civilians killed or wounded. The pro-government forces caused 17 percent
of civilian deaths and injuries – including United States and NATO troops, which were
responsible for about 2 percent of the casualties.In 2016, a total of 3,498 civilians deaths and
7,920 injuries were recorded by the United Nations. The UN attributed 61% of casualties to anti-government
forces. Afghan security forces caused about 20 percent
of the overall casualties, while pro-government militias and Resolute Support Mission caused
2 percent each. Air strikes by US and NATO warplanes resulted
in at least 127 civilian deaths and 108 injuries. While, the Afghan air force accounted for
at least 85 deaths and 167 injuries. The UN was not able to attribute responsibility
for the remaining 38 deaths and 65 injuries resulting from air strikes.During the parliamentary
elections on 20 October 2018, several explosions targeting the polling stations took place. At least 36 people were killed and 130 were
injured. Previously, ten election candidates were killed
during the campaigning by the Taliban and the Islamic State group.===Health===
According to Nicholas Kristoff, improved healthcare resulting from the war has saved hundreds
of thousands of lives.===Refugees===
Since 2001, more than 5.7 million former refugees have returned to Afghanistan, but 2.2 million
others remained refugees in 2013. In January 2013 the UN estimated that 547,550
were internally displaced persons, a 25% increase over the 447,547 IDPs estimated for January
Afghans who interpreted for the British army have been tortured and killed in Afghanistan,
including their families. As of May 2018 the UK government has not resettled
any interpreter or family member in the UK.===Drug trade===From 1996 to 1999, the Taliban controlled
96% of Afghanistan’s poppy fields and made opium its largest source of revenue. Taxes on opium exports became one of the mainstays
of Taliban income. According to Rashid, “drug money funded the
weapons, ammunition and fuel for the war.” In The New York Times, the Finance Minister
of the United Front, Wahidullah Sabawoon, declared the Taliban had no annual budget
but that they “appeared to spend U.S.$300 million a year, nearly all of it on war”. He added that the Taliban had come to increasingly
rely on three sources of money: “poppy, the Pakistanis and bin Laden”.By 2000 Afghanistan
accounted for an estimated 75% of the world’s opium supply and in 2000 produced an estimated
3276 tonnes from 82,171 hectares (203,050 acres). Omar then banned opium cultivation and production
dropped to an estimated 74 metric tonnes from 1,685 hectares (4,160 acres). Some observers say the ban – which came
in a bid for international recognition at the United Nations – was issued only to
raise opium prices and increase profit from the sale of large existing stockpiles. 1999 had yielded a record crop and had been
followed by a lower but still large 2000 harvest. The trafficking of accumulated stocks continued
in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, the UN mentioned the “existence of
significant stocks of opiated accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests”. In September 2001 – before 11 September
attacks against the U.S. – the Taliban allegedly authorized Afghan peasants to sow opium again.Soon
after the invasion opium production increased markedly. By 2005, Afghanistan was producing 90% of
the world’s opium, most of which was processed into heroin and sold in Europe and Russia. In 2009, the BBC reported that “UN findings
say an opium market worth $65bn (£39bn) funds global terrorism, caters to 15 million addicts,
and kills 100,000 people every year”.===Public education===
As of 2017, the Afghan government has cooperated with Taliban forces to provide education services:
in Khogyani District, the government is given “nominal control” by local Taliban fighters
in return for paying the wages of teachers whom the Taliban appoint in local schools.====Girls’ education====As of 2013, 8.2 million Afghans attended school,
including 3.2 million girls, up from 1.2 million in 2001, including fewer than 50,000 girls.While
the Taliban have typically opposed girls’ education, in 2017 in Khogyani District it
has allowed girls to receive education in order to improve its standing among local
residents.==War crimes==War crimes (a serious violation of the laws
and customs of war giving rise to individual criminal responsibility) have been committed
by both sides including civilian massacres, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, use
of torture and the murder of prisoners of war. Additional common crimes include theft, arson,
and the destruction of property not warranted by military necessity.===Taliban===
In 2011, The New York Times reported that the Taliban was responsible for ​3⁄4 of
all civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan. In 2013 the UN stated that the Taliban had
been placing bombs along transit routes.In 2015, Amnesty International reported that
the Taliban committed mass murder and gang rape of Afghan civilians in Kunduz. Taliban fighters killed and raped female relatives
of police commanders and soldiers as well as midwives. One female human rights activist described
the situation in the following manner: When the Taliban asserted their control over
Kunduz, they claimed to be bringing law and order and Shari’a to the city. But everything they’ve done has violated both. I don’t know who can rescue us from this situation.===Northern Alliance===
In December 2001, the Dasht-i-Leili massacre took place, where between 250 and 3,000 Taliban
fighters who had surrendered, were shot and/or suffocated to death in metal truck containers
during transportation by Northern Alliance forces. Reports place U.S. ground troops at the scene. The Irish documentary Afghan Massacre: The
Convoy of Death investigated these allegations and claimed that mass graves of thousands
of victims were found by UN investigators and that the U.S. blocked investigations into
the incident.===NATO & Allies===On 21 June 2003, David Passaro, a CIA contractor
and former United States Army Ranger, killed Abdul Wali, a prisoner at a U.S. base 16 km
(10 mi) south of Asadabad, in Kunar Province. Passaro was found guilty of one count of felony
assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of misdemeanor assault. On 10 August 2009, he was sentenced to 8 years
and 4 months in prison.In 2002, two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners were tortured and
later killed by U.S. armed forces personnel at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility
(also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan. The prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were
chained to the ceiling and beaten, which caused their deaths. Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners’
deaths were homicides. Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners’
legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus. Fifteen soldiers were charged. During the summer of 2010, ISAF charged five
United States Army soldiers with the murder of three Afghan civilians in Kandahar province
and collecting their body parts as trophies in what came to be known as the Maywand District
murders. In addition, seven soldiers were charged with
crimes such as hashish use, impeding an investigation and attacking the whistleblower, Specialist
Justin Stoner. Eleven of the twelve soldiers were convicted
on various counts.A British Royal Marine Sergeant, identified as Sergeant Alexander Blackman
from Taunton, Somerset, was convicted at court martial in Wiltshire of the murder of an unarmed,
reportedly wounded, Afghan fighter in Helmand Province in September 2011. In 2013, he received a life sentence from
the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and was dismissed with disgrace from the Royal
Marines. In 2017, after appeal to the Court Martial
Appeal Court (CMAC), his conviction was lessened to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished
responsibility and the sentence was reduced to seven years effectively releasing Blackman
due to time served.On 11 March 2012, the Kandahar massacre occurred when sixteen civilians were
killed and six wounded in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Nine of the victims were children, and eleven
of the dead were from the same family. United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales
was taken into custody and charged with sixteen counts of premeditated murder. After pleading guilty to sixteen counts of
premeditated murder, Bales was sentenced to life in prison without parole and dishonorably
discharged from the United States Army.On 3 October 2015, U.S. air force attacked a
hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz. 42 people were killed and over 30 were injured
in the airstrike. The attack was labelled by United Nation as
a ‘war crime’. Eleven days after the attack, a U.S. tank
made its way into the hospital compound. Medecins Sans Frontieres officals said: “Their
unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress
and fear for the MSF team.”In November 2014, Amnesty International accused Pentagon for
covering up evidence related to war crimes, torture and unlawful killings in Afghanistan.In
September 2018, United States threatened to arrest and impose sancations on International
Criminal Court judges and other officals if they tried to charge any U.S. soldier who
served in Afghanistan with war crimes. U.S. further claimed that they would not cooperate
in any way with the International Criminal Court in the Hague if it carries out a prospective
investigation into allegations of war crimes by U.S. military and intelligence personnel
in Afghanistan.November 30, 2018, BBC, citing UN, reported as many as 23 civilians were
killed, with most victims women and children, in a US airstrike.UN reported 649 civilian
deaths were recorded between 1 January and 30 September 2018 from aerial operations,
which is more was than recorded over every an entire year since UNAMA began systematic
civilian casualty documentation in 2009.==Costs==
The cost of the war reportedly was a major factor as U.S. officials considered drawing
down troops in 2011. A March 2011 Congressional Research Service
report noted, 1) following the Afghanistan surge announcement in 2009, Defense Department
spending on Afghanistan increased by 50%, going from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a
month. During that time, troop strength increased
from 44,000 to 84,000, and was expected to be at 102,000 for fiscal year 2011; 2) The
total cost from inception to the fiscal year 2011 was expected to be $468 billion. The estimate for the cost of deploying one
U.S. soldier in Afghanistan is over U.S.$1 million a year.According to “Investment in
Blood”, a book by Frank Ledwidge, summations for the UK contribution to the war in Afghanistan
came to £37bn ($56.46 billion).===Criticism of costs===
In 2011, the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting reported to Congress that, during
the previous decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States had lost between $31 and
$60 billion to waste and fraud and that this amount may continue to increase.In the summer
of 2013, preparing for withdrawal the following year, the U.S. military destroyed over 77,000
metric tons of equipment and vehicles worth over $7 billion that could not be shipped
back to the United States. Some was sold to Afghans as scrap metal. In 2013, the Special Inspector General for
Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government oversight body, criticized the misuse or waste
of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid, including the $772 million purchase of
aircraft for the Afghan military especially since “the Afghans lack the capacity to operate
and maintain them.”==
Stability problems==In a 2008 interview, the then-head U.S. Central
Command General David H. Petraeus, insisted that the Taliban were gaining strength. He cited a recent increase in attacks in Afghanistan
and in neighboring Pakistan. Petraeus insisted that the problems in Afghanistan
were more complicated than the ones he had faced in Iraq during his tour and required
removing widespread sanctuaries and strongholds.Observers have argued that the mission in Afghanistan
is hampered by a lack of agreement on objectives, a lack of resources, lack of coordination,
too much focus on the central government at the expense of local and provincial governments,
and too much focus on the country instead of the region.In 2009, Afghanistan moved three
places in Transparency International’s annual index of corruption, becoming the world’s
second most-corrupt country just ahead of Somalia. In the same month, Malalai Joya, a former
member of the Afghan Parliament and the author of “Raising My Voice”, expressed opposition
to an expansion of the U.S. military presence and her concerns about the future. “Eight years ago, the U.S. and NATO – under
the banner of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy – occupied my country and
pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. Eight years is enough to know better about
the corrupt, mafia system of President Hamid Karzai. My people are crushed between two powerful
enemies. From the sky, occupation forces bomb and kill
civilians … and on the ground, the Taliban and warlords continue their crimes. It is better that they leave my country; my
people are that fed up. Occupation will never bring liberation, and
it is impossible to bring democracy by war.”Pakistan plays a central role in the conflict. A 2010 report published by the London School
of Economics says that Pakistan’s ISI has an “official policy” of support to the Taliban. “Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game
of astonishing magnitude,” the report states. Amrullah Saleh, former director of Afghanistan’s
intelligence service, stated, “We talk about all these proxies [Taliban, Haqqanis] but
not the master of proxies, which is the Pakistan army. The question is what does Pakistan’s army
want to achieve …? They want to gain influence in the region” About the presence of foreign
troops in Afghanistan he stated: “[T]hey fight for the U.S. national interest but … without
them we will face massacre and disaster and God knows what type of a future Afghanistan
will have.”==
Afghan security forces=====
Afghan National Army===U.S. policy called for boosting the Afghan
National Army to 134,000 soldiers by October 2010. By May 2010 the Afghan Army had accomplished
this interim goal and was on track to reach its ultimate number of 171,000 by 2011. This increase in Afghan troops allowed the
U.S. to begin withdrawing its forces in July 2011.In 2010, the Afghan National Army had
limited fighting capacity. Even the best Afghan units lacked training,
discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one new unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers
had been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting. Some were suspected of collaborating with
the Taliban. “They don’t have the basics, so they lay down,”
said Capt. Michael Bell, who was one of a team of U.S. and Hungarian mentors tasked
with training Afghan soldiers. “I ran around for an hour trying to get them
to shoot, getting fired on. I couldn’t get them to shoot their weapons.” In addition, 9 out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan
National Army were illiterate.The Afghan Army was plagued by inefficiency and endemic corruption. U.S. training efforts were drastically slowed
by the problems. U.S. trainers reported missing vehicles, weapons
and other military equipment, and outright theft of fuel. Death threats were leveled against U.S. officers
who tried to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Afghan soldiers often snipped the command
wires of IEDs instead of marking them and waiting for U.S. forces to come to detonate
them. This allowed insurgents to return and reconnect
them. U.S. trainers frequently removed the cell
phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation would be compromised. American trainers often spent large amounts
of time verifying that Afghan rosters were accurate – that they are not padded with
“ghosts” being “paid” by Afghan commanders who stole the wages.Desertion was a significant
problem. One in every four combat soldiers quit the
Afghan Army during the 12-month period ending in September 2009, according to data from
the U.S. Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan.In
early 2015, Philip Munch of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network wrote that ‘..the available
evidence suggests that many senior ANSF members, in particular, use their positions to enrich
themselves. Within the ANSF there are also strong external
loyalties to factions who themselves compete for influence and access to resources. All this means that the ANSF may not work
as they officially should. Rather it appears that the political economy
of the ANSF prevents them from working like modern organisations – the very prerequisite’
of the Resolute Support Mission. Formal and informal income, Munch said, which
can be generated through state positions, is rent-seeking – income without a corresponding
investment of labour or capital. ‘Reportedly, ANA appointees also often maintain
clients, so that patron-client networks, structured into competing factions, can be traced within
the ANA down to the lowest levels. … There is evidence that Afghan officers
and officials, especially in the higher echelons, appropriate large parts of the vast resource
flows which are directed by international donors into the ANA.Special Inspector General
for Afghanistan Reconstruction has reported that roughly half of Afghan soldiers brought
to the United States for training go absent without leave which may inhibit the operational
readiness of their units back in Afghanistan, negatively impact the morale of other trainees
and home units and pose security risks to the United States.===Afghan National Police===
The Afghan National Police provides support to the Afghan army. Police officers in Afghanistan are also largely
illiterate. Approximately 17 percent of them tested positive
for illegal drugs in 2010. They were widely accused of demanding bribes. Attempts to build a credible Afghan police
force were faltering badly, according to NATO officials. A quarter of the officers quit every year,
making the Afghan government’s goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to
achieve.==Tactics/strategy of anti-government elements
==The armed opposition or anti-government elements
– some Western news media tend to address them all simply as “Taliban” – have from
2008 into 2009 shifted their tactics from frontal attacks on pro-government forces to
guerrilla type activities, including suicide, car and road side bombs (IEDs), and targeted
assassinations, said a UNAMA report in July 2009. Mr. Maley, an Afghanistan expert at the Australian
National University, stated in 2009 that IEDs had become Taliban’s weapon of choice.In 2008–2009,
according to the Christian Science Monitor, 16 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were
planted in girls’ schools in Afghanistan, but there’s no certainty who did that.===ISAF conception of Taliban strategy===
In 2009, Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly Commander of British forces in Afghanistan and current
intelligence coordinator for the British government – thus part of the anti-Taliban coalition
(ISAF), made these comments about the Taliban tactics and strategy as he perceived them: Like Hamas in Gaza, the Taliban in southern
Afghanistan are masters at shielding themselves behind the civilian population and then melting
in among them for protection. Women and children are trained and equipped
to fight, collect intelligence, and ferry arms and ammunition between battles. Female suicide bombers are increasingly common. The use of women to shield gunmen as they
engage NATO forces is now so normal it is deemed barely worthy of comment. Schools and houses are routinely booby-trapped. Snipers shelter in houses deliberately filled
with women and children.==Insider attacks==
Beginning in 2011, insurgent forces in Afghanistan began using a tactic of insider attacks on
ISAF and Afghan military forces. In the attacks, Taliban personnel or sympathizers
belonging to, or pretending to belong to, the Afghan military or police forces attack
ISAF personnel, often within the security of ISAF military bases and Afghan government
facilities. In 2011, for example, 21 insider attacks killed
35 coalition personnel. Forty-six insider attacks killed 63 and wounded
85 coalition troops, mostly American, in the first 11 months of 2012. The attacks continued but began diminishing
towards the planned 31 December 2014 ending of combat operations in Afghanistan by ISAF. However, on 5 August 2014, a gunman in an
Afghan military uniform opened fire on a number of international military personnel, killing
a U.S. general and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers, including a German brigadier
general and 8 U.S. troops, at a training base west of Kabul.==Reactions=====Domestic reactions===
In November 2001, the CNN reported widespread relief amongst Kabul’s residents after the
Taliban fled the city, with young men shaving off their beards and women taking off their
burqas. Later that month the BBC’s longtime Kabul
correspondent Kate Clark reported that “almost all women in Kabul are still choosing to veil”
but that many felt hopeful that the ousting of the Taliban would improve their safety
and access to food.A 2006 WPO opinion poll found that the majority of Afghans endorsed
America’s military presence, with 83% of Afghans stating that they had a favorable view of
the U.S. military forces in their country. Only 17% gave an unfavorable view. The majority of Afghans, among all ethnic
groups including Pashtuns, stated that the overthrowing of the Taliban was a good thing. 82% of Afghans as a whole and 71% of those
living in the war zone held this anti-Taliban view. The Afghan population gave the U.S.A one of
its most favorable ratings in the world. A solid majority (81%) of Afghans stated that
they held a favorable view of the U.S.A. However, the majority of Afghans (especially
those in the war zone) held negative views on Pakistan and most Afghans also stated that
they believe that the Pakistani government was allowing the Taliban to operate from its
soil.Polls of Afghans displayed strong opposition to the Taliban and significant support of
the U.S. military presence. However the idea of permanent U.S. military
bases was not popular in 2005. According to a May 2009 BBC poll, 69% of Afghans
surveyed thought it was at least mostly good that the U.S. military came in to remove the
Taliban – a decrease from 87% of Afghans surveyed in 2005. 24% thought it was mostly or very bad – up
from 9% in 2005. The poll indicated that 63% of Afghans were
at least somewhat supportive of a U.S. military presence in the country – down from 78%
in 2005. Just 18% supported increasing the U.S. military’s
presence, while 44% favored reducing it. 90% of Afghans surveyed opposed the Taliban,
including 70% who were strongly opposed. By an 82%–4% margin, people said they preferred
the current government to Taliban rule.In a June 2009 Gallup survey, about half of Afghan
respondents felt that additional U.S. forces would help stabilize the security situation
in the southern provinces. But opinions varied widely; residents in the
troubled South were mostly mixed or uncertain, while those in the West largely disagreed
that more U.S. troops would help the situation.In December 2009, many Afghan tribal heads and
local leaders from the south and east called for U.S. troop withdrawals. “I don’t think we will be able to solve our
problems with military force,” said Muhammad Qasim, a Kandahar tribal elder. “We can solve them by providing jobs and development
and by using local leaders to negotiate with the Taliban.” “If new troops come and are stationed in civilian
areas, when they draw Taliban attacks civilians will end up being killed,” said Gulbadshah
Majidi, a lawmaker and close associate of Mr. Karzai. “This will only increase the distance between
Afghans and their government.”In late January 2010, Afghan protesters took to the streets
for three straight days and blocked traffic on a highway that links Kabul and Kandahar. The Afghans were demonstrating in response
to the deaths of four men in a NATO-Afghan raid in the village of Ghazni. Ghazni residents insisted that the dead were
civilians.A 2015 survey by Langer Research Associates found that 77% of Afghans support
the presence of U.S. forces; 67% also support the presence of NATO forces. Despite the problems in the country, 80% of
Afghans still held the view that it was a good thing for the United States to overthrow
the Taliban in 2001. More Afghans blame the Taliban or al-Qaeda
for the country’s violence (53%) than those who blame the U.S.A (12%).===International reactions===A 47-nation global survey of public opinion
conducted in June 2007 by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found considerable opposition to the
NATO military operations in Afghanistan. Only Israel and Kenya citizens were in favor
of the war. On the other hand, in 41 of the 47 countries
pluralities wanted NATO troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The authors of the survey mentioned a “global
unease with major world powers” and in America that “Afghan War not worth it”. In 32 out of 47 countries majorities wanted
NATO troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries
wanted troops withdrawn as soon as possible.In 2008 there was a strong opposition to war
in Afghanistan in 21 of 24 countries surveyed. Only in the U.S. and Great Britain did half
the people support the war, with a larger percentage (60%) in Australia. Since then, public opinion in Australia and
Britain has shifted, and the majority of Australians and British now also want their troops to
be brought home from Afghanistan. Authors of articles on the issue mentioned
that “Australians lose faith in Afghan War effort” and “cruel human toll of fight to
win Afghan peace”. Of the seven NATO countries in the survey,
not one showed a majority in favor of keeping NATO troops in Afghanistan – one, the U.S.,
came close to a majority (50%). Of the other six NATO countries, five had
majorities of their population wanting NATO troops removed from Afghanistan as soon as
possible.The 2009 global survey reported that majorities or pluralities in 18 out of 25
countries wanted NATO to remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Despite American calls for NATO allies to
send more troops to Afghanistan, there was majority or plurality opposition to such action
in every one of the NATO countries surveyed.===Public opinion in 2001===When the invasion began in October 2001, polls
indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action.A
large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late
September 2001 found that large majorities in most countries favored a legal response,
in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: only three countries
out of the 37 surveyed – the U.S., Israel and India – did majorities favor military
action. In the other 34 countries surveyed, the poll
found many clear majorities that favored extradition and trial instead of military action: in the
United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%),
Panama (80%) and Mexico (94%).An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted between November and December
2001 showed that majorities in Canada (66%), France (60%), Germany (60%), Italy (58%),
and the UK (65%) approved of U.S. airstrikes while majorities in Argentina (77%), China
(52%), South Korea (50%), Spain (52%), and Turkey (70%) opposed them.===Development of public opinion===In a 47-nation June 2007 survey of global
public opinion, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found international opposition to the war. Out of the 47 countries surveyed, 4 had a
majority that favored keeping foreign troops: the U.S. (50%), Israel (59%), Ghana (50%),
and Kenya (60%). In 41, pluralities wanted NATO troops out
as soon as possible. In 32 out of 47, clear majorities wanted war
over as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries
said troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible.A 24-nation Pew Global Attitudes
survey in June 2008 similarly found that majorities or pluralities in 21 of 24 countries want
the U.S. and NATO to remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Only in three out of the 24 countries – the
U.S. (50%), Australia (60%), and Britain (48%) – did public opinion lean more toward keeping
troops there until the situation has stabilized. Following that June 2008 global survey, however,
public opinion in Australia and Britain diverged from that in the U.S. A majority of Australians and Britons now
want their troops home. A September 2008 poll found that 56% of Australians
opposed continuation of their country’s military involvement. A November 2008 poll found that 68% of Britons
wanted their troops withdrawn within the next 12 months.In the U.S., a September 2008 Pew
survey found that 61% of Americans wanted U.S. troops to stay until the situation has
stabilized, while 33% wanted them removed as soon as possible. Public opinion was divided over Afghan troop
requests: a majority of Americans continued to see a rationale for the use of military
force in Afghanistan. A slight plurality of Americans favored troop
increases, with 42%–47% favoring some troop increases, 39%–44% wanting reduction, and
7–9% wanting no changes. Just 29% of Democrats favored troop increases
while 57% wanted to begin reducing troops. Only 36% of Americans approved of Obama’s
handling of Afghanistan, including 19% of Republicans, 31% of independents, and 54%
of Democrats.In a December 2009 Pew Research Center poll, only 32 percent of Americans
favored increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while 40 percent favored decreasing them. Almost half of Americans, 49 percent, believed
that the U.S. should “mind its own business” internationally and let other countries get
along the best they can. That figure was an increase from 30 percent
who said that in December 2002.An April 2011 Pew Research Center poll showed little change
in American views, with about 50% saying that the effort was going very well or fairly well
and only 44% supporting NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.===Protests, demonstrations and rallies===The war has been the subject of large protests
around the world starting with the large-scale demonstrations in the days leading up to the
invasion and every year since. Many protesters consider the bombing and invasion
of Afghanistan to be unjustified aggression. The deaths of Afghan civilians caused directly
and indirectly by the U.S. and NATO bombing campaigns is a major underlying focus of the
protests. In January 2009, Brave New Foundation launched
Rethink Afghanistan, a national campaign for non-violent solutions in Afghanistan built
around a documentary film by director and political activist Robert Greenwald. Dozens of organizations planned (and eventually
held) a national march for peace in Washington, D.C. on 20 March 2010.==Human rights abuses==Multiple accounts document human rights violations
in Afghanistan.===Taliban===
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIGRC) called the Taliban’s terrorism against
the Afghan civilian population a war crime. According to Amnesty International, the Taliban
commit war crimes by targeting civilians, including killing teachers, abducting aid
workers and burning school buildings. Amnesty International said that up to 756
civilians were killed in 2006 by bombs, mostly on roads or carried by suicide attackers belonging
to the Taliban.NATO has alleged that the Taliban have used civilians as human shields. As an example, NATO pointed to the victims
of NATO air strikes in Farah province in May 2009, during which the Afghan government claims
up to 150 civilians were killed. NATO stated it had evidence the Taliban forced
civilians into buildings likely to be targeted by NATO aircraft involved in the battle. A spokesman for the ISAF commander said: “This
was a deliberate plan by the Taliban to create a civilian casualty crisis. These were not human shields; these were human
sacrifices. We have intelligence that points to this.” according to the U.S. State Department, the
Taliban committed human rights violations against women in Afghanistan.===White phosphorus use===
White phosphorus has been condemned by human rights organizations as cruel and inhumane
because it causes severe burns. White phosphorus burns on the bodies of civilians
wounded in clashes near Bagram were confirmed. The U.S. claims at least 44 instances in which
militants have used white phosphorus in weapons or attacks. In May 2009, the U.S. confirmed that Western
military forces in Afghanistan use white phosphorus to illuminate targets or as an incendiary
to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment. U.S. forces used white phosphorus to screen
a retreat in the Battle of Ganjgal when regular smoke munitions were not available.===Human rights abuses against Afghan refugees
===Human rights abuses against Afghan refugees
and asylum seekers have been documented. This includes mistreatment of refugees who
lived in Iran, Pakistan, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, US, Europe, and other NATO members
countries. Afghan refugees in Iran, for example, were
not allowed attend public schools, “faced with restrictions on property ownership, freedom
of movement, and access to government services…bullying, and physical abuse accompany many Afghan children
throughout their adolescence…whether playing at recess or standing in line for bread at
the naanvai, they hear jeers like ‘Go back to your country,’ and ‘Dirty Afghan’ daily”,
denied participation in any form of elections, and legally restricted to take a handful of
minimum paid jobs, and frequent target of scapegoating. For the price of citizenship for their family
members, Afghan children as young as 14 were recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria for a
six-month tour.Afghan refugees were regularly denied visa to travel between countries to
visit their family members, faced long delays (usually a few years) in processing of their
visa applications to visit family members for purposes such as weddings, gravely ill
family member, burial ceremonies, and university graduation ceremonies; potentially violating
rights including free movement, right to family life and the right to an effective remedy. Racism, low wage jobs including below minimum
wage jobs, lower than inflation rate salary increases, were commonly practiced in Europe
and the Americas. Many Afghan refugees were not permitted to
visit their family members for a decade or two. Studies have shown abnormally high mental
health issues and suicide rates among Afghan refugees and their children living in the
west.==Environmental legacy==
Since 1979 landmines, shells, bombs, and other unexploded ordnance have been left behind. In 2015 the NATO’s International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) was replaced by the U.S.-led “Resolute Support” The director of
the Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA). ISAF stressed it had never used landmines.==See also====Footnotes

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