The United States, with support from the
United Kingdom invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001 as part of its "War
on Terrorism". The military campaign, led by U.S. general Tommy Franks,
was initially dubbed Operation Infinite Justice
but quickly renamed
, due to the perceived religious connotations of the
According to the US, the purpose of Operation Enduring Freedom was to
target Osama bin Laden, suspected of planning and funding the September
11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, and his terrorist network al-Qaida, as well
as and the Taliban government in Afghanistan which refused to unconditionally
extradite bin Laden and members of his organization. Many journalists have
reported that plans to attack al-Qaida and the Taliban had been made as
early as the Clinton administration, but bureaucratic wrangling had delayed
action until after the September 11 attack.
Before October 7, there were reports that U.S. and British special-forces
soldiers were covertly landed in Afghanistan at some time after September
11, presumably for reconnaisance purposes, and that several of these troops
were captured by the Taliban. As of October 1, all such reports had been
officially denied by the U.S., British, and Afghani governments.
At approximately 16:30 UTC (12:30 EDT, 17:00 local time) on Sunday October
7, 2001, US and British forces struck at the Taliban forces and those of
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan. The US government
justified these attacks as a response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist
Attack. The Taliban condemned these attacks and called them an 'attack
Strikes were reported over the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies
were severed), at the airport and military nerve-centre of Kandahar (home
of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and also at the city of Jalalabad
(military/terrorist training camps). Both US President George W. Bush and
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed their respective nations on the
subject. Bush confirmed the attacks on national television at 1 PM EDT.
He said that at the same time as Taliban military and terrorists' training
grounds would be targeted, food would be dropped because the Afghani people
were "friends" of the US.
A number of different technologies were employed in the strike. Air
Force general Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff,
stated that approximately 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched by British
and US submarines and ships, 15 strike aircraft from carriers and 25 bombers,
such as B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 Fighting Falcon
were involved in the first wave. Two C-17 Globemaster transport jets were
to deliver 37,500 daily rations by airdrop to refugees inside Afghanistan
on the first day of the attack.
A pre-recorded video tape of Osama bin Laden had been released before
the attack in which he condemned any attacks against Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera,
the Arabic satellite news channel, claimed that these tapes were received
shortly before the attack. In this recording bin Laden claimed that the
United States would fail in Afghanistan and then collapse, just as the
Soviet Union did, and called for a war of Muslims, a Jihad, against the
entire non-Muslim world.
Briefings by Washington defense officials indicated that the assaults
would continue for the foreseeable future, with long-range bombing missions
attacking Afghanistan from US and allied coalition soil.
On November 13, the Taliban began a massive military retreat and Taliban
members in the city of Jalalabad announced that they were handing power
over to a civilian administration and then withdrew from the city. The
Northern Alliance pushed into Kabul and killing six Arabs and Pakistanis
who attempted an ambush in the process, as Taliban forces retreated to
Chahar Asiab. In Nimroz Province, as the Taliban retreated, Karim Baravi,
the former governor, retook power.
In (March2002). fighting was renewed as coalition forces made a massive
push against about 500 to 1000 Al-Qaida and Taliban forces (many of whom
are with their families) in the Shahi-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains southeast
By March 6, eight Americans and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed
and about 400 opposing forces had also been killed in the fighting.
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Nature of coalition
The first wave of attacks was carried out solely by American and British
forces. On the second day, only American forces participated. In addition
to the United Kingdom, a number of other countries provided support which,
although undoubtedly of pratical value, is generally seen as primarily
a moral statement. In rough order of level of contribution, these were:
Canada: about 2,500 troops (mostly commandos), six ships and six aircraft.
Germany: Several thousand troops including special forces, naval vessels,
NBC cleanup teams.
Australia: about 300 SAS troops, air-to-air refueling tankers, Navy frigates,
two Orion electronic intelligence gathering aircraft, and F/A-18 fighter
aircraft for Diego Garcia.
Denmark: six F-16 fighters.
Norway: six F-16 fighters, logistic teams, mine clearance teams, and C-130
Bahrain: Naval vessels.
Japan, in its first military deployment since World War II, contributed
naval support for non-combat reinforcement of the operation.
Romania: 25 military police and a C-130 transport aircraft.
Note: this list is currently incomplete and almost certainly inaccurate
Despite reluctance in the Arab states towards retaliation against the al-Qaida
network in Afghanistan, the Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf has
offered support. Pakistan and Iran agreed to open borders to receive the
expected increased migration of refugees from Afghanistan. Pakistan has
traditionally supported the Taliban. Uzbekistan has allowed the U.S. to
place troops on the ground as well as use an airfield for humanitarian
The campaign is viewed on all fronts as an American initiative. The
American news media labeled the attacks as "America Attacks", "American
Strikes Back" or some such; the U.S. government repeatedly stated its willingness
to undertake the attacks unilaterally if necessary; the BBC referred to
a "confrontation between Afghanistan and the U.S."; the majority of the
forces are American; the entire campaign is unequivocally led by the U.S.;
the U.S. informed NATO of the attack but did not seek its consent.
Casualties and Accidental Strikes
On October 9, 2001, in a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, a United
Nations spokeswoman reported that a cruise missile had killed four U.N.
employees and injured four others in a building several miles east of Kabul.
The casualties were Afghans employed as security guards by the Afghan Technical
Consultancy, the U.N. demining agency (Afghanistan is the most heavily
mined country on the planet). The Taliban reported about 8 to 20 civilian
casualties, unconfirmed by independent sources.
On December 2, 2001, the Afghan village of Agam - located 15 km north
of the Tora Bora complex - was hit by stray US bombing. 18 people were
killed (mainly members of a single family) and many more seriously injured.
Other persons near the village are also killed or injured by US bombing
on or about this time.
On January 24, 2002, Green Beret commandos mistakingly raided a district
compound and a school in Oruzgan, believing there were Taliban inside.
However, the people they fought and killed (16, according to the Pentagon,
21, according to the Afghans) were interim-government soldiers collecting
material from former Taliban supporters.
In the school, about 24 Afghans were asleep when several dozen Green
Berets landed from helicopters and attacked. At least one Afghan returned
fire, some escaped, one was taken prisoner and the rest were killed, including
commanders Abdul Qadoos and Sana Gul, killed by grenade. In the compound,
about 50 Afghans were asleep when American forces landed and attacked,
killing two and taking 26 prisoners.
On March 2, 2002, Army Chief Warrant Officer Stanley L. Harriman, of
the Third Special Forces Group, was killed in an ambush along the road
from Gardez to the Shahi Kot Valley.
On March 4, 2002, Seven American Special Forces soldiers were killed
as they attempt to infiltrate the Shahi Kot Valley on a low-flying helicopter
reconnaissance mission. Around 3 a.m. local time a MH-47 Chinook helicopter
was hit by an rocket-propelled grenade, causing a soldier to fall out and
damaging a hydraulic line. The helicopter made an emergency landing a half-mile
A second helicopter on the mission picked up the first helicopter's
crew and flew to where the crew member had fallen. The soldiers soon came
under heavy fire, and six were killed. The remaining soldiers returned
fire and retrieved the bodies before returning to base.
On April 18, four Canadians soldiers were killed (Sgt. Marc Leger, Cpl.
Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith) and eight wounded
when an American F-16 fighter jet dropped a bomb during a training exercise
near Kandahar. These were the first Canadian soldiers to be killed in combat
since the Korean War. An American board of inquiry eventually placed the
blame on the pilot, who dropped the bomb without first receiving authorization.
On July 1, 2002, 48 people at a wedding party in a village in Oruzgan
province were killed, and a further 117 injured, in a bombing raid. The
name of the village is Del Rawad, though early reports gave its name as
Kakrakai or Kakrak. Gunfire meant to celebrate the wedding was apparently
mistaken by US military for hostile gunfire. A B-52 bomber and and AC 130
helicopter were both involved in the incident, which reportedly went on
for over an hour. The victims included many women and children. Some survivors
were treated in Mirwai Hospital in Kandahar, and at least four children
were treated at military hospitals in Bagram and Kandahar.
The incident resulted in a formal protest, and later a warning, from
the Afghan government. An anti-American rally was held in Kabul on July
5 as a protest against the incident. On July 3, US President George Bush
expressed "deep condolences for the loss of human life", and US authorities
later stated that the area affected by the bombing would be rebuilt. Several
inquiries into the incident were undertaken. According to The Times,
a preliminary UN report has stated that US forces arrived at the scene
of the bombing raid and removed vital evidence. However, this has been
dismissed as false by the Afghan government.
United States bombs have also struck a Kabul residential area and struck
near and damaged a military hospital (according to the U.N.) or an elderly
home (according to the Pentagon) in Herat.
By studying the available news reporting including Taliban reports,
Marc Herold came to the conclusion that 3767 civilians died because of
US bombs in Afghanistan between October 7 and December 7. Other inquiries
have listed only 300-400 civilians killed betweeen October 2001 and July
Meetings of various Afgan leaders were organised by the United Nations
and took place in Germany. The Taliban was not included. These meetings
produced an interim government and an agreement to allow a United Nations
peacekeeping force to enter Afghanistan.
It is estimated that in Afghanistan there are 1.5 million suffering from
immediate starvation, as well as 7.5 million suffering as a result of the
country's dire situation - the combination of civil war, drought-related
famine, and, to a large extent, the Taliban's oppressive regime.
In Pakistan, the United Nations and private humanitarian organisations
have begun gearing up for the massive humanitarian effort necessary in
addition to the already major refugee and food efforts. The United Nations
World Food Program temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan
at the beginning of the bombing attacks. The efforts have, as of early
(December2001), resumed with a daily distrubution rate of 3,000 tons a
day. It is however estimated that 30,000 tons of food will be needed by
(January2002) to provided sufficient relief to the impoverished masses.
By November 1, U.S. C-17s flying at 30,000 feet had dropped 1,000,000
food and medicine packets marked with an American flag. Doctors Without
Borders called it an act of transparent propaganda and said that using
medicines without medical consultation is much more likely to cause harm
than good. Action Against Hunger head of operations in Afghanistan Thomas
Gonnet said it was an "act of marketing". A further dangerous problem lies
in the fact that the food packets are bright yellow in color; the same
color as unexploded bomblets from U.S. cluster bombs. Some injuries and
damage to housing also occurred from boxes of relief supplies dropped from
A USAF C-17 Globemaster returns to base from a humanitarian drop:
Protests, demonstrations and rallies
Several small protest occurred in various cities and college campuses across
the United States and in other countries in the first days after the start
of the boming campaign. These were mainly peaceful but larger protests
and general strikes occurred in Pakistan, a previous Taliban ally. Some
of these were suppressed by police with causalties among the protesters.
In various Islamic nations, as well as in many "Western" industrialised
nations with no official state religion, protests and rallies of various
sizes against the attack on Afghanistan took place.
On October 7, there was a peace rally of ten to twelve thousand people
in New York City. They marched from Union Square to Times Square, cheering
the police at the beginning of the march. The list of about twelve speakers
was cut to three or four by the police, and they were herded at the end
into a one-lane-wide "bullpen". The New York Times buried their coverage
of the march on page B12 and, after the first couple of weeks of the campaign,
few protests occurred.
Many protesters felt that the attack on Afghanistan was unjustified
aggression and would lead to the deaths of many innocent people by preventing
humanitarian aid workers from bringing food into the country.
Misinformation and rumors
U.S. planned "terrorist" attack as pretext
Coded messages in Osama bin Laden tapes
These attacks are stated to be in response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist
Attack. However, many members of the Islamic community believe that there
was actually a conspiracy, and that the terrorist attacks were planned
as an artificial pretext for the American military action. Many Islamic
media organizations are disseminating these theories. See also September
11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Misinformation and rumors.
The U.S. government requested that national media not air or check with
the federal government first, before airing pre-recorded messages from
Osama bin Laden. The reasons they gave were that bin Laden may be sending
coded messages within the tapes, and that the airing of such propaganda
was inadvisable. The networks stated that they would review the tapes before
airing them. See also propaganda, steganography, First Amendment.
The executive branch, claiming secrets from a classified briefing were
leaked to the media (the actual story, involving a Washington Post article,
is more complicated), said that it would henceforth only brief eight members
of Congress on military exercises. As that is illegal, Congress objected
and the President backed off. White House officials did say that they would
reconsider the amount of information they would release in such briefings.
See also Watergate, Pentagon Papers, Freedom of Information Act.
Slogans and terms
Operation Enduring Freedom (US Government)
War on Terror (US Government)
Yahoo: "Allied Strikes"
CNN: "America Strikes Back", "America's New War"
MSNBC: "America Strikes Back"
ABC: "America Strikes" (AMERICA STRIKES in white bold italic sans-serif
above three horizontal red stripes which fade at edges on dark blue background)
NBC: "Taliban Attacked" ("Taliban ATTACKED" in yellow sans-serif)
New York Times: "America Attacks" & "A Nation Challenged"
2001 U.S. Attack on Afghanistan -- Timeline
See Also September
11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Timeline
External news sites and references
article from human rights organisation Global Exchange describes how
relatives of several September 11 victims were led on a tour of Afghanistan
in January 2002, and their reactions to what they saw.