Timeline of the United States’ intervention in Afghanistan
The United States invaded Afghanistan and its Taliban regime in 2001 in response to Al-9/11 Qaeda’s attacks, which sought refuge in the country.
With American and NATO soldiers almost completely withdrawing from Afghanistan after two decades of conflict, the following is a timeline of significant events:
On October 7, 2001, President George W. Bush initiates “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, less than a month after the September 11 attacks that killed around 3,000 people in the United States.
Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization, which carried out the 9/11 attacks, were being protected by the ruling Islamist Taliban.
The operation establishes a military front in the United States’ “war on terrorism” and within weeks, US-led forces depose the Taliban, who had ruled since 1996.
By November 2001, approximately 1,300 American forces are on the ground, increasing to over 10,000 the following year.
When US soldiers invade Iraq in March 2003 to depose dictator Saddam Hussein, American focus is diverted away from Afghanistan.
The Taliban and other Islamist groups regroup in their southern and eastern strongholds, from which they can easily travel to their bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas and launch an insurgency.
In 2008, the US command in Afghanistan requests more personnel. President Bush dispatches extra troops, bringing the total number of US forces deployed to 48,500.
In 2009, Barack Obama – elected president on a platform of ending the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts – increases the US presence to approximately 68,000. In December, he dispatches a further 30,000 troops.
The purpose is to hinder the Taliban insurgency’s growth and to bolster Afghan institutions.
By 2010, around 150,000 foreign forces, 100,000 of them are Americans, had been deployed to Afghanistan.
On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden is assassinated in Pakistan during a US special forces operation.
NATO’s combat engagement in Afghanistan concludes in December 2014.
However, some 12,500 foreign soldiers – 9,800 of whom are Americans – continue to train Afghan forces and execute counter-terrorist operations.
Afghanistan’s security situation deteriorates as the Taliban’s insurgency spreads, with a South Asian branch of the Islamic State (IS) group becoming active in 2015.
In August 2017, President Donald Trump abandons all timelines for the US withdrawal and commits thousands additional forces.
However, fatal attacks on Afghan forces continue to escalate. The US significantly increases its air strikes.
The next year, Washington and Taliban leaders secretly convene in Doha for negotiations chaired by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad aimed at reducing the US military presence in Afghanistan.
In exchange, Washington wants that the Taliban refrain from using the country as a safe haven for jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The United States and the Taliban will sign a historic pact on February 29, 2020.
It sets the door for the removal of all foreign soldiers from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for militants providing some security guarantees and agreeing to engage in peace discussions with the Afghan government.
On September 12, peace talks begin, but violence in Afghanistan erupts and negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government stagnate.
The Taliban have been accused of orchestrating a spate of targeted killings of prominent activists, lawmakers, journalists, and working women.
Troop numbers will decline to 2,500 by the conclusion of Trump’s administration in January 2021, as support for military action dwindles. NATO had approximately 10,000 service members in the country as of February, with the United States providing the largest force.
President Joe Biden states that he will adhere to the Taliban’s agreement, but would postpone the withdrawal date until September 11.
After the May 1 deadline is missed, violence erupts and the Taliban start a blistering attack, seizing a number of rural districts near major towns, igniting fears that Afghan security forces may collapse once US and international troops withdraw.
On June 2, officials announced the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, signaling the end of foreign forces in the country.
Bagram functioned as the pivot for US-led operations in Afghanistan, and Afghan troops’ ability to secure the facility is expected to be critical to sustaining security in neighboring Kabul and maintaining pressure on insurgents.
The Taliban applaud the latest move toward the withdrawal of Western soldiers.
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