US Leads Assault on Taliban in Afghanistan - History

US Leads Assault on Taliban in Afghanistan - History

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The US government demanded that Osama Bin Ladin and those who helped plan the 9/11 attacks be turned over to the US government. When the Taliban government of Afghanistan where he was hiding refused the US together with NATO invaded the country and forced the Taliban out of power at least in the major cities. The war has gone on to this day.

Osama Bin Laden had based his operations in Afghanistan since 1996. After the attacks on the Twin Towers and Washington DC by Al Queda, the UN Security Council issued a resolution demanding the Bin Lend be turned over to the United States. President Bush in his address to Congress on September 20th demanded that the Taliban who governed Afghanistan turn over the Al-Queada members who were in Afghanistan including Bin-Laden. When they refused the US together with members of NATO began a campaign to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan and capture members of Al-Qaeda. On October 7th NATO forces launched air assaults on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets.
US forces linked with members of the Northern Alliance who had been fighting the Taliban's for years. Initially, the Northern Alliance made a little progress against the Taliban despite repeated US and allied attacks on their positions. While little progress was made in most of October by the end of the month, Taliban front lines began to crumble against repeated and accurate air assaults. On November 9th Northern Alliance forces together with the support of US Special Forces captured the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The fall of Mazar-e-Sharif resulted in the near total collapse of Taliban forces. On November 12th Taliban forces evacuated Kabul, which was occupied the next day by the forces of the Northern Alliance. The TalibanÍs quickly lost the other cities of Afghanistan. On December 7th the last remaining Taliban stronghold Kandahar fell. Before it did the Taliban leader Mullah Omar escaped the city.
Meanwhile, the forces of Al Queda had retreated to the Toro Boro area, in the mountains along the Pakistani border. The US relied on local tribesman to attack the Al Quida positions there. By December 17th the last caves of Toro Boro had been overrun. Osama Bin Laden and the rest of the Al Queda leadership, however, were not to be found. They had escaped to Pakistan. Thus by the end of the year, the US had succeeded in supporting local Afghanistan forces with a UN mandate to overthrow the Taliban rule in the country. However, both the top leadership of Al Queda and the leadership of the Taliban escaped. In 2011 US special forces located Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and killed him. As of 2019, the war continues against the Taliban.

Hundreds Killed in Taliban Assault on Afghanistan's Strategic City, Gateway to the South

Afghanistan has deployed about 1,000 more troops to the embattled city of Ghazni, where more than 300 people have died in fighting since Friday, August 10.

The additional Afghan troops reached Ghazni on Monday as clashes between the Taliban and government forces continued. U.S. advisers and airstrikes are also supporting the government's effort to fend off the fighters.

"With the deployment of additional troops to the city, we have prevented the collapse of Ghazni province," Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said at a news conference.

The defense minister said that 194 Taliban militants and nearly 100 security forces had died, while 50 troops were missing. The official also said that 30 civilians had been killed in the fighting.

Ghazni lies along the strategic Kabul-Kandahar highway, a major road that leads to the country's capital, 90 miles away, and continues to Taliban-controlled territory in southern Afghanistan.

Officials denied the Taliban's claims that the militants had seized control of government buildings in the city, according to The New York Times.

Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in their homes in the city, and the United Nations has warned of deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

"Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment," a statement from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Afghanistan said. "According to sporadic reports from within the city, many families have reportedly taken shelter in their houses and are unable to leave their homes. Vital telecommunications networks and the electricity supply are down in the city of 270,000 people which has impacted on the water supply, and food is also reportedly running low."

Both Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell said that Taliban militants were attempting to hide among civilians.

Taliban forces hold vast areas surrounding the city, which would bolster the militants' strength if they managed to overtake the Ghazni.

"The insurgents have also taken over at least four more rural districts in the province, mostly without much of a fight," The New York Times reported. "By Monday, only two of the province's 18 rural districts were confirmed to be completely in government control. That raised the prospect that if the insurgents did fully take the city, they might also be in a position to control an entire province for the first time in the 17-year war in Afghanistan."

More than 111,000 people have died in Afghanistan between 2001 and mid-2016, according to an analysis by Boston University professor Neta Crawford.


The Shahi-Kot (which translates as the 'Place of the King') stretches 9 km in length and 5 km across at its widest point. It is composed of two distinct areas, the Lower and Upper Shahi-Kot which run roughly parallel to each other. In the Lower Shahikot several imposing mountains dominate the landscape chief among them is Takur Ghar at the southeastern end of the valley to the northeast is Tsapare Ghar, dominating the northern entrance to the valley. During the Soviet–Afghan War, Mujahideen leader Malawi Nasrullah Mansoor was in charge of the valley and invited foreign jihadists to base themselves in the Lower Shahikot. Mansoor fortified the valley, digging trench systems, building bunkers and firing positions into the ridgelines, many of which would be put to effect during the operation. [8] Malawi Nasrullah Mansoor later joined the Taliban, becoming governor of Paktia Province before being killed in a battle with a rival warlord. Using his family's connections in the region Nasrullah Mansoor's son, Saif-ur-Rehman Mansoor, became the leading Taliban commander of Zurmat District in Paktia Province by 2002. [9]

In February 2002, a Special Forces intelligence analyst working for Task Force Bowie began to identify patterns that led him to believe that surviving al-Qaeda forces were massing in the Lower Shahikot Valley, some 60 miles south of Gardez. The Lower Shahikot bordered the Pakistani tribal lands where many al-Qaeda fighters were believed to have escaped to from Tora Bora. Others within AFO and the CIA were making the same connection. [10] Increasing signals and human intelligence indicated a strong presence of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the Shahi-Kot Valley, approximately 150 to 200 fighters were believed to be wintering and possibly preparing for a spring offensive in the valley. The signal intelligence also raised the possibility that high-value targets (HVTs) were present in the valley among which were Jalaluddin Haqqani and Saif Rahman. In late January and February plans were drawn up to assault the Shahi-Kot Valley using Afghan military forces (AMF) advised and assisted by U.S. special operators. Major General Franklin L. Hagenbeck, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Mountain, was put in command of the operation. The plan called for an attack on the valley, along with units positioned in the mountains to the east to prevent escape into Pakistan. The expectation was that fighters, as in the case of Tora Bora several months earlier, would flee in the face of an assault and that blocker groups would simply be able to round them up. [11]

It was decided to use U.S. conventional infantry. The forces used, consisting of the 187th Infantry Regiment ("Rakkasans") of the 101st Airborne Division, led by Colonel Frank Wiercinski, and soldiers of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul LaCamera, were to be inserted by CH-47D Chinooks, supported by 6 AH-64A Apache helicopters and secure these blocking positions. [12] In keeping with established strategy in Afghanistan, fire support was to be provided by United States Air Force units, rather than artillery. Further air support was provided by U.S. Navy units and French Air Force Mirage 2000Ds. [13] The amount of conventional assets allowed in Afghanistan was limited by United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and civilian defense leadership. [6] The final plan foresaw two major forces: TF Hammer and TF Anvil. TF Hammer consisted of AMF and special operators as the primary effort to assault the Shahi-Kot Valley their objective was to enter the valley from the north, assaulting through the villages of Serkhankheyl and Marzak, where intelligence indicated that the enemy was concentrated, and channel fleeing enemy into the TF Rakkasan blocking positions. [14] TF Anvil consisted of TF Rakkasan and the 1-87 to set up blocking positions and prevent enemy forces from escaping. Special operations teams from the AFO detachment led by Lieutenant Colonel Pete Blaber were to provide on-location reconnaissance in the Shahi-Kot Valley for the operation.

The Afghans had successfully defeated the Soviet Army twice in this valley, and were expecting events to pan out in a similar fashion. [15]

The operation was composed of elements: Task Force Dagger: ODAs from the 5th SFG, B company, 2nd Battalion, 160th SOAR and Combat Tactical Air Controllers. AMF (Afghan Militia Forces): Commander Zia (Task Force Hammer), Kamil Khan and Zakim Khan (Task Force Anvil). Task Force Rakkasan: 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 1st and 2nd battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. Task Force Commando: 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Task Force 64: 1 Squadron, Australian Special Air Service Regiment. Task Force K-Bar: ODAs from the 3rd SFG. Task Force Bowie: AFO (made up of a 45-man reconnaissance unit Delta Force and augmented by selected DEVGRU operators recce specialists and supported by ISA's technical experts, AFO conducted covert reconnaissance usually sending small 2 or 3 man teams on foot or on ATVs, deploying observation posts to watch and report enemy movements and numbers as well as environmental reconnaissance). Task Force Sword/11: Mako 30, 31 and 21, Task Force Blue/DEVGRU. [16]

SOF teams from Task Force K-Bar and Task Force 64, which included: Navy SEALs from SEAL Teams 2, 3 and 8, Green Berets from 3rd SFG, The Canadian Army's Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), The German Army's Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), the Norwegian special forces units Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) and Marinejegerkommandoen (MJK), elements of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment and the New Zealand Special Air Service and the Danish special forces from Jægerkorpset. these teams inserted into the outer edges of the valley to cut off any escape. [17]

In the planning phase of the operation, the commander of Delta Force, LTC Pete Blaber ruled out any helicopter infiltration of AFOs into the area as not to alert the terrorists in the valley in addition to AFOs conducting reconnaissance of routes into and around the valley on modified Polaris ATVs (often in adverse weather conditions on difficult terrain), two teams (codenamed India and Juliet) with 3 and 5 operators (respectively) of highly experienced Delta operators from their squadrons Reconnaissance and Surveillance Troop climbed high into the mountains and gorges of the Shahikot, often in extreme weather conditions, to conduct environmental reconnaissance. Their vital intelligence was fed back to the AFO and would prove invaluable once the operation started. On February 28, on the eve of the operation, three AFO teams were covertly infiltrated into the valley, one codenamed Juliet was made up of 5 Delta operators with a signals intelligence specialist from the ISA, entered the valley on ATVs from the north, driving through the night in adverse weather conditions, eventually reaching a covert hide on the eastern side of the valley. Another team codenamed India, composed of three Delta operators and an attached ISA operator walked into the valley through the same conditions to a hide in the southwest of the valley, known as the "Fish Hook". The final team was known as Mako 31 and was composed of three SEALs from DEVGRUs Recce Squadron, a USAF Combat controller and a US Navy EOD operator. They infiltrated the area on foot via the southern edge of the valley to set up an observation post on a terrain feature known as 'The Finger.' All three teams were tasked with confirming enemy strengths and dispositions including antiaircraft emplacements, ensuring the designated Rakkasan HLZs were clear of obstructions and providing terminal guidance for air support both prior to and during the insertion of conventional forces. SOF teams from Task Force K-Bar and Task Force 64 also inserted into the valley to establish observation posts which according to US planners "had to be tenable, afford good reconnaissance, and cover the identified escape routes or 'rat lines' into Pakistan" [19]

1 March 2002 Edit

Near H-Hour, Mako 31 found a group of foreign fighters that had established a position and were manning a DShK HMG on the peak where they planned to set up an observation post. If the DShK was not disabled before then it could shootdown Chinooks carrying the conventional forces, the SEALs planned to ambush the enemy in the pre-dawn darkness before the Rakkasans flew into the valley. However they were spotted by an Uzbek insurgent and a brief firefight ensued, killing 5 out of 7 foreign fighters, as another insurgent joined the firefight by firing a PKM, the team broke contact and brought in an AC-130 which destroyed the enemy encampment with 105mm rounds. [20]

2 March 2002 Edit

Canadian and U.S. sniper teams and Afghan forces begin to sweep the Shahi-Kot valley area to root out rebel forces regrouping in the valley after the fall of the Taliban regime.

TF Hammer/TF Anvil Edit

The main body of TF Hammer reached its pre-assault point around 06:15 and waited for the expected "55 minute" aerial bombardment of enemy positions. [6] Miscommunication between Texas 14 and higher command meant the bombardment was not that extensive and consisted of six bombs. This was due to a bomb getting stuck in the launch bay of the B-1B that was on its bomb run. The next aircraft in line waited for the B-1B to receive permission to jettison the bomb and go round again. During this time, both bombers plus the additional two F-15E planes claimed to have received a "knock off" call directing them to cease the bombardment. One of the F-15E pilots later acknowledged that this may have been a communication directing Grim-31 to cease fire. This lack of air support demoralized the Afghans and frustrated the special forces. The Afghan fighters, in trucks, were devastated by mortar fire registered in advance to strike fixed points on the road. The Afghans suffered forty or more deaths and injuries. At this point it became clear that Al Qaeda fighters had been expecting an attack. TF Hammer's attack stalled short of entering the valley, due to unexpected heavy small arms and mortar fire, combined with the lack of expected close air support. These assets were tasked instead to the TF Anvil troops.

TF Rakkasan Edit

At 06:30 the first wave of Rakkasans and Mountain troops landed via Chinook helicopter along the eastern and northern edges of the valley to await the fleeing fighters at their assigned blocking positions. The terrorists appeared surprised and did not fire on the Chinooks, its possible that they were distracted by TF Hammer's advance or the ineffective communication between the foreign fighters themselves. The first shots rung out the infantry took up security positions around the HLZ as the Chinooks lifted off and departed. They came under fire almost immediately after landing on their way to their objectives, and remained pinned down by heavy mortar fire and locked in a fierce firefight throughout the day. Orbiting Apache helicopters attempted to suppress enemy mortar teams, but ran into a wall of RPG and 12.7mm fire, with one Apache losing all of its electronics to an RPG hit. Instead of 150-200 fighters in the valley as expected, post assessment held that the area contained 750 to 1,000 terrorists dug in on the high ground around the valley. The insurgents used their ZPU-1 antiaircraft guns, DSHK and small arms fire against the attack helicopters supporting the Rakkasans. [22]

The troops of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment in the southern landing zones (LZs) faced the heaviest fighting. The men on the floor of the valley then picked up and began to patrol north again moving another 50 or so meters when an RPG was fired off a low foothill to the east. This round closed in on around 10 men, including the two Australians and most of the American leadership, landing in the snow and mud right amongst them but failing to detonate. The AQ then opened up with a DShK as the troops on the ground ran for the only cover on the valley floor in what became known as "Hell's Halfpipe." The hot reception resulted in only two of the planned eight CH-47's landing in the LZ. [11] In this engagement, Staff Sergeant Andrzej Ropel, and Specialist William Geraci, recently transferred in from the Division's Long Range Surveillance Detachment, led the squad under fire to a ridgeline above the "Halfpipe." Ropel was able to kill the enemy observer calling mortar fire into the "Halfpipe," and he and his squad could now see the surrounding terrain. Ropel was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a Valor device for his actions. The expectation of very limited enemy indirect fire capability meant that only a single 120mm mortar was brought in the first wave. The primary fire support for the troops was provided by two McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apaches of the 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Aviation Brigade ("Eagle Attack"). The Apaches destroyed some enemy positions harassing the U.S. and Afghan troops, however the insurgents began intentionally firing their RPG rockets into the air so that when they automatically detonate at 920m to catch the helicopters in flak bursts (a tactic learned in the Soviet-Afghan War). The two Apaches were damaged early on in the day, one Apache was forced to return to base when an RPG destroyed its left-side Hellfire mount sending shrapnel through the airframe as well as being peppered by small arms, further RPG rounds and DShK rounds (one DShK round penetrated the cockpit narrowly missing the pilots). [23]

Despite heavy opposition, Task Force Rakkasan managed to secure its blocking positions to the north by the middle of the morning. TF Rakkasan and TF Hammer fought all day with the AFO teams calling in continuous airstrikes on al-Qaeda positions while Apaches protected the Rakkasans on the valley floor. AFO's only frustration was that Rakkasan ETAC/JTAC had priority for calling in airstrikes over the AFOs requests and the other SOF reconnaissance teams in and around the valley. [24] Signalman Martin "Jock" Wallace, of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions during the fighting. When a mortar team from the 1-87 Infantry was hit by enemy mortar fire, Wallace put himself in harm's way, collecting some of the wounded by dragging them into the creek bed, then dressing their wounds along with another SASR liaison officer. Throughout the day, the TACP forward air controllers and Special Forces teams that had infiltrated into the area the previous day assisted in calling in airstrikes from B-1, B-52, F-15, F-18 and F-16 aircraft, inflicting heavy casualties on the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, but by no means silencing them. After nearly having their position overrun, the men in the southern LZs were in a desperate position, pinned down all day and short of ammunition. Salvation came after dark in the form of an AC-130U Spooky gunship that unlike the faster-moving jets during the day, was able to loiter over the area and provide sustained firepower so the men could be airlifted out under cover of darkness the group suffered 35 wounded (two chalks of which were casevaced by PaveHawk CSAR choppers) and none killed. [25]

3 March and 4 March 2002 Edit

Battle of Takur Ghar Edit

In the late evening of 3 March, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Blaber received notice from Brigadier General Gregory Trebon, commander of TF 11, that two SEAL fire teams commanded by Lieutenant Commander Vic Hyder were to be inserted into the Shahi-Kot Valley. The two SEAL fire teams, Mako 30 and Mako 21, planned to establish an observation point on either end of the valley. One team would move to the peak of Takur Ghar, which commanded the southern approach to the Shahi-Kot valley. Due to time constraints, a helicopter insertion would be needed for the teams to reach the peak before dawn. LCDR Hyder requested authorization to shift the insertion 24 hours to the next evening but was directed that insertion was critical to SOF providing support to the Operation. Originally, an insertion point 1,400 metres (1,500 yd) east of the peak was identified, but due to uncontrollable time constraints, the SEALs of Mako 30 were forced into an insertion to the peak itself. Even though all overhead imagery showed no signs of life on the peak of Takur Ghar, LCDR Hyder gave the team final guidance per SOP that if any signs were seen, mission would be aborted.

The SEAL fire team, Mako 30, was picked up by an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, at 23:23 on 3 March. However, the Chinook experienced engine difficulties, and new MH-47s were dispatched to replace the original helicopters. This delay meant that the SEALs could not be inserted into the LZ east of the peak until 02:30 on 4 March, which did not allow enough time to reach the peak before daylight. Blaber was notified that the SEALs were forced to insert on the peak in order to fulfill the order to infil Mako 30 that night. Nail 22, an AC-130H Spectre, reconnoitered the peak, and, seeing no enemy activity, declared the mountain top secure. It was then called away to support other troops before the Chinook arrived.

At approximately 03:00, the Chinook attempted to land atop the mountain. As they approached, the pilots and SEALs observed tracks in the snow and other signs of recent human activity. As they discussed a possible mission abort, the helicopter was met with effective RPG fire. Two Rocket Propelled Grenades slammed into the helicopter, shutting down one of its engines, the electric system, and the hydraulic systems and causing Petty Officer First Class Neil C. Roberts to fall out of the open ramp. Razor 03 attempted to return and retrieve him, but the damage prevented proper control and the helicopter was forced to crash-land in the valley below, approximately 4 miles away. Razor 04 returned to the peak in an attempt to rescue Roberts, offloading Mako 30. The team came under immediate fire, and Air Force combat controller Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman was seriously injured, along with two Navy SEALs. Mako 30 was forced off the peak due to the heavy fire and damage done. The Ranger quick-reaction force located at Bagram Air Base and led by Captain Nate Self, was called in to search for the SEAL who fell out of the helicopter, now alone on top of the mountain.

Around this time command decided to change the frequencies for satellite radio communications which different units, including the AFO teams in their reconnaissance positions, were relying on to conduct and adapt the mission as the battle unfolded. One of the generals in overall charge of the events at Takur Ghar ordered the radio frequencies switched to prevent the plan being modified. [ citation needed ] Though the change may have been meant to enhance direct control of the rescue of the downed SEAL atop Takur Ghar, it had the critical effect of severely limiting communications between the different teams participating in the battle.

The SEAL team Mako 30, regrouped and was ferried by nearby units to a CH-47 to go back to Takur Ghar and search for Roberts. The AC-130 was then directed to attack the large groupings of enemy combatants currently exposed on top of the mountain, one to three minutes before the Mako 30 was scheduled to arrive. As the CH-47 neared their return, the AC-130 radioed on the new satellite frequency for confirmation to fire. They were unable to get a clear answer from the officer they reached and also were unable to connect with the AFO teams. As a result, they did not fire and the CH-47 made an entry similar to the first, this time successfully landing the team on the ground amidst heavy machine gun and rocket fire while taking some casualties. They were able to establish communications via a line-of-sight radio with the teams of the AFO positioned around the Takur Ghar, taking advantage of the AFO's knowledge of enemy movements in real time.

At approximately 06:10, Razor 01 reached the landing zone. The aircraft immediately began taking fire, and the right door minigunner, Sergeant Phillip Svitak, was killed by small arms fire. Drone footage of the incident shows the mortally wounded Technical Sargent John A. Chapman drawing fire away from Razor 01 as it landed. This action earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. A rocket-propelled grenade then hit the helicopter, destroying the right engine and forcing it to crash land. As the Rangers and special tactics team exited the aircraft, Private First Class Matt Commons, posthumously promoted to Corporal, Sergeant Brad Crose, and Specialist Marc Anderson were killed. The surviving crew and quick-reaction force took cover in a hillock and a fierce firefight began. Razor 02, which had been diverted to Gardez as Razor 01 was landing on Takur Ghar, returned with the rest of the quick-reaction force and Lieutenant Commander Hyder at 06:25. With the help of the new arrivals and close air support, the force was able to consolidate its position on the peak. The QRF's Chalk 2 moved up the mountain to assist Chalk 1. While air force jets provided suppressive fire on the mountain top with individual gun runs since Mako 30 was less than 100 metres (110 yd) north of the peak and Chalk 1 with its downed MH-47 was less than 100 m south of the peak. Hyder saw the need to assist Mako 21 who at that time had two dead and two injured, one of them non-ambulatory. It was obvious from this viewpoint that the proximity of friendly forces to the enemy positions was preventing sufficient suppressive firepower from being used due to danger close distance to both Mako 30 and QRF chalk 1. Hyder directed the Chalk 2 leader to continue mission up the mountain and moved, alone, to link up with Mako 21 in order to assist that team's movement away from the peak thereby creating a better situation for air assets to support by fire. An enemy counterattack midday mortally wounded Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, a pararescueman. The wounded were refused medevac during the daylight hours, due to risk of another downed helicopter. Mako 30 and Lt. Cmdr. Hyder moved down the mountain with their wounded. Through threat of nearby enemy response elements, hypothermia and shock of wounded personnel, and across nearly 30" of snow in extreme terrain, Mako 21 found a site suitable for an MH-47. The SEAL team set up defenses, attempted to warm the wounded, and waited for dark when a recovery would be attempted.

Australian SASR soldiers had infiltrated the area prior to the first helicopter crash undetected as part of a long range reconnaissance mission when the Chinooks went down. They remained undetected in an observation post through the firefight and proved critical in co-ordinating multiple Coalition air strikes to prevent the al-Qaeda fighters from overrunning the downed aircraft, to devastating effect. This, plus the actions of the two SASR officers working with the 10th Mountain Division, earned the commander of the Australian SASR force in Afghanistan the US Bronze Star for his unit's outstanding contribution to the war on terrorism. Australian soldiers had utilised 'virtual reality' style software for mission rehearsal prior to insertion, and this contributed significantly to their situational awareness in the darkness and poor weather conditions. This was the first time this capability had been used for a live combat mission.

At around 20:00, the quick-reaction force and Mako 30/21 were exfiltrated from the Takur Ghar peak. As a result of this action, both Technical Sergeant Chapman and Senior Airman Cunningham were awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest award for bravery. US and Afghan sources believe at least 200 Taliban and Al Qaida fighters were killed during the initial assault and subsequent rescue mission.

Also on March 4, 2nd Battalion of the Rakkasans air assaulted into the eastern end of the valley, immediately attacking the heights under Apache cover. Meanwhile, the 3rd battalion were dropped into the northern end of the valley with the objective of linking up with the stranded forces at the blocking positions. Supported by 16 Apaches, 5 USMC Cobras helicopters and several A-10A ground attack aircraft the Rakkasans methodically cleared an estimated 130 caves, 22 bunkers and 40 buildings to finally secure the valley. [26]

Fate of Roberts Edit

It is not certain whether the sailor died immediately or was killed by opposing soldiers. There is a possibility that Roberts was captured by the al Qaeda fighters, and executed later with a single shot to the back of the head (One of the feeds showed a group of 8-10 fighters huddling around what appeared to be a body both GRIM 32 and MAKO 30 noted that an IR strobe was active, a video feed showed the fighters passing the IR strobe around). [27] This report has not been confirmed. Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck did confirm that al-Qaeda fighters were seen (on live video feed from a Predator drone orbiting the firefight) chasing Roberts, and later dragging his body away from the spot where he fell. Another feed from the same Predator showed a puff of heat [from a rifle] and the indistinct figure in front of it fall. [28] Also, the quick-reaction soldiers reported fighters wearing Robert's gear and finding "a helmet with a bullet hole in it, [from which] it was clear the last person [Roberts] to wear it had been shot in the head." [6] Predator drone footage also shows the possibility that TSgt. John Chapman was alive and fighting on the peak after the SEALs left rather than being killed outright as thought by Mako 30. Chapman was seen fighting in a bunker against multiple enemies before stepping into the open and braving enemy small arms fire one last time to allow the QRF helicopter a bit of breathing room. [6]

A paper written by Col. Andrew Milani (Former commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment) and Dr. Stephen D. Biddle entitled "Pitfalls of Technology: A Case Study of the battle of Takur Ghar" noted that the Predator was on station 90 minutes after Roberts had fallen the images that were shot before the Predator had arrived were shot by GRIM-32's Infrared Cameras. [29] although this has not been confirmed by commanders.

10 March 2002 Edit

Major Bryan Hilferty states that the "major battle ended three or four days ago." The U.S. sends 400 of its troops back to base.

12 March 2002 Edit

The exhausted Rakkasans were replaced by fresh elements from the 10th Mountain Division, who continued to clear the southern end of the Shahikot. AFO teams launched further Recce teams into the nearby Naka Valley, hunting for al-Qaeda terrorists that had escaped but did not find anything. [3] By this day, following heavy bombing by U.S. strike fighter aircraft, joint U.S. and Afghan forces swept through the valley and cleared it of remaining rebel forces, with little significant combat by 18 March. A total of 8 U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen were killed and 82 wounded, along with several Afghan militiamen U.S. estimates of other casualties vary, indicating rebel casualties between 500 and 800 and at least 14 civilian casualties. An undetermined number of rebels are said to have escaped the fighting through rugged terrain.

17 March 2002 Edit

Task Force 11 received time-sensitive intelligence that a possible HVT was travelling within a convoy of al-Qaeda fighters who were attempting to escape by vehicle from Shahikot into Pakistan. A Predator UAV had the convoy under surveillance, showing 3 SUVs, a pickup truck and a large security element of gunman. TF 11 element assigned the mission included SEAL operators from DEVGRU (commanded by the SEAL who led the Mako 30 mission on Takur Ghar) and attached British SBS operator to conduct the vehicle stop, with a mixed force of Rangers as back up. The operators and an assigned CSAR team boarded 3 MH-47Es while the Rangers climbed aboard a pair of MH-60G Blackhawks, launching from Bagram in the early morning. The MH-47Es carrying the SEALs caught up to their targets: the lead Chinook landed in front of the convoy, as the occupants leapt out of their vehicles the door gunner hosed the vehicles down with his minigun, cutting down a number of al-Qaeda terrorists the second Chinook overshot the column and raked it with minigun fire as it passed. The TF 11 operators added their firepower. Two Chinooks then landed their passengers in cover nearby and the operators took up positions overlooking the convoy. Both teams of SEAL operators now opened fire down on the enemy fighters in a crossfire and the third Chinook landed its operators nearby to investigate a suspicious looking vehicle. the firefight was over in minutes of the 18 al-Qaeda fighters 16 were killed, 2 were seriously wounded, they received medical attention and were detained. The fighters were a mix of Uzbeks, Chechens and Afghan Arabs and were well equipped, the operators recovered a lot of US military equipment: a US-made suppressor, a number of US fragmentation grenades issued to TF 11 and a Garmin handheld GPS, later traced to the crew of Razor 01. [30] [31]

18 March 2002 Edit

General Tommy Franks declares Operation Anaconda over, later describing it "an unqualified and complete success." [32] Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh refuted the official account, describing it as "in fact a debacle, plagued by squabbling between the services, bad military planning and avoidable deaths of American soldiers, as well as the escape of key al-Qaeda leaders, likely including Osama bin Laden." [33]

The operation ran into problems from the outset. American Forces mistakenly landed in the middle of the valley, instead of the outside and were immediately caught in the Taliban's kill zone. In the heavy fire fight that followed two Chinooks were shot down and a number of others were severely damaged. American forces eventually gained the upper hand, inflicting heavy casualties on the Taliban forces and pushing them out of the valley.

At the end of Operation Anaconda, the US and Afghan forces had succeeded at removing the majority of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban presence from the Shahi-Kot Valley. The US forces suffered 80 casualties in the operation, with 8 killed and 72 wounded. An undetermined number of Afghan fighters were also killed in the Operation Anaconda. [2] Estimates of Al-Qaeda and Taliban casualties range from 100 to 1,000, with U.S. commanders favoring the higher estimates and Afghan commanders favoring the lower estimates.

Security expert Bill Roggio argued that al-Qaeda "took a beating during the battle, [but] they were by no means defeated". [9]

In the wake of Operation Anaconda, relations between US and UK forces on the ground soured when Stars and Stripes, the magazine for American forces and their families, openly criticized the Royal Marines for returning "empty-handed" from their search for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters claiming that Britain's contribution to the campaign was "disappointing." [ citation needed ] Relations were further soured with reports from a number of publications that Osama bin Laden might have escaped due to a substantial delay from the original H-hour of the deployment of American Forces.

Stephen Biddle has characterized Operation Anaconda as a "series of surprisingly orthodox ground battles." [34] He rejects the popular characterization of the operation as a guerilla war. [34]

Long-distance sniper record Edit

The record for the longest combat kill by a sniper was set during Operation Anaconda by Canadian Army sniper Corporal Rob Furlong of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and held for seven years until surpassed in 2009. Using a McMillan TAC-50 .50-calibre rifle, Furlong killed a Taliban fighter armed with an RPK machine gun at a confirmed distance of 2,430 metres (1.51 miles). [35] The previous record of 2,310 metres (7,580 ft) was set a few days before by his teammate Arron Perry, also of the 3rd Battalion PPCLI.

The five-man team, including MCpl Graham Ragsdale, MCpl Tim McMeekin, MCpl Arron Perry, Cpl Dennis Eason, and Cpl Rob Furlong, killed over 20 enemy fighters during the operation and were awarded Bronze Star medals by the United States for their service.

Reverse side of the operation Edit

Operation Anaconda was also met with criticism. According to an interview [36] of some soldiers of the German Special Forces KSK, the post-operation briefing was broken down by an argument between the KSK soldiers and U.S. soldiers. The cause of the conflict is said to have been the complaint of some U.S. soldiers that the KSK soldiers had only changed their position when a shepherd stumbled into their hideout instead of killing him. "Use your silenced gun, then move on." [36]

"The U.S. soldiers would in fact eliminate such 'threats,' says a former KSK officer. (. ) The Germans are quoted to have witnessed U.S. Forces flattening entire villages during Operation Anaconda: 'Let's go, free to pillage' (. ). A former KSK commander is quoted in the German magazine Stern to have said: 'The pictures of Abu Ghraib, the torture in Iraqi prison camps, did absolutely not surprise me.' [36]

Aftermath Edit

By July the tactical-level units from the 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Airborne Division, including TF Rakkasan, had all departed Afghanistan the CTF Mountain headquarters staff followed in early September. [37] They were replaced by CTF 82, formed from the headquarters of the 82d Airborne Division and led by the division's commander, Major General John R. Vines. CTF 82's headquarters was at Bagram Airfield, and Vines based TF Panther, his primary maneuver element, at the Kandahar Airfield. TF Panther was under the command of Colonel James L. Huggins and had two infantry battalions from the 3d Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division and one attached infantry battalion from the division's 1st Brigade. Huggins also had support from artillery, aviation, military intelligence, and other units. TF Panther deployed to Afghanistan in late June 2002 and would serve under CTF 82 until 5 December 2002. At that point TF Devil, a unit formed around the 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division arrived to take the lead in tactical-level security operations.

The Taliban subsequently portrayed the operation as a "historical battle" and a "beginning of the sacred jihad against the occupation of Afghanistan", praising Saifur Rehman Mansoor's leadership. The battle and Mansoor (who was killed in 2008) were eulogized by the Taliban's official website, Voice of Jihad, on 7 March 2021. [9]

U.S. military promises huge assault on Taliban in Afghanistan

The U.S. Marines and Afghan army plan a massive assault on Taliban fighters in Marja, the last community under Taliban control in a sprawling, lawless region of Afghanistan once dominated by the insurgency, a top Marine said Wednesday.

“We are going to gain control,” Col. George “Slam” Amland told reporters. “We are going to alter the ecosystem considerably.”

Amland, deputy commander of Marine forces in southern Afghanistan, would not discuss the timing of the assault or how many thousands of troops would be involved.

Amland said the assault would involve Marine units that are part of a troop buildup authorized by President Obama in December. The assault also will show how the Afghan army was growing in numbers and competency, he predicted.

“This is a big leap for the government of Afghanistan,” he said.

Marine and NATO leaders want Helmand province to be a showpiece of the “clear, hold, build and transition” counterinsurgency strategy, in which Taliban fighters are forced out of a region and then a “civilian surge” begins to rebuild war-ravaged communities and bolster confidence among Afghan villagers in their provincial and national governments.

Where once the Taliban controlled nearly all communities of the Helmand River valley, Amland said, by summer there will be no place for Taliban to hide except in mountainous regions with sparse populations.

While the military part of the operation is the most dramatic, the actions of U.S. civilian employees, including from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Agriculture Department, will be even more significant, he said. The Afghan government is ready to install local officials to begin reopening schools and clinics and polling residents about what they want their government to do.

The goal, Amland said, is to spread to Marja the “kinds of success” seen in other communities once the Taliban was ousted. In the Nawa district of the province, for example, the marketplace reopened, irrigation-canal-clearing projects started, and a local community council was established once the Taliban fled.

Starting in June, battalions of Marines swept into Helmand, pushing Taliban fighters away from other communities. Hundreds, maybe thousands, fled to Marja, which the Marines opted not to enter. Last year, the Afghan army’s presence was limited and its effectiveness doubtful.

Marja, with a population estimated at 85,000, has been a “sore” hampering U.S. and Afghan efforts in the province, Amland said. From Marja, the Taliban has built roadside bombs, plotted assassinations and controlled the illicit poppy crop, which provides 60% of the world’s heroin and funnels profits into the Taliban insurgency.

By ousting the Taliban from Marja, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials hope to persuade rank-and-file, non-jihadist fighters -- what Amland called “lunch-bucket $5-a-day Taliban” -- to quit fighting and decide to see if the Afghan government can provide a better life for its citizens.

In the interim, the U.S. plans a “cash-for-work” plan to give jobs to the unemployed of Helmand province, including young men who may have joined the Taliban as an economic necessity.

Although the assault will be sizable in scale, Amland said, it is the kind of mission for which Marines continuously train.

“It’s nothing we haven’t done before,” he said. “It’s nothing we won’t do again in the future.”

We Cannot Afford to Turn Our Backs on Afghanistan

Mr. Gates served as secretary of defense for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2011.

Within a few weeks, the last U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan, ending a military engagement that began 20 years ago this October. More than 2,300 of our finest have been killed, and more than 20,000 were wounded. More than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians have died as a direct result of the war. We have spent much blood and much treasure.

Most Americans just want to close this painful chapter, but we cannot completely abandon Afghanistan. It would be a disservice to our troops, to our Afghan partners and, most important, it would not be in the U.S. national interest.

It may be hard to remember now, but it took just two months in late 2001 for the United States to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan and rout Al Qaeda in one of the shortest military campaigns in American history. On the diplomatic front, the Bonn Agreement in December 2001 forged consensus among Afghan factions and international parties on the formation of an interim government in Kabul. It called for the establishment of a “broad-based, gender-sensitive, multiethnic and fully representative government” that avoided corruption and placed armed groups under government control.

With such ambitious goals, the seeds of unending war had already been sown.

To understand this, keep in mind our early years in Afghanistan. There was a hard-nosed aspect to the Bush administration’s determination to remain engaged there. As Mr. Bush’s national security adviser Steve Hadley later told me, there was a strong belief in the administration that the power vacuum in Afghanistan after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989 created the conditions for civil war and then for the Taliban taking power. The administration thought that if the United States left Afghanistan after ousting the Taliban, that would probably lead again to a vacuum and the return of the extremists. The difference was that, in contrast to the early 1990s, at the end of 2001 there was agreement among Afghan factions and the international community on the path forward.

The passage of time has obscured the fact that things actually went pretty well in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2005. Schools were opened to girls, women participated in both businesses and the political process, and a relatively free and open media quickly emerged. Levels of violence throughout the country were relatively low, and conditions improved to the point that many refugees returned home.

The United States failed to see, however, that the Taliban, in the years after their expulsion in 2001, had gathered in Pakistan and reconstituted their military forces. They began to infiltrate back into eastern and southern Afghanistan — unhindered, and probably helped, by the Pakistanis. The level of violence increased steadily in 2005 and 2006, a trend worsened dramatically by a deal made by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan with Pakistani tribal leaders in the fall of 2006. It essentially gave the Taliban safe haven in Pakistan.

Even as the United States, allied and Afghan forces tried to deal with the deteriorating security situation — which included the deployment of ever larger numbers of troops between 2007 and 2010 — the corruption, incompetence and infighting among officials in Kabul, the provinces and the districts left many ordinary Afghans indifferent, or hostile, to the government. The massive influx of U.S. dollars for assistance programs, construction and contractors, together with the deeply rooted and extensive narcotics trade, turbocharged corruption.

It even extended to Afghan security forces: Promotions were for sale, officers stole troops’ wages and weapons appeared on the black market. Of course, many Afghan soldiers fought courageously to protect their country from the Taliban. But for many other Afghan soldiers, there was simply little motivation.

In late 2009, when President Barack Obama announced the surge in forces that would eventually give way to a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan, I believed — and told our commanders — that if, after five years (and with 100,000 U.S. troops), we couldn’t get Afghan military effectiveness to the point where they could defend the country against the Taliban, we probably never could.

U.S. troops carried out virtually every military mission they were given. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines overall fulfilled their duty with courage, skill and honor. We must never forget what they sacrificed — and what they accomplished. They ousted the Taliban and ultimately killed Osama bin Laden. The Taliban may now be resurging, but let’s not forget that since 2001 there has not been another large-scale foreign terrorist attack on the United States. Afghans have also continued to hold elections (though flawed) since 2004. Afghan men continue to enlist in the army and police to fight the Taliban (though many are driven to do so by financial needs). Afghan girls were allowed to get an education and women could participate in public life.

There is little doubt the United States made strategic mistakes in Afghanistan. We vastly underestimated the challenge of changing an ancient culture and of nation building in a historically highly decentralized country. We never figured out what to do about the Taliban safe haven in Pakistan. We developed an Afghan military that was largely modeled on our own, with heavy dependence on sophisticated logistics and equipment that the Afghan government is unlikely to be able to sustain without us.

President Obama, President Donald Trump and President Biden all wanted to bring American troops back home. They reflect the sentiment of most Americans, who want to put this war behind us.

But presidents also have to consider long-term consequences, and the geostrategic realities are such that even though our military forces are leaving, we cannot turn our backs on Afghanistan. Nor can NATO, which is also winding down its presence there. (President Biden is scheduled to meet with alliance leaders on Monday.) Meanwhile, Taliban forces are on the offensive in the countryside and are raising the level of violence in and around the major cities. Those forces are making steady headway, even with the presence of 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops the situation doubtless will worsen when the U.S. troops are gone. Despite ongoing negotiations, I do not believe the Taliban will settle for a partial victory or for participation in a coalition government. They want total control, and they still maintain ties with Al Qaeda. Once in power, they may well turn to China for recognition and help, giving Beijing access to their country’s mineral resources and allowing Afghanistan to become another Belt-and-Road link to Iran.

Some observers contend that the Taliban, if they regain power, will moderate their policies and ideology in order to gain international recognition and economic assistance. However, the Taliban may be able to obtain both from China and other autocratic nations without tempering the harshness of their rule. And why should we assume they will no longer harbor Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that seek to target those — above all, the United States — that ousted them from power and have been fighting them for 20 years.

Considering the consequences of a Taliban victory and despite the popular desire to close the books on this war, we must continue to provide robust economic and multifaceted security assistance to the Afghan government and its people. Militarily, we should encourage the Afghan government to retain or engage contractor support for the Afghan Air Force and other key logistical and operational elements of the Afghan security forces — and we should pay for that support (including private security to protect those contractors). U.S. airstrikes from distant bases might delay Taliban advances on the ground, but they cannot stop them. Only the Afghan government forces can do that. Politically, we should use the new urgency of the Taliban threat to press for the formation of a strong National Unity government including all parties and factions (except the Taliban) and for a reform program covering Afghanistan’s security, economy and politics.

Economically, we could establish an international Afghan development fund conditioned on reform or on a peace agreement that includes basic rights for women and a disavowal of terrorists. And we must support in every way that we can those Afghans (such as interpreters) who helped our troops and our embassy, at great risk to themselves and their families.

The outcome in Afghanistan still matters in terms of American interests. We turned our backs on Afghanistan after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989 we must not do so again after the last of our troops depart. We must assure the Afghans of our continuing support — and sustain that support — through every means available short of ground troops. The consequences of another Taliban takeover in Kabul would not be limited to the people of Afghanistan.

Violence Flares in Afghanistan Following Eid Cease-Fire

Violence exploded across Afghanistan when a three-day cease-fire for the Muslim holiday of Eid expired Saturday night. No Americans were reported to be involved in the fighting, but clashes between the Taliban and Afghan government forces were reported in at least 15 of the country’s 34 provinces.

According to TOLO News, some of the heaviest fighting was centered around Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

“The fighting started early [Sunday] morning and is still ongoing,” Attaullah Afghan, head of the Helmand provincial council, told Agence France-Presse. The Eid truce, surrounding a celebration marking the end of Ramadan, expired as Saturday ended.

According to Deutsche Welle, the three-day Eid cease-fire was only the fourth such agreement in nearly 20 years of conflict in the country. Initially proposed by the Taliban, the cease-fire was quickly agreed to by the Afghan government.

In Helmand, Afghan, the council head, told the AFP that Taliban fighters were attacking government-run checkpoints around the outskirts of Lashkar Gah and other districts within the province. At the same time, an Afghan army spokesman, speaking to AFP, confirmed the fighting had resumed.

No new casualty statistics have been released by the Afghan government. However, according to Deutsche Welle, officials from the Helmand regional government are claiming that 21 Taliban fighters were killed.

According to Voice of America, the truce itself largely held across the country, as there were no reports of Taliban attacks on the Afghan government over its duration. However, the Islamic State group did claim responsibility for a Friday attack in Kabul. According to Deutsche Welle, the bombing killed 12 worshippers and a prayer leader during a service celebrating Ramadan. Additionally, Islamic State affiliates in the country claim to have destroyed electrical substations across several Afghan provinces during recent weeks. The Islamic State group was not a party to the ceasefire agreement.

As the truce expires, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, cautioned that there is an expectation for increased violence around the country.

“We’re watching closely what the Taliban will do post the Eid ceasefire,” TOLO News reports Miller saying in an interview with the BBC. “Ideally, they would continue with the reduced violence because it is something that the Afghan people want. But the expectation is that they will pick up violence in the nearer term.”

While violence has resumed across Afghanistan, there is a sliver of hope for renewing a stalled Afghan peace process. In a surprise turn of events, Deutsche Welle reported, negotiators from the Taliban and Afghan government met over the weekend in Doha, Qatar, to speed up peace talks between the two parties.

In a tweet, a Taliban spokesman said, “Besides Eid greetings, the two sides discussed the status quo and the speeding up of the intra-Afghan negotiations. They emphasized to continue negotiations after Eid.”

Today, some members of the two teams of the intra-Afghan negotiations had a meeting which was also attended by the Deputy-Amir for Political Affairs,IEA and Head of the Political Office, Mullah Bradar Akhund. Besides Eid greetings, the two sides discussed the status quo

&mdash Suhail Shaheen. محمد سهیل شاهین (@suhailshaheen1) May 14, 2021

This move comes after an announcement last month by the Taliban that they would not participate in any peace negotiations until US troops are removed from Afghanistan. The Taliban decision to break off negotiations, according to Arab News, was a result of Biden’s announcement that US troops would be leaving Afghanistan by September, rather than the May 1 date agreed in the Doha agreement brokered by the Trump administration.

“This is our stance: until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, the Islamic Emirate will not participate in any conference that shall make a decision on Afghanistan,” Dr. Mohammad Naeem, the group’s Qatar-based spokesman, told Arab News on April 15, using the Taliban term for their government.

The Taliban’s decision to break off peace negotiations resulted in a postponement of a proposed April 24 UN-backed summit in Istanbul.

However, according to TOLO News, that meeting may be back on.

“I think that this will open the way for an Istanbul conference where the Taliban will attend,” Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander, told TOLO News.

Smoke billows from a building during an attack by Taliban militants on a compound housing an international aid organisation in Kabul

Taliban militants stormed a US-funded aid group's central Kabul compound Tuesday, having targeted the organisation for promoting Western culture and the "inter-mixing" of men and women.

At least five people were killed and dozens more wounded in the latest attack in the Afghan capital, which came even as US and Taliban officials were meeting in Qatar for peace talks.

The assault began around midday (0730 GMT) with a large explosion at Counterpart International, a non-profit group funded primarily by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US State Department.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said four attackers then entered the compound before Afghan security forces launched an hours-long clearance operation. At about 6:00 pm, Rahimi said "all the attackers have been killed."

He said four civilians and one police officer were also killed, while about 200 people had been rescued from the area throughout the day.

In a statement, Counterpart said it was working to confirm the well-being of its staff.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Counterpart International was targeted because it promoted the "inter-mixing" of men and women.

The aid group mentored "Kabul admin workers in various aspects of brutality, oppression, terror, anti-Islamic ideology & promotion of western culture," Mujahid said on Twitter.

Counterpart's website says it runs an Afghan civic engagement programme supporting women and other marginalised groups across Afghanistan.

Among its stated goals is providing access to election information for Afghan voters, many of whom live in rural areas.

The Taliban's hardline statement against Western values comes as the group meets with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha in the latest round of talks aimed at finding a way out of Afghanistan's nearly 18-year old war.

The Taliban are notorious for their treatment of women during their reign from 1996-2001, when the Islamist extremists kept women locked up in houses, barred them from getting an education and sometimes stoned them to death on flimsy allegations of adultery.

The huge explosion shook nearby buildings and shattered windows, and Rahimi said at least 24 people were wounded -- including one foreign national.

"We started running out of the building and while running outside, I heard small gunfire and the sound of grenades going off nearby," said Akbar Khan Sahadat, a prosecutor in the Attorney General's office which was close to the scene of the blast.

John Bass, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, strongly condemned the attack against a US non-governmental organisation.

"The targeted organization helps local communities, trains journalists and supports the Afghan people," Bass said on Twitter.

"For this, it is the target of senseless violence," he added, thanking local security forces for their rapid response.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the attack was "particularly deplorable, hitting civilians helping Afghans & taking place during Ramadan".

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban's political spokesman, told AFP earlier this week that the latest round of peace talks, currently taking place in Doha, had become bogged down over the issue of when foreign forces might withdraw in return for the Taliban security guarantees.

The two foes are hammering out a deal that could see foreign forces leave Afghanistan in return for a ceasefire, talks between the government and the Taliban, and a guarantee the country will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of its Long War Journal, said Khalilzad is only "pretending" the Taliban can credibly renounce international terrorism.

"This is an obvious terrorist attack by the Taliban right inside Kabul -- they deliberately targeted a civilian facility," Joscelyn said on Twitter.

The talks follow a massive peace summit in Kabul last week where President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a ceasefire to begin on the first day of Ramadan -- but the insurgents refused.

Last year however the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire at the end of Ramadan after Ghani declared a unilateral truce for eight days earlier in the month, in the first formal nationwide ceasefire since the US-led invasion of 2001.

Since then, the insurgents have steadfastly refused to talk to Ghani, who they view as a US puppet, and talks thus far have cut out his government.

According to Counterpart International's website, the organisation was founded in 1965 by Australian actress Betty Bryant Silverstein and a priest called Stan Hosie.

US and Britain begin attacks on Taliban

The US and Britain tonight dropped bombs and fired sea-launched missiles at targets in Afghanistan as the long-expected assault on the Taliban and Osama bin Laden finally began.

The attack was announced by President George Bush from the White House and moments later by Tony Blair at Downing Street.

The first planes roared over Kabul at around 16.20 GMT, soon after a nightly curfew took effect. The night sky was lit up by bombs and missiles launched at targets in the city and near the airport. At 21.45 GMT a fresh wave of attacks was reported to be hitting the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Taliban forces in Kabul fired volleys of anti-aircraft fire into the night sky in response to the air raids, to little apparent effect. Electricity was cut almost immediately, although it was not clear if this was a result of a strike or a defensive measure. It was restored about 90 minutes later.

Minutes after the strikes on Kabul, the Taliban's stronghold of Kandahar also came under attack, provoking a mass exodus from the city. Jalalabad was next, and there were reports that smaller towns in the north as well the major city of Mazar-i-Sharif had come under fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Although long expected, the strikes still caught residents of the impoverished capital by surprise.

"You could hear planes, then I heard anti-aircraft fire," one resident said. "Then I heard loud explosions, maybe four or five. They were close together so it was hard to tell."

One big blast struck near the Taliban's defence ministry, south of the presidential palace. Anti-aircraft batteries near the airport to the south of the capital also appeared to be a target, although it was not possible to determine if they had been hit. A large plume of smoke was still billowing near the airport more than an hour after the attack.

Residents of Kandahar reported panic in the city that is the Taliban's spiritual stronghold and headquarters of Mullah Omar, protector of Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks. A second wave of attacks launched about two hours later appeared aimed at the home of Mullah Omar. One Taliban source in Kandahar said the main airport complex, built by the US in the 1950s, had been hit in the raid, but the runway was undamaged.

About 15 land-based bombers and about 25 carrier-based strike aircraft were used in the initial strike, which involved firing about 50 Tomahawk missiles, Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said. The Taliban said they had downed an aircraft in the southern province of Farah, but the claim was denied by the Pentagon.

Sunday's strikes included B-2 bombers launched from Whiteman Air Force in Missouri as well as heavy B-52 and B-1 bombers based on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Smaller attack jets were launched from at least two US aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean and Gulf.

The Afghan opposition launched an assault on the Taliban militia from an air force base just north of the capital, just hours after the first wave of US and British air strikes.

Northern alliance forces controlling the Bagram air force base fired multiple-rocket launchers at Taliban forces in the surrounding mountains.

The Taliban returned fire using Soviet-made BM-21 rockets. The opposition has said the base, about 25 miles north of Kabul, could eventually be used as a base for US forces. But first the Taliban will have to be pushed out from the surrounding high ground.
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Defence secretary's briefing
The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said the attack was designed to "disrupt and destroy" terrorist networks in the country and "set the conditions" for future military action.

In a press conference at the Pentagon - a building partially destroyed by the September 11 terrorist attacks - General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the first missile was launched at 12.30pm eastern standard time (4.30pm GMT). He added that the "operations continue as we speak".

The attacks were launched from15 US bombers - included B-1, B-2 and B-52s - 25 strike aircraft and 50 cruise missiles launched from ships and submarines in the region. The B-2s flew from their base in Missouri.

Mr Rumsfeld maintained that although this evening's action was focused on Bin Laden and the Taliban, the wider aim was to "defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support them."

He added that there was no "silver bullet" that would swiftly end the terrorism crisis. He said it was too early to judge whether this evening's operations had been a success but that a current objective is to strengthen opposition forces in Afghanistan already fighting the Taliban.

Confirming the US's "bombs and butter" strategy towards the country Mr Rumsfeld said that allied forces were already dropping humanitarian supplies.
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Bin Laden on TV
Bin Laden made a rare television appearance in an attempt to rally Muslims to his cause.

In a video that appeared to have been made in a cave and shot in daylight, Bin Laden spoke calmly but emphatically, often pointing his finger to stress his point. With an assault rifle propped up behind him, Bin Laden said: "America was hit by God in one of its softest spots. America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that."

America's most wanted terrorist warned that Americans "will never feel safe until we and Palestinians feel safe". The video, released by the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, indicated that Bin Laden was well prepared for the American and British attacks.
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Bush addresses the nation
In his televised address to the nation, Mr Bush said America was "supported by the will of the world" as it launched its long-awaited strikes against the Taliban. Speaking as explosions rocked Kabul, the president said the Taliban had been given a clear ultimatum two weeks ago.

"None of those demands were met and now the Taliban will pay a price," he added. The terrorist forces would attempt to hide from the onslaught but would find no shelter, Mr Bush vowed. He warned of a long war ahead but said: "We will win this conflict through the patient accumulation of successes."

President Bush also signalled that the war on terror would not end with the attack on Afghanistan. "Every nation has a choice to make in this conflict. There is no neutral ground," he said.
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Blair outlines UK role
In a short but emotional address, the prime minister confirmed the use of sea-launched cruise missiles in the attack as he explained British involvement with the assault on the Taliban and Bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Mr Blair said the Taliban had been given three weeks to choose between justice or terror "and they chose to side with terror". He said there was no doubt that the attacks were carried out by the al-Qaida network and masterminded by Bin Laden.

While the US would bear the brunt of the attack, Mr Blair said it would be backed not only by Britain, but France, Germany, Austria and Canada. The powerful coalition of support had "strengthened, not weakened" since last month's atrocities, the prime minister said. Mr Blair has played a pivotal role in shorting up the coalition, having just returned from a lightning trip to Russia, Pakistan and India.
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Parliament recalled
Mr Blair will recall parliament in the wake of tonight's military strikes on Afghanistan, and the House of Commons could be reconvened as early as tomorrow. The prime minister's official spokesman said that the House would reconvene tomorrow "if at all possible".

The leader of the Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith, earlier responded to the attacks by demanding parliament's recall at "the earliest opportunity."
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Taliban ambassador speaks
The deputy Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said the air strikes would unite Afghans behind the regime.

Mohammad Suhail Shaheen said: "We are victims of this expansionist antic by America. Such tactics will never achieve political goals. The former Soviet Union didn't achieve its political goals by invading Afghanistan.

"Throughout history in such cases these acts have unified the Muslim nation of Afghanistan against aggressors."

Speaking from Islamabad, he said the Taliban would gain support because of the bombing.

"The Taliban are from among the people, they are not imposed, as efforts are made to impose a government on Afghanistan by a foreign ally. I believe these attacks will further expand the support to the Taliban."

The deputy ambassador said Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, was still in charge and added: "The next step in such cases as always in Afghanistan is to defend its country and its faith."

Former Afghan king makes statement
Afghanistan's former king has said he recognised the "legitimate right" of the United States to pursue those responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks, but urged that innocents be spared in the strikes on his homeland.

In a statement issued by his office, former King Mohammad Zaher Shah, who has been working to select a new government for Afghanistan, said his paramount objective was the safety and dignity of Afghans and the integrity of the country.

"Unfortunately the unpatriotic position of the Taliban and their sponsors has again inflicted pain, sorrow and destruction on the people of Afghanistan," the statement said.

The statement was issued hours after the United States and Britain launched missile attacks on at least three Afghan cities, targeting Osama bin Laden and his Taliban backers.
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Afghanistan's political order began to break down with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan in a bloodless 1973 coup. 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 Islamic 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 from Islamic leaders across rural areas, but it was particularly the PDPA's crackdown that contributed to open rebellion, including Ismail Khan's Herat Uprising. The PDPA was beset by internal leadership differences and was weakened by an internal coup on September 11, 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 PDPA faction led by Babrak Karmal.

The entry of the Soviet Union into 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 Afghan socialists, the remaining Islamic warlords vied for power. By then, Bin Laden had left the country. The United States' interest in Afghanistan also diminished.

Warlord rule (1992–1996) Edit

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 Hekmatyr in Kabul and ended ongoing bombardment of the capital. [11] [12] [13] 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, Mullah Omar, a Pashtun mujahideen who taught at a Pakistani madrassa, returned to Kandahar and founded the Taliban. His followers were religious students, known as the Talib, and they sought to end warlord-ism 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. [14]

Taliban Emirate vs. Northern Alliance Edit

The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of costly defeats. [15] Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. [16] [17] Analysts such as Amin Saikal described the group as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests, which the Taliban denied. [16] The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995, but were driven back by Massoud. [12] [18]

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban, with military support by Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. [19] 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. [20] 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. [21] [22]

Massoud and Dostum, former arch-enemies, created a United Front against the Taliban, commonly known as the Northern Alliance. [23] 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. [24] Both agreed to work together with the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah. [22] 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." [25] [26] 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 Shiite Hazaras. [27] [28] In retaliation for the killing of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Uzbek general Abdul Malik Pahlawan in 1997, the Taliban killed about 4,000 civilians after taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. [29] [30]

Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians. [31] The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing "Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". [27] [28]

By 2001, the Taliban controlled as much as 90% of the country, with the Northern Alliance confined to the country's northeast corner. Fighting alongside Taliban forces were some 28,000–30,000 Pakistanis and 2,000–3,000 Al Qaeda militants. [14] [31] [32] [33] Many of the Pakistanis were recruited from madrassas. [31] A 1998 document by the US 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 US 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 army providing direct combat support. [17] [34] The 055 Brigade had at least 500 men during the time of the invasion, at least 1,000 more Arabs were believed to have arrived in Afghanistan following the September 11 Attacks, crossing over from Pakistan and Iran, many were based at Jalalabad, Khost, Kandahar and Mazar-i Sharif. There were rumors in the weeks before the September 11 attacks that Juma Namangani, had been appointed as one of the top commanders in the 055 brigade. [35]

Al-Qaeda Edit

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 US reported 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. [36] 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. [37]

After the August 1998 US Embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. US officials pressed the Taliban to surrender bin Laden. In 1999, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban, calling for Bin Laden to be surrendered. [38] The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed these demands, though there were reports about attempts to negotiate the delivery of Bin Laden by the Taliban. [39] [40] [ circular reference ] [41]

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. [42]

Change in US policy toward Afghanistan Edit

During the Clinton administration, the US tended to favor Pakistan and until 1998–1999 had no clear policy toward Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, the US 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. [14] 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. [43]

US policy toward Afghanistan changed after the 1998 US embassy bombings. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden was indicted for his involvement in the embassy bombings. In 1999 both the US 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 US and close all terrorist bases in Afghanistan. [44] The only collaboration between Massoud and the US at the time was an effort with the CIA to trace bin Laden following the 1998 bombings. [45] The US 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. [46] 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. [19] 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 US policy was effected in August 2001. [19] 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 US 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." [47]

Northern Alliance on the eve of 9/11 Edit

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. [48] As a consequence, many civilians had fled to areas under his control. [49] [50] In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. [51]

In late 2000, Massoud officially brought together this new alliance in a meeting in Northern Afghanistan to discuss "a Loya Jirga, or a traditional council of elders, to settle political turmoil in Afghanistan". [52] That part of the Pashtun-Tajik-Hazara-Uzbek peace plan did eventually develop. Among those in attendance was Hamid Karzai. [53] [54]

In early 2001, Massoud, with other ethnic leaders, addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. [51] He said 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. [51] On this visit to Europe, he warned that his intelligence had gathered information about an imminent, large-scale attack on US soil. [55]

On September 9, 2001, Massoud was critically wounded in a suicide attack by two Arabs posing as journalists, who detonated a bomb hidden in their video camera during an interview in Khoja Bahauddin, in the Takhar Province of Afghanistan. [56] [57] Massoud died in the helicopter taking him to a hospital. The funeral, held in a rural area, was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourning Afghans.

September 11, 2001 attacks Edit

On the morning of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda carried out four coordinated attacks on the United States, employing four commercial passenger jet airliners that were hijacked. [58] [59] The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell [60] – intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from fire damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, 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 United States Capitol. No flights had survivors. In total, 2,996 people died, including the 19 hijackers, and more than 6,000 others were injured in the attacks. [61] According to the New York State Health Department, 836 first responders, including firefighters and police personnel, had died as of June 2009. [61]

On September 11, Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil "denounce[d] the terrorist attack, whoever is behind it", [62] but Mullah Omar immediately issued a statement saying bin Laden was not responsible. [63] The following day, President Bush called the attacks more than just "acts of terror" but "acts of war", and resolved to pursue and conquer an "enemy" that would no longer be safe in "its harbors". [64] The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said on September 13, 2001, that the Taliban would consider extraditing bin Laden if there was solid evidence linking him to the attacks. [65] Though Osama bin Laden eventually took responsibility for the 9/11 attacks in 2004, he denied having any involvement in a statement issued on September 17, 2001, and by interview on September 29, 2001. [66] [67]

The State Department, in a memo dated September 14, demanded that the Taliban surrender all known al-Qaeda associates in Afghanistan, provide intelligence on bin Laden and his affiliates, and expel all terrorists from Afghanistan. [68] On September 18, the director of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Mahmud Ahmed conveyed these demands to Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership, whose response was "not negative on all points". [69] Mahmud reported that the Taliban leadership was in "deep introspection" and waiting for the recommendation of a grand council of religious clerics that was assembling to decide the matter. [69] On September 20, President Bush, in an address to Congress, demanded the Taliban deliver bin Laden and other suspected terrorists and destroy the al-Qaeda bases. [70] "These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate." [71]

On the same day, a grand council of over 1,000 Muslim clerics from across Afghanistan, which had convened to decide bin Laden's fate, issued a fatwa expressing sadness for the deaths in the 9/11 attacks, recommending that the Islamic Emirate "persuade" bin Laden to leave their country, and calling on the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to conduct an independent investigation of "recent events to clarify the reality and prevent harassment of innocent people". [72] The fatwa went on to warn that should the United States not agree with its decision and invade Afghanistan, "jihad becomes an order for all Muslims." [72] However, on the same day the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said: "We will neither surrender Osama bin Laden nor ask him to leave Afghanistan." These maneuvers were dismissed by the US as insufficient. [73]

On September 21, Taliban representatives in Pakistan reacted to the US demands with defiance. Zaeef said the Taliban were ready, if necessary, for war with the United States. His deputy Suhail Shaheen warned that a US invasion would share in the same fate that befell Great Britain and the Soviet Union in previous centuries. He confirmed that the clerics' decision "was only a recommendation" and bin Laden would not be asked to leave Afghanistan. But he suggested "If the Americans provide evidence, we will cooperate with them. In America, if I think you are a terrorist, is it properly justified that you should be punished without evidence?", he asked. "This is an international principle. If you use the principle, why do you not apply it to Afghanistan?" As formulated earlier by Mullah Omar, the demand for evidence was attached to a suggestion that bin Laden be handed over for trial before an Islamic court in another Muslim country. [74] He did not address the demands to hand over other suspected terrorists or shut down training camps.

On September 24, Mahmoud told the US Ambassador to Pakistan that while the Taliban was "weak and ill-prepared to face the American onslaught", "real victory will come through negotiations", for if the Taliban were eliminated, Afghanistan would revert to warlord-ism. [75] On September 28, he led a delegation of eight Pakistani religious leaders to persuade Mullah Omar to accept having religious leaders from Islamic countries examine the evidence and decide bin Laden's fate, but Mullah Omar refused. [76] [77]

On September 28 Bush commented, "First, there is no negotiations [sic] with the Taliban. They heard what I said. And now they can act. And it's not just Mr. bin Laden that we expect to see and brought [sic] to justice it's everybody associated with his organization that's in Afghanistan. And not only those directly associated with Mr. bin Laden, any terrorist that is housed and fed in Afghanistan needs to be handed over. And finally, we expect there to be complete destruction of terrorist camps. That's what I told them that's what I mean. And we expect them — we expect them to not only hear what I say but to do something about it." [78]

On October 1, Mullah Omar agreed to a proposal by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the head of Pakistan's most important Islamic party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, to have bin Laden taken to Pakistan, where he would be held under house arrest in Peshawar and tried by an international tribunal within the framework of sharia law. The proposal was said to have bin Laden's approval. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf blocked the plan because he could not guarantee bin Laden's safety. [79] On October 2, Zaeef appealed to the United States to negotiate, "We do not want to compound the problems of the people, the country or the region." He pleaded, "the Afghan people need food, need aid, need shelter, not war." However, he reiterated that bin Laden would not be turned over to anyone unless evidence was presented. [80]

A US State Department spokesman in response to a question about sharing evidence with the Taliban stated, "My response, first of all, is that strikes me as a request for delay and prevarication rather than any serious request. And second of all, they're already overdue. They are already required by the United Nations resolutions that relate to the bombings in East Africa to turn over al-Qaeda, to turn over their leadership, and to shut down the network of operations in their country. There should be no further delay. There is no cause to ask for anything else. They are already under this international obligation, and they have to meet it." [81] The British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on the Taliban to "surrender the terrorists or surrender power". [82]

Nonetheless, some evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the 9/11 attacks was shown to Pakistan's government, whose leaders later stated that the materials they had seen "provide[d] sufficient basis for indictment in a court of law". [83] Pakistan ISI chief Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed shared information provided to him by the US with Taliban leaders. [84] On October 4 the British government publicly released a document summarizing the evidence linking bin Laden to the attacks. [85] The document stated that the Taliban had been repeatedly warned in the past about harboring bin Laden but refused to turn him over as demanded by the international community. Evidence had been supplied to the Taliban about bin Laden's involvement in the 1998 Embassy bombings, yet they did nothing. [86]

On October 5, the Taliban offered to try bin Laden in an Afghan court, so long as the US provided what it called "solid evidence" of his guilt. [87] The US Government dismissed the request for proof as "request for delay or prevarication" NATO commander George Robertson said the evidence was "clear and compelling". [82] On October 7, as the US aerial bombing campaign began, President Bush ignored questions about the Taliban's offer and said instead, "Full warning had been given, and time is running out." [88] The same day, the State Department gave the Pakistani Government one last message to the Taliban: Hand over all al-Qaeda leaders or "every pillar of the Taliban regime will be destroyed." [89]

On October 11 Bush told the Taliban "You still have a second chance. Just bring him in, and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him." [90] On October 14, Abdul Kabir, the Taliban's third ranking leader, offered to hand over bin Laden to a neutral third country if the US government provided evidence of his guilt and halted the bombing campaign. He apparently did not respond to the demand to hand over other suspected terrorists apart from bin Laden. President Bush rejected the offer as non-negotiable. [91] On October 16, Muttawakil, the Taliban foreign minister floated a compromise offer that dropped the demand for evidence. [92] However, Muttawakil was not part of the Taliban's inner circle he wanted the bombing to stop so that he could try to persuade Mullah Omar to adopt a compromise. [93]

Legal basis for war Edit

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed legislation titled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which was signed on September 18, 2001 by President Bush. It authorized the use of US Armed Forces against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and those who harbored them. [94]

Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, to which all Coalition countries are signatories and for which its ratification by the US makes it the "law of the land", [95] prohibits the 'threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state' except in circumstances where a competent organ of the UN (e.g. the Security Council) has authorized it, or where it is in self-defense under article 51 of the Charter. [96] Although the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) did not authorize the US-led military campaign, some argued it was a legitimate form of self-defense under the UN Charter. [96]

Some proponents of the legality of the invasion argued that UNSC authorization was not required, since the invasion was an act of collective self-defense provided for under Article 51 of the UN Charter. [96] [97] Specifically, it was argued that a series of UN Security Council Resolutions concerning Afghanistan provided for the possibility of establishing that the Taliban were indirectly responsibility for al-Qaeda's attacks, on the basis that Afghanistan was offering them safe harbour. Some critics claimed that the invasion was illegal under Article 51 because the 9/11 attacks were not "armed attacks" by another state, as required under article 51 of the Charter: they were not perpetrated by Afghanistan but by non-state actors. They argued that the actions taken by the terrorists in 9/11 were not attributable to Afghanistan. This position is consistent with the case law of the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, which has been slow to recognize attacks carried out by non-State actors as attributable to States, even in cases where States lend their support to the actions of non-State actors. [98] Others claimed that, even if the 9/11 attacks were attributable to Afghanistan, the response of the NATO coalition would not constitute self-defense as these acts do not meet the proportionality test under international law, as established in the Caroline Affair.

On December 20, 2001, more than two months after the attack began, the UNSC authorized the creation of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. [99] This resolution did not make any express declarations as to the legality of the war but determined that "the situation in Afghanistan still constituted a threat to international peace and security" while "reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan".

Command Structure Edit

Under the overall leadership of General Tommy Franks, Commander-in-Chief, US Central Command, four major task forces were raised to support Operation Enduring Freedom: the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF), Combined Joint Task Force Mountain(CJTF-Mountain), the Joint Interagency Task Force-Counterterrorism (JIATF-CT), and the Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF). [100]

CJSOTF was a mixture of black and white SOF and comprised three subordinate task forces: Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-North - known as Task Force Dagger), Joint Special Operations Task Force-South (JSOTF-South - known as Task Force K-Bar) and Task Force Sword (later renamed Task Force 11). [100] Task Force Dagger was established on October 10, 2001, led by Colonel James Mulholland and was formed around his 5th Special Forces Group with helicopter support from the 160th SOAR, Dagger was assigned to the north of Afghanistan. [100] Task Force K-Bar, also established on October 10, was assigned to Southern Afghanistan, led by Navy SEAL Captain Robert Harward and formed around a Naval Special Warfare Group consisting of SEAL Teams 2, 3 and 8 and Green Berets from 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. The Task force principally conducted SR and SSE missions, although some 3rd SFG ODAs were given to the foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare role - advising anti-Taliban militias. [101] Task Force Sword, established in early October 2001, was a black SOF unit under direct command of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). This was a so-called hunter-killer force whose primary objective was capturing or killing senior leadership and High-value target (HVT) within both al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Sword was initially structure around a two-squadron component of operators from Delta Force (Task Force Green) and DEVGRU (Task Force Blue) supported by a Ranger protection force teams (Task Force Red) and ISA signals intercept and surveillance operators (Task Force Orange) and the 160th SOAR (Task Force Brown). The British Special Boat Service was integrated directly into Swords structure. [102]

Alongside the SOF task forces operated the largely conventional CJTF-Mountain. Mountain initially comprised three subordinate commands, but only one was a special operations force - Task Force 64, a special forces task group built around a sabre squadron from the Australian SAS. The US Marines contributed Task Force 58, consisting of the 15th MEU, who were later replaced by Task Force Rakkasan. The JIATF-CT (better known as Task Force Bowie), led by Brigadier General Gary Harrell, was an intelligence integration and fusion activity manned by personnel from all Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A) participating units, both US, coalition and a number of civilian intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Bowie numbered 36 military personnel and 57 from agencies such as FBI, NSA, and CIA, as well as liaison officers from coalition SOF. Administratively embedded within Bowie was Advanced Force Operations (AFO). AFO was a 45-man reconnaissance unit made up of Delta Force reconnaissance specialists augmented by selected SEALs from DEVGRU and supported by ISA's technical experts. AFO had been raised to support TF Sword and was tasked with intelligence preparation of the battlefield, working closely with the CIA and reported directly to TF Sword. AFO conducted covert reconnaissance - sending small 2 or 3 man teams into al-Qaeda 'Backyard' along the border with Pakistan, the AFO operators would deploy observation posts to watch and report enemy movements and numbers as well as environmental reconnaissance much of the work was done on foot or ATVs. The final task force supporting OEF-A was CJCMOTF, which had the responsibility of managing civil affairs and humanitarian efforts. [103]

First move Edit

On September 26, 2001, fifteen days after the 9/11 attack, the US covertly inserted (by a CIA-piloted Mi-17 helicopter) seven or eight [104] members of the CIA's Special Activities Division and Counterterrorism Center (CTC) into the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul. Led by Gary Schroen, the team included deputy commander and former Special Forces captain [105] Phil Reilly, [106] a former Navy special warfare operator a former Army paratrooper and “Todd, a former Marine and the team communicator.” [107] They formed the Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team, known by the call-sign 'Jawbreaker'. [108] [109] [110] [111] In addition to specialized human assets, the team brought three cardboard boxes filled with $3 million in $100 bills to buy support. [112] Jawbreaker linked up with General Mohammed Fahim, commander of the Northern Alliance forces in the Panjshir Valley, and prepared the way for the introduction of Army Special Forces into the region. [113] : 127ff [114] [110] [115] The Jawbreaker team brought satellite communications enabling its intelligence reports to be instantly available to headquarters staff at Langley and Central Command (CENTCOM), who were responsible for Operation Crescent Wind and Operation Enduring Freedom. The Team also assessed potential targets for Operation Crescent Wind, provide an in-extremis CSAR and could provide BDA for the air campaign. [116]

On September 28, 2001, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw approved the deployment of MI6 officers to the Afghanistan and the region, utilising people involved with the mujahadeen in the 1980s, and who had language skills and regional expertise. At the end of the month, a handful of MI6 officers with a budget of $7 million landed in northeast Afghanistan, they met with General Mohammed Fahim of the Northern Alliance and began working with other contacts in the north and south to build alliances, to secure support and to bribe as many Taliban commanders as they could to change sides or leave the fight. [117]

Initial air strikes Edit

On October 7, 2001, the US officially launched military operations in Afghanistan. Airstrikes were reported in Kabul, at the airport, at Kandahar (home of Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad. [118] The day before the bombing commenced, Human Rights Watch issued a report urging that no military support be given to the Northern Alliance due to their human rights record. [119]

At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes in his address to the nation, and Prime Minister Blair also addressed his nation. Bush stated that Taliban military sites and terrorist training grounds would be targeted. Food, medicine and supplies would be dropped to "the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan". [120] Most of the Taliban's outdated SA-2 and SA-3 surface to air missiles, as well as its intended radar and command units, were destroyed on the first night along with the Taliban's small fleet of MIG-21s and Su-22s. [121]

Training camps and Taliban air defenses were bombarded by US aircraft, including Apache helicopter gunships from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. US Navy cruisers, destroyers and Royal Navy submarines launched several Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The strikes initially focused on Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Within a few days, most Taliban training sites were severely damaged and air defenses were destroyed. The campaign focused on command, control, and communications targets. The front facing the Northern Alliance held, and no battlefield successes were achieved there.

During these initial airstrikes a garrison of the 055 brigade near Mazar-i-Sharif was one of the first targets for US aircraft. Donald Rumsfeld described the troops as "the al-Qaeda-dominated ground force". [35]

Earlier Bin Laden had released a video in which he condemned all attacks in Afghanistan.

On October 18, 2001, [103] Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams 555 and 595, both 12-man Green Beret teams from the 5th Special Forces Group, plus Air Force Combat Controllers, were airlifted by helicopter from the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan [113] : 127ff more than 300 kilometers (190 mi) across the 16,000 feet (4,900 m) Hindu Kush mountains in zero-visibility conditions by two MH-47E Chinook helicopters from 2nd Battalion 160th SOAR to the Dari-a-Souf Valley, just south of Mazar-e-Sharif. [122] The Chinooks were refueled in-flight three times during the 11-hour mission, establishing a new world record for combat rotor-craft missions at the time. They linked up with the CIA and Northern Alliance. Within a few weeks the Northern Alliance, with assistance from the US ground and air forces, captured several key cities from the Taliban. [115] [123] [124]

In mid-October 2001, A and G squadron of the British 22nd SAS Regiment, reinforced by members of the Territorial SAS regiments, deployed to north west Afghanistan in support of OEF-A. They conducted largely uneventful reconnaissance tasks under the code-name Operation Determine, none of these tasks resulted in enemy contact they traveled in Land Rover Desert Patrol Vehicles (known as Pinkies) and modified ATVs. After a fortnight, with missions drying up, both squadrons returned to their barracks in the UK. [125]

Objective Rhino and Gecko Edit

On the night of October 19, 2001, 200 Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, parachuted from 4 Lockheed MC-130 aircraft onto "Objective Rhino", a landing strip south of Kandahar, covered by AC-130 gunships. Before the Rangers dropped, the site was softened up by B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. The Rangers met almost no resistance, except for a solitary Taliban fighter who was quickly killed, securing the objective. A small Taliban force mounted in pick up trucks that attempted to investigate was spotted and destroyed by the AC-130s. The Rangers provided security while a FARP (Forward Arming and Refuelling Point) was established using fuel bladders from MC-130s the mission paved the way for the later use of the airstrip by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit as FOB Rhino, who would be among the first conventional forces to set foot in Afghanistan. No casualties were suffered in the operation itself (two Rangers received minor injuries in the jump itself), though two Rangers assigned to a CSAR element supporting the mission were killed when their MH-60L helicopter crashed at Objective Honda in Pakistan, a temporary staging site used by a company of Rangers from 3/75. The helicopter crashed due to a brownout. [126]

At the same time, a squadron of Delta Force operatives supported by Rangers from Task Force Sword conducted an operation outside of Kandahar at a location known as Objective Gecko – its target was Mullah Omar, who was suspected to be at his summer retreat in the hills above Kandahar. [127] Four MH-47E helicopters took off from the USS Kitty Hawk (which was serving as an SOF base) in the Indian Ocean carrying 91 soldiers. The assault teams were drawn from Delta, while teams from the Rangers secured the perimeter and manned blocking positions. Before the soldiers were inserted, the target area was softened up by preparatory fire from AC-130s and MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators. The assaulters met no resistance on target and there was no sign of the Taliban leader, so they switched to exploiting the target location for any intelligence, while their helicopters landed at Rhino to refuel at the newly established FARP. As the teams prepared to extract, a sizable Taliban force approached the compound and engaged the US force with small arms fire and RPGs. [128] The Delta Force operators and Rangers engaged the insurgents and a heavy firefight developed. An attached Combat Controller directed fire from the orbiting AC-130s and DAPs, allowing the assault force to break contact and withdraw to an emergency Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ). One of the MH-47Es lost a wheel assembly after striking the compound wall in the scramble to extract the ground force. Some 30 Taliban fighters were killed in the firefight there were no US soldiers killed, but 12 Delta operators were wounded. [127] Delta's plans to leave a stay-behind reconnaissance team in the area were aborted by the Taliban response. [129]

Continued air strikes Edit

The Green Berets of ODA 595 split into two elements, Alpha and Bravo. Alpha rode on horseback with the Uzbek Warlord General Dostum to his headquarters to plan the impending assault on Mazar-e-Sharif. Bravo was tasked with clearing the Dari-a-Souf Valley of Taliban and to travel into the Alma Tak Mountains to get a good look at its area of operations. [130]

On October 20, 2001, the Alpha element of ODA 595 guided in the first JDAM bomb from a B-52, impressing Dostum, who soon taunted the Taliban over their radio frequencies. [130] As part of its operations, the Americans beamed in radio broadcasts in both Pashto and Dari calling al-Qaeda and the Taliban criminals who were not proper Muslims and promising US$25 million to anyone who would provide information leading to the whereabouts of bin Laden. [131]

Two weeks into the campaign, the Northern Alliance demanded the air campaign focus more on the front lines. A number of units from the US 5th Special Forces Group Operational Detachment Alpha teams were accompanied by a USAF Tactical Air Control Party. They called in air strikes on targets, pounding Taliban vehicles, antiaircraft weapons, armored vehicles, their trenches, and ammunition supplies.

On October 23, ODA 585 infiltrated an area near Kunduz to work alongside the warlord Burillah Khan. [132]

The United States conducted its own psychological warfare operation with EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft beaming radio transmissions in both Dari and Pashtu to the Afghan civilian population. Radios were dropped with humanitarian packages that were fixed to only receive news and Afghan music from a Coalition radio station. Air Force Special Operations aircraft also dropped huge numbers of Psy Ops leaflets, decrying the Taliban and al-Qaeda as criminals who ruined Afghanistan and promoting the $25 million reward placed on Bin Laden's head. [133]

Carrier-based F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers hit Taliban vehicles in pinpoint strikes, while other aircraft cluster bombed Taliban defenses. At the beginning of November, US aircraft attacked front lines with daisy cutter bombs and AC-130 gunships.

By November 2, Taliban frontal positions were devastated and a march on Kabul seemed possible. According to author Stephen Tanner,

After a month of the U.S. bombing campaign rumblings began to reach Washington from Europe, the Mideast, and Pakistan where Musharraf had requested the bombing to cease. Having begun the war with the greatest imaginable reservoir of moral authority, the U.S. was on the verge of letting it slip away through high-level attacks using the most ghastly inventions its scientists could come up with. [134]

Also on November 2, the 10-man ODA 553 inserted into Bamain and linked up with General Kareem Kahlili's forces ODA 534 was also inserted into the Dari-a-Balkh Valley after being delayed by weather for several nights, its role was to support General Mohammed Atta - the head of Jaamat-e-Islami militia. Alongside the Green Berets was a small element of CIA SAD operatives. [132]

Bravo team of ODA 595 conducted its own airstrikes in the Dari-a-Souf Valley, cutting off and destroying Taliban reinforcements and frustrating its attempts to relieve its embattled forces in the north. Cumulatively, the near constant airstrikes had begun to have a decisive effect and the Taliban began to withdraw toward Mazar-e-Sharif. Dostum's forces and Alpha team of ODA 595 followed, pausing only to drop further bombs on Taliban stragglers using their Special Operations Forces Laser Marker (SOFLAM), a device that emits laser-aiming point that can be followed by a smart bomb, such as a JDAM. [133]

On the Shomali Plains, ODA 555 and the CIA Jawbreaker team attached to Fahim Khan's forces began calling in airstrikes on entrenched Taliban positions at the southeastern end of the former Soviet air base at Bagram. The Green Berets set up an observation post in a disused air traffic control tower and with perfect lines of sight, guided in two BLU-82 Daisy Cutter bombs which devastated the Taliban lines, both physically and psychologically. By November 5, 2001, the advance of Dostum and his force was stalled at the Taliban-held village of Bai Beche in the strategically vital Dari-a-Souf Valley. Two earlier Northern Alliance attacks had been driven back by the entrenched Taliban Dostum prepared his men to follow a bombing run from a B-52 with a cavalry charge, but one of Dostum's lieutenants misunderstood an order and sent around 250 Uzbek horsemen charging toward the Taliban lines as the B-52 made its final approach, three or four bombs landed just in time on the Taliban positions and the cavalry charge succeeded in breaking the back of the Taliban defenders. [132]

On November 8, ODAs 586 and 594 were infiltrated into Afghanistan in MH-47s and picked up on the Afghan/Tajik border by CIA-flown MI-17s crewed by the SAD Air Branch contractors. ODA 586 deployed to Kunduz with the forces of General Daoud Khan and ODA 594 deployed into the Panjshir to assist the men of ODA 555. [135]

Bush went to New York City on November 10, 2001 to address the United Nations. He said that not only was the US in danger of further attacks, but so were all other countries in the world. Tanner observed, "His words had impact. Most of the world renewed its support for the American effort, including commitments of material help from Germany, France, Italy, Japan and other countries." [134]

Al-Qaeda fighters took over security in Afghan cities. The Northern Alliance troops planned to seize Mazar-i-Sharif, cutting off Taliban supply lines and enabling equipment to arrive from the north and then attack Kabul.

During the early months, the US military had a limited presence on the ground. Special Forces and intelligence officers with a military background liaised with Afghan militias and advanced after the Taliban was disrupted by air power. [136] [137] [138]

The Tora Bora Mountains lie roughly east of Kabul, on the Pakistan border. American analysts believed that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda had dug in behind fortified networks of caves and underground bunkers. The area was subjected to a heavy B-52 bombardment. [136] [137] [138] [139]

US and Northern Alliance objectives began to diverge. While the US was continuing the search for Osama bin Laden, the Northern Alliance wanted to finish off the Taliban.

Battle of Mazar-i Sharif Edit

Mazari-i Sharif was important because it is the home of the Shrine of Ali or "Blue Mosque", a sacred Muslim site, and because it is a significant transportation hub with two major airports and a major supply route leading into Uzbekistan. [140] Taking the city would enable humanitarian aid to alleviate a looming food crisis, which threatened more than six million people with starvation. Many of those in most urgent need lived in rural areas to the south and west of Mazar-i-Sharif. [140] [141] On November 9, 2001, Northern Alliance forces, under the command of Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor, overcame resistance crossing the Pul-i-Imam Bukhri bridge [142] [143] and seized the city's main military base and airport.

ODA 595 and ODA 534 and the seven members of the CIA's Special Activities Division [111] [144] [145] [146] assisted about 2000 members of the Northern Alliance who attacked Mazari Sharif on horseback, foot, pickup trucks, and BMP armored personnel carriers. [135] The US forces utilized close air support, which they used to destroy armor and vehicles. After a brief but bloody 90-minute battle, the Taliban withdrew, triggering celebrations. [141] [147]

The fall of the city was a "body blow" [147] to the Taliban and ultimately proved to be a "major shock", [148] since the US Central Command (CENTCOM) had originally believed that the city would remain in Taliban hands well into the following year [149] and any potential battle would require "a very slow advance". [150]

US Army Civil Affairs Teams from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion and Tactical Psychological Operations Teams from the 4th Psychological Operations Group assigned to both the Green Berets and Task Force Dagger were immediately deployed to Mazar-e-Sharif to assist in winning the hearts and minds of the inhabitants. [151]

Following rumors that Mullah Dadullah was headed to recapture the city with as many as 8,000 fighters, a thousand US troops of the 10th Mountain Division were airlifted into the city, providing the first solid position from which Kabul and Kandahar could be reached. [152] The US Air Force now had an airport to allow them to fly more sorties for resupply missions and humanitarian aid. [147] [153]

US-backed forces began immediately broadcasting from Radio Mazar-i-Sharif, the former Taliban Voice of Sharia channel, [154] including an address from former President Rabbani. [155]

On November 10, operators from C squadron SBS inserted via two C-130s into the recently captured Bagram Airfield and caused an immediate political quandary with the Northern Alliance leadership, which claimed the British had failed to consult in on the deployment. [125] [156] The British government had not given any forewarning or sought permission from the Northern Alliance of the deployment. The Northern Alliance foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah was "apoplectic" as he considered the uninvited arrival to be a violation of sovereignty, and complained bitterly to the head of the CIA field office, threatening to resign if the British did not withdraw. As it happened, the British government did alert the deputy head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan that they were deploying troops to Bagram, albeit at short notice. Arriving on the first flight, Brigadier Graeme Lamb, then the Director Special Forces, simply ignored Abdullah and drove to the Panjshir Valley, where he paid his respects to Ahmad Shah Massoud's grave and held talks with Northern Alliance leaders. The British Foreign Secretary tried to reassure the Northern Alliance that the deployment was not a vanguard of a British peacekeeping army, but Northern Alliance leaders did not believe them with the threat of the Northern Alliance opening fire on incoming RAF troop transports, the deployment was put on hold. [156]

On November 11, in the central north of Afghanistan, ODA 586 was advising General Daoud Khan outside the city of Taloqan and coordinating a batch of preparatory airstrikes when the General surprised everyone by launching an impromptu massed infantry assault on the Taliban holding the city. Before the first bomb could be dropped, the city fell. [151]

Fall of Kabul Edit

On the night of November 12, Taliban forces fled Kabul under cover of darkness. Northern Alliance forces (supported by ODA 555) [157] arrived the following afternoon, encountering a group of about twenty fighters hiding in the city's park. This group was killed in a 15-minute gun battle. After these forces were neutralized, Kabul was in the hands of coalition forces. [158]

The fall of Kabul started a cascading collapse of Taliban positions. Within 24 hours, all Afghan provinces along the Iranian border had fallen, including Herat. Local Pashtun commanders and warlords had taken over throughout northeastern Afghanistan, including Jalalabad. Taliban holdouts in the north fell back to the northern city of Kunduz. By November 16, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan was under siege. Nearly 10,000 Taliban fighters, led by foreign fighters, continued to resist. By then, the Taliban had been forced back to their heartland in southeastern Afghanistan around Kandahar. [159]

Elsewhere in Afghanistan UK and US special forces joined the Northern Alliance and other Afghan opposition groups to take Herat in November 2001. Canada and Australia also deployed forces. Other countries provided basing, access and overflight permission.

As a result of all the losses, surviving members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda retreated toward Kandahar, the spiritual birthplace and home of the Taliban movement and Tora Bora. [157]

By November 13, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, possibly including bin Laden, were concentrating in Tora Bora, 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Jalalabad. Nearly 2,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fortified themselves in positions within bunkers and caves. On November 16 the US began bombing the mountain redoubt. Around the same time, CIA and Special Forces operatives were at work in the area, enlisting local warlords and planning an attack. [160]

Objective Wolverine, Raptor and Operation Relentless Strike Edit

On November 13, the 75th Ranger Regiment carried out its second combat parachute drop into Afghanistan. A platoon-sized Ranger security element, including Team 3 of the Ranger Reconnaissance Detachment, accompanied by 8 Air Force Special Tactical operators, parachuted into a site southwest of Kandahar, codenamed Bastogne to secure a FARP for a follow on operation by the 160th SOAR. A pair of MC-130 cargo soon landed at the improvised airstrip and deposited four AH-6J Little Bird helicopters, the flight of little birds lifted off to hit a Taliban target compound near Kandahar code named Objective Wolverine. After destroying the target, the Little Birds returned to the FARP and proceeded to rearm and refuel and then they launched another strike against a second site called objective Raptor. With their mission completed, the Little Birds returned to the FARP, loaded onto the MC-130s and flew back to Pakistan. Several nights later, a similar mission codenamed Operation Relentless Strike took place – this time with the Rangers driving their modified HMMWV and Land Rovers to secure a remote desert strip. These were the first missions in Afghanistan conducted by the Little Bird pilots of the 160th SOAR, as the helicopters could not operate at the high altitudes in the mountains. [151]

Meanwhile, the US was able to track and kill al-Qaeda's number three, Mohammed Atef, with a bomb at his Kabul home between November 14–16, 2001, along with his guard Abu Ali al-Yafi'i and six others. [161] [162]

Battle of Tarinkot Edit

On November 14, 2001, ODA 574 and Hamid Karzai inserted into Uruzgan Province via 4 MH-60K helicopters [157] with a small force of guerrillas. [163] In response to the approach of Karzai's force, the inhabitants of the town of Tarinkot revolted and expelled their Taliban administrators. Karzai traveled to Tarinkot to meet with the town elders. While he was there, the Taliban marshaled a force of 500 men to retake Tarinkot. Karzai's small force plus the American contingent, which consisted of US Army Special Forces from ODA 574 and their US Air Force Combat Controller, Tech Sergeant Alex Yoshimoto, [164] were deployed in front of the town to block their advance. Relying heavily on close air support directed by Yoshimoto, the American/Afghan force managed to halt the Taliban advance and drive them away from the town. [165]

The defeat of the Taliban at Tarinkot was an important victory for Karzai, who used the victory to recruit more men to his fledgling guerrilla band. His force would grow in size to a peak of around 800 men. On November 30, they left Tarinkot and began advancing on Kandahar.

Fall of Kunduz Edit

Task Force Dagger attention focused on the last northern Taliban stronghold, Kunduz [157] as the bombardment at Tora Bora grew, the Siege of Kunduz was continuing. General Daoud and ODA 586 had initiated massive coalition airstrikes to demoralize the Taliban defenders. [157] After 11 days of fighting and bombardment, Taliban fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces on November 23. Shortly before the surrender, Pakistani aircraft arrived to evacuate intelligence and military personnel who had been aiding the Taliban's fight against the Northern Alliance. The airlift is alleged to have evacuated up to five thousand people, including Taliban and al-Qaeda troops. [166] [167] [168]

Operation Trent Edit

After political intersession with Prime Minister Tony Blair, the SAS were given a direct-action task – the destruction of an al-Qaeda-linked opium plant. The facility was located 400 km (250 mi) southwest of Kandahar, manned by between 80 and 100 foreign fighters, with defenses consisting of trench lines and several makeshift bunkers. The SAS were ordered to assault the facility in full daylight: the timelines had been mandated by CENTCOM and were based on the availability of air support assets – only one hour of on-call close air support was provided. The timings meant that the squadrons could not carry out a detailed reconnaissance of the site prior to the assault being launched. Despite these factors, the commanding officer of 22 SAS accepted the mission. The Target was a low priority for the US and probably would have been destroyed from the air if the British hadn't argued for a larger role in Afghanistan US SOF commanders guarded targets for their own units. The strategic significance of the facility has never fully been explained. [169]

The mission began in November 2001, with an 8-man patrol from G Squadron's Air Troop performing the regiments first wartime HALO parachute jump - onto a barren desert site in Registan to test its suitability as an improvised airstrip for the landing of the main assault force in C-130 Hecules. The Air Troop advance team confirmed it was suitable and later that day a fleet of C-130s began to land, each touching down just long enough for the SAS to disembark in their vehicles. Operators from A and G squadron drove directly off the ramps as the planes moved along the desert strip before the aircraft took off again the squadrons were drove in 38 Land Rover "pinkies", 2 logistics vehicles and 8 Kawasaki dirt bikes, they formed up and proceeded towards their target. One Land Rover broke down due to an engine problem, the vehicle was left behind, its 3-man crew stayed to guard it (they were picked when the assault force exfilled). The assault force drove to a previously agreed forming-up point and split into two elements - the main assault force and the FSB (fire support base), A Squadron was given the task of assaulting the target facility, whilst G Squadron took the role of FSB, G Squadron would suppress the enemy with vehicle-mounted GPMGs, .50cal HMGs, MILAN antitank missiles along with 81mm mortars and M82A1 sniper rifle, allowing A squadron closed in on the target (the force was out of range of the Coalition artillery guns). [170]

The Assault began with a preparatory airstrike, following this, A Squadron moved from its start line, firing its weapon they pulled up meters from the outer perimeter to dismount from their vehicles and closed in on the target on foot. All the while, G Squadron provided covering fire with heavy weapons onto the facility. Air support flew sorties until they ran out of munitions on a final pass, a US Navy F-18 Hornet strafed a bunker with its 20mm cannon, which narrowly missed several members of G Squadron. [171] As A Squadron closed on the fortified positions several SAS troopers were wounded, the al-Qaeda fighters were not particularly well trained but they were fanatical fighters and most relished the fight. The SAS had to fight hard for every inch of progress. [172] The RSM in command of the FSB joined in the action, he brought forward teams to reinforce A Squadron when he believed the assault was stalling, they were several hundred meters from the enemy positions when he was shot in the leg by an AK-47 round. [171] Eventually, the A Squadron assault force reached the objective, they cleared the HQ building, gathering all intelligence materials they could find. [172] The mission lasted 4 hours and a total of 4 SAS operators were wounded the operation became the largest British SAS operation in history. [173]

Battle of Qala-i-Jangi Edit

On November 25, as Taliban and terrorist prisoners were moved into Qala-I-Janghi fortress near Mazar-I-Sharif, a few Taliban attacked their Northern Alliance guards. This incident triggered a revolt by 600 prisoners, who soon seized the southern half of the medieval fortress, including an armory stocked with an array of AK47s, RPGs and crew-served weapons. Johnny Micheal Spann, one of two CIA SAD operatives at the fortress who had been interrogating prisoners, was killed, marking America's first combat death. [174]

The other CIA operator, known as 'Dave,' managed to make contact with CENTCOM who relayed his request for assistance to SOF troops at TF Dagger safe house in Mazar-e-Sharif. The safe house housed members of Delta Force, some Green Berets and a small team from M squadron SBS. A QRF was immediately formed of whoever was in the safe house at the time: a headquarters element from 3rd Battalion, 5th SFG, a pair of USAF liaison officers, a handful of CIA SAD operators and the SBS team. The 8-man SBS team arrived in Land Rover 90s and the Green Berets and CIA operatives arrived in minivans and began engaging the prisoners, fighting a pitched battle to "stem the tide" of the uprising as a result, CIA operative 'Dave' managed to escape, following this the operators turned their attention to recovering Spann's body. Over the course of 4 days the battle continued, Green Berets called in multiple airstrikes on the Taliban prisoners, during one CAS mission a JDAM was misdirected and hit the ground close to the Coalition and Northern Alliance positions, wounding 5 Green Berets and four SBS operators to various degrees. [175]

AC-130 gunships kept up aerial bombardments throughout the night, the following day (November 27) the siege was finally broken as Northern Alliance T-55 tanks were brought into the central courtyard to fire shells from its main guns into several block houses containing Taliban. Fighting continued sporadically thought the week as the last remnants were mopped out by Dostrum's Northern Alliance forces, the combined Green Beret-SBS team recovered Spann's body. [176]

The revolt was crushed after seven days of fighting involving a Special Boat Service unit, Army Special Forces, and Northern Alliance forces and other aircraft provided strafing fire and launched bombs. [177] 86 Taliban survived, and around 50 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed. The revolt was the final combat in northern Afghanistan.

Consolidation: the taking of Kandahar Edit

ODA 574 and Hamid Karzai began moving on Kandahar, gathering fighters from friendly local Pashtun tribes. His militia force eventually numbered some 800 men. They fought for two days with the Taliban, who were dug into ridge-lines overlooking the strategic Sayd-Aum-Kalay Bridge, eventually seizing it, with the help of US air-power, and opening the road to Kandahar. [178]

By the end of November, Kandahar was the Taliban's last stronghold, and was coming under increasing pressure. Nearly 3,000 tribal fighters, led by Karzai and Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar before the Taliban seized power, pressured Taliban forces from the east and cut off northern supply lines to Kandahar. The Northern Alliance loomed in the north and northeast.

ODA 583 had infiltrated the Shin-Narai Valley, southeast of Kandahar to support Gul Agha Sherzai, the former governor of Kandahar. By November 24, ODA 583 had established covert observations posts, which allowed them to call in devastating fire on Taliban positions. [179]

Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 US Marines, ferried in by CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and C-130s, set up a Forward Operating Base known as Camp Rhino in the desert south of Kandahar on November 25. This was the coalition's first base, and enabled other operating bases to form. The first significant combat involving US ground forces occurred a day after Rhino was captured, when 15 Taliban armored vehicles approached the base and were attacked by helicopter gunships, destroying many of them. Meanwhile, airstrikes continued to pound Taliban positions inside the city, where Mullah Omar remained. Omar remained defiant although his movement controlled only four out of 30 Afghan provinces by the end of November. He called on his forces to fight to the death.

On December 5, a 2,000 lb GPS-guided bomb landed among the Green Berets from ODA 574, killing 3 members and wounding the rest of the team. Over 20 of Karzai's militia were also killed and Karzai himself slightly wounded. A Delta Force unit nearby that had been operating nearby on a classified reconnaissance mission arrived in their Pinzgauers and secured the site, while Delta medics worked with wounded Green Berets. Along with a USMC CH-53 casualty evacuation helicopter onboard ODB 570 and ODA 524 were immediately dispatched by helicopter to assist with the wounded and to eventually replace the fallen operators of ODA 574. [178]

On December 6, Karzai was informed that he would be the next president of Afghanistan, he also negotiated the successful surrender of both the remaining Taliban forces around Sayd-Aum-Kalay and the entire city of Kandahar itself. ODA 524, ODB 570 and Karzai's militia began their final push to clear the city. [179] The US government rejected amnesty for Omar or any Taliban leaders. On December 7, Sherzai's forces seized Kandahar airport and moved in the city of Kandahar. [179] Omar slipped out of Kandahar with a group of loyalists and moved northwest into the mountains of Uruzgan Province, thus reneging on the Taliban's promise to surrender their fighters and their weapons. He was last reported seen leaving in a convoy of motorcycles.

Other Taliban leaders fled to Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia and Paktika Provinces. The border town of Spin Boldak surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. Afghan forces under Gul Agha seized Kandahar, while the US Marines took control of the airport and established a US base.

Also in early December 2001, as the US invasion of Afghanistan was almost completed, it was reported that warlord Dostum's forces, who were fighting the Taliban alongside the US Special Forces, had intentionally suffocated as many as 3,000 Taliban prisoners in container trucks in an incident that has become known as the Dasht-i-Leili massacre. [180] [181] [182] [183] [184] [185] [186] The Taliban prisoners were shot and/or suffocated while being transferred by US and Junbish-i Milli soldiers from Kunduz to Sheberghan prison in Afghanistan. The site of the graves is believed to be in the Dasht-i-Leili desert just west of Sheberghan, in the Jowzjan Province.

Battle of Tora Bora Edit

After the fall of Kabul and Kandahar, al-Qaeda elements including Bin Laden and other key leaders withdrew to Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, from there they moved into the Tora Bora region of the White Mountains, 20 km away from the Pakistan border - where there was a network of caves and prepared defenses used by the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War. Signal intercepts and interrogation of captured Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda terrorists pointed towards the presence of significant numbers of foreign fighters and possible HVTs in and moving to the area instead of committing conventional forces, higher echelons of both the White House and the Pentagon took the decision to isolate and destroy the al-Qaeda elements in the area with the US SOF supporting locally recruited AMFs (Afghan Militia Forces) - due to misplaced fear of replicating the Soviets experience in the area. [187]

ODA 572 and a CIA Jawbreaker team (small group of CIA SAD ground branch operators) were dispatched to Tora Bora to advise eastern anti-Taliban forces under the command of two warlords: Hazrat Ali and Mohammed Zaman (both had a deep-seated distrust toward each other) using CIA hard currency, some 2,500 to 3,000 AMF were recruited for the coming battle al-Qaeda were using Tora Bora as a final strongpoint. The leader of the CIA Jawbreaker team requested a battalion of Rangers - 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment - to be dropped into the mountains to establish blocking positions along potential escape routes out of Tora Bora into Pakistan. They would serve as the 'anvil' whilst Green Berets with the AMF would be the 'Hammer,' with attached Air Force Combat Controllers, the Rangers could direct airstrikes onto enemy concentrations or engage them in ambushes troops from the 10th Mountain Division were also an option, but this was denied. [188]

From the outset of the battle, ODA 572 with its attached Combat Controller called in precision airstrikes (15,000lb Daisy Cutters were often used), whilst their AMFs launched what amounted to a number of poorly executed and coordinated attacks on established al-Qaeda positions with a predictable degree of success. The Green Berets discovered that the militias lacked both the motivation and skill for the battle: according to ODA members they would gain ground in the morning following US airstrikes and then relinquish control of those gains the same day, they would also retreat to their base areas for sleep each night. With the AMF offensive stalled and the CIA and ODA teams overstretched, the decision was made to deploy more troops into the battle. [189]

40 operators from A squadron Delta Force were forward deployed to Tora Bora and would assume tactical command of the battle from the CIA, with the Delta squadron were a dozen of so members of M squadron SBS, members of MI6 also deployed to the region alongside the SBS. The Delta operators were deployed in small teams embedded within the militias and sent their own Recce operators out to pick up Bin Laden's trail, eventually with the assistance of Green Berets and CIA operators cajoling the AMF, progress was made. The Delta squadron commander agreed with the Jawbreaker assessment of the situation and requested blocking forces or the scattering of aerial landmines to deny mountain passes to the enemy and since the deployment of the Ranger battalion had been denied, he requested that his operators carryout their proposed role but all his requests were denied by General Franks. On December 12, two weeks into the battle, AMF commander Zaman opened negotiations with the trapped al-Qaeda and Taliban in Tora Bora, despite the frustrations of the Americans and British, a temporary truce was called until 0800hr the following morning to allow al-Qaeda to supposedly agree to surrender terms by Shura (group meeting). This was a ruse played to allow as many as several hundred al-Qaeda and members of the 055 Brigade to escape over night toward Pakistan. [190] [191]

The following day, a handheld ICOM radio recovered from the body of a dead al-Qaeda fighter allowed members of the Delta squadron, SBS, CIA, and MI6 to hear Bin laden's voice - apparently apologizing to his followers for leading them to Tora Bora and giving his blessing for their surrender - thought to be addressed to the terrorists that stayed to fight a rearguard action to allow Bin Laden to escape. Credible rumors of cash payments by Bin Laden to at least one of the warlords abound - the reluctance of the AMF to press the attack may have been influenced by similar bribes. The leader of the CIA Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora believed that two large al-Qaeda groups escaped: the smaller group of 130 jihadis escaped east into Pakistan, while the second group including Bin Laden and 200 Saudi and Yemeni jihadis took the route across the mountains to the town of Parachinar, Pakistan the Delta squadron commander believed that Bin Laden crossed the border into Pakistan sometime around 16 December. A Delta Recce team, call-sign 'Jackal', spotted a tall man wearing a camouflage jacket with a large number of fighters entering a cave, the Recce team called in multiple airstrikes on the obvious presumption that it was Bin Laden, but later DNA analysis from the remains did not match Bin Laden's. With the majority of the terrorists gone the battle came to an end, official tallies of claiming hundreds of al-Qaeda killed at Tora Bora are difficult to confirm since many of the bodies were buried in caves or vaporized by bombs, just under 60 prisoners were taken. [192] [191] [193] Around December 17, across the border, Pakistani Border Scouts, allegedly assisted by members of JSOC and the CIA in capturing an upward of another 300 foreign fighters.

On December 20, ODA 561 were inserted into the White Mountains to support ODA 572 in conducting SSE of the caves and to assist with recovering DNA samples from terrorist bodies. [194]

US and UK forces continued searching into January, but no sign of al-Qaeda leadership emerged. An estimated 200 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the battle, along with an unknown number of tribal fighters. No American or British deaths were reported.

Diplomatic and humanitarian efforts Edit

In December 2001 the United Nations hosted the Bonn Conference. The Taliban were excluded. Four Afghan opposition groups participated. Observers included representatives of neighboring and other involved major countries.

The resulting Bonn Agreement created the Afghan Interim Authority that would serve as the "repository of Afghan sovereignty" and outlined the so-called Petersberg Process that would lead towards a new constitution and a new Afghan government.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378 of November 14, 2001, included "Condemning the Taliban for allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for the export of terrorism by the al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups and for providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and others associated with them, and in this context supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to replace the Taliban regime". [195]

The United Nations World Food Programme temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks but resumed them after the fall of the Taliban.

Security force for Kabul Edit

On December 20, 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 that 5,000. [196] The force had the invitation of the new interim Afghan government [197] Its mandate did not extend beyond the Kabul area for the first few years. [198] Eighteen countries were contributing to the force in February 2002.

In January 2002, another series of caves was discovered in Zawar Kili, just south of Tora Bora, airstrikes hit the sites before SOF teams were inserted into the area. A SEAL platoon from SEAL Team 3, including several of their Desert Patrol Vehicles, accompanied by a German KSK element, a Norwegian SOF team and JTF2 reconnaissance teams spent some nine days conducting extensive searches/site exploitation, clearing an estimated 70 caves and 60 structures in the area, recovering a huge amount of both intelligence and munitions, but they didn't encounter any al-Qaeda fighters. [199]

Following the Loya jirga, tribal leaders and former exiles established an interim government in Kabul under Hamid Karzai. US forces established their main base at Bagram airbase just north of Kabul. Kandahar airport also became an important US base. Outposts were established in eastern provinces to hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives.

Al-Qaeda forces regrouped in the Shah-i-Kot Valley area, Paktia province, in January and February 2002. A Taliban fugitive in Paktia province, Mullah Saifur Rehman began reconstituting some of his militia forces. They totaled over 1,000 by the beginning of March 2002. The insurgents wanted to launch guerrilla attacks and possibly a major offensive, copying 1980s anti-Soviet fighters.

The US detected the buildup, and on March 2, 2002, US, Canadian, and Afghan forces began "Operation Anaconda" against them. The trucks of Task Force Hammer become stuck in the mud while owing to a communications mistake, the massive aerial bombardment did not take place. [200] The poorly trained Afghan government troops proved incapable of fighting al-Qaeda without air support. [200] Mujahideen forces, using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars, were entrenched into caves and bunkers in the hillsides largely above 3,000 m (10,000 ft). They used "hit and run" tactics, opening fire and then retreating to their caves and bunkers to weather the return fire and bombing. US commanders initially estimated their opponents as an isolated pocket numbering fewer than 200. Instead the guerrillas numbered between 1,000–5,000, according to some estimates. [201] By March 6, eight American, seven Afghan allied, and up to 400 Al Qaida opposing fighters had been killed. [202] At one point, while coming under heavy al-Qaeda force, the Afghan government forces fled in panic and refused to fight, leading to the men of Task Force Hammer to take on al-Qaeda alone. [203] "Friendly fire" incidents where American troops were bombed by their air force several times added to further difficulties. [203] Sub-engagements included the Battle of Takur Ghar on 'Roberts Ridge,' and follow-up Operations Glock and Polar Harpoon. [204]

Several hundred guerrillas escaped to the tribal areas in Waziristan. During Operation Anaconda and other missions during 2002 and 2003, the New Zealand Special Air Service [205] and other special forces from Australia, Germany, and Norway were also involved in operations. [206]

In February 2002, the National Security Council met to decide whether to expand ISAF beyond Kabul. In a dispute between Powell and Rumsfeld (a pattern repeated often through the Bush Administration) Rumsfeld's view that the force should not be expanded prevailed. [207] Historians later wrote that the failure of ISAF to be deployed beyond Kabul drove Karzai to offer positions within the state to potential spoilers whose activities did great harm to the state's reputation. [208] Because the rise of the insurgency was linked to grievances over governance, [209] this became a serious problem.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's aimed to carry out operations in Afghanistan as quickly as possible, and leave as fast as possible. He thus wished to focus on kinetic counter-terrorism operations and building up a new Afghan Army. [210]

Operation Harpoon started in the early hours of March 13, aiming to eliminate pockets of Taliban and Al-Qaeda resistance in the Arma Mountains in eastern Afghanistan. The land component was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI). It consisted of a battalion-sized Canadian and an American force from the 187th Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division. [211]

Post-Anaconda operations Edit

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 code-name 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. [212]

In May 2002 Combined Joint Task Force 180 became the senior US 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. [213]

Several events, taken together, in early 2002 can be seen as the ending of the first phase of the US led war in the country. The first was the dispersal of the major groups of the Taliban and Al Qaeda after the end of Anaconda. In the United States, in February 2002 the decision was taken not to expand international security forces beyond Kabul. Finally President Bush made his speech at the Virginia Military Institute on April 17, 2002, invoking the memory of General George Marshall whilst talking of Afghan reconstruction, which resulted in discussion of a 'Marshall Plan' for Afghanistan. [214] The decision against a significant expansion of international presence and development assistance was later seen by historians as a major error. [215] Avoiding large forces which might rouse the Afghans against the United States was later seen as a fallacy. However, the growing commitment to Iraq was absorbing more and more resources, which in hindsight would have made committing such resources to Afghanistan impossible. [216]

The US invasion of Afghanistan became the first phase of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present).


In downtown Lashkar Gah, most businesses were open as usual on Friday, but residents and the thousands of refugees displaced by the fighting spoke of lingering fear as Taliban forces remain active not far from the city.

“I fled my home and left everything behind,” said Abdul Bari, a resident of Nad Ali district. “We are fed up with this situation and it is better to die one day instead of dying every day.”

Taliban forces have made major gains across the province in the past year, forcing government troops to abandon some bases and checkpoints in a bid to consolidate their defenses.

Provincial Governor Hayatullah Hayat accused militants of planting indiscriminate roadside bombs and using residents as human shields.

“I am assuring the people in Helmand that (the Taliban) won’t be able to overrun our districts, let alone capture Lashkar Gah,” he said.

Such assurances may offer little comfort to residents wearied by constant conflict.

“We prefer to live under the current government, not the Taliban, but absolutely not under this current situation,” said Abdul Khaliq.

Officials blame elements across the border in Pakistan for fuelling the conflict by supplying the Taliban fighters with better weapons.

“It is not the regular Taliban force with a pair of sandals and an AK-47,” said one senior government official in Lashkar Gah. “They are better trained and equipped.”

The violence means Helmand will continue to be a pressure point for over-stretched government troops and their international backers.

Hundreds of international military advisers are stationed at bases in Helmand and U.S. warplanes conducted at least two dozen air strikes in the two weeks of most recent fighting.

Even if the lull in fighting around the provincial capital lasts, civilians doubt the government will be able to bring peace any time soon.

“Either the government should get rid of the Taliban or let them come and govern,” said one shopkeeper. “We have been burning in this fire for so many years and we don’t know what could be worse than this.”

‘Distressingly high’ levels of violence threatens Afghan peace process, says US envoy

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan warned Monday that “distressingly high” levels of violence threaten to derail ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad’s comments come as renewed fighting for days has plagued Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a longtime Taliban stronghold. The Taliban this Friday agreed to halt its attacks on condition of the U.S. stopping its airstrikes in the area.

But then came a suicide car bombing Sunday that killed at least 13 people and wounded around 120 others in Afghanistan’s western Ghor province. Though no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban.

“Violence has stalked Afghans for far too long. It has robbed far too many Afghans of their loved ones,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter. “The tragedy in Ghor today is the most recent example.”

He added: “The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.”

1/9 Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace. Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.

&mdash U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 18, 2020

The Taliban offered no immediate reaction to Khalilzad’s tweets. However, it issued a statement Sunday over the U.S. airstrikes targeting Helmand province. The Taliban warned that “all responsibility and consequences from continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

Omer Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand’s provincial governor, said Monday there were still gun battles in a few areas of the province’s Nad Ali and Nawa districts. The Afghan air force separately conducted limited airstrikes to support Afghan forces trying to retake Taliban-held areas, Zwak said.

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