War and Conflict

The War on Terror

When did the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan begin?

Joined principally by the United Kingdom, the U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001–26 days after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. The goals were to weaken the Taliban government and root out terrorist cells in the Mideast nation. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (1957-), the suspected 9/11 mastermind, was also a target. The strikes on Afghanistan, which the United States called Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), were the first in the new war on terror.

OEF’s primary goal—ousting the ruling Taliban government—was achieved relatively quickly. By mid-November, the combined efforts of the U.S. military, British, and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, managed to take control of major cities, including the capital of Kabul. In late December an interim government was established at a UN-convened conference in Bonn, Germany. In June 2002 Hamid Karzai (1957-) was overwhelmingly elected as transitional president by the loya jirga, the traditional Afghan assembly of ethnic leaders; the transitional government was to run Afghanistan until national elections could be held in 2004. Despite strides in establishing the new government, fighting continued in the rugged mountainous terrain of eastern Afghanistan; Operation Anaconda was the name given to the U.S. military’s effort to combat Taliban pockets of resistance, root out terrorist cells, and capture key al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden (though he had reportedly fled to neighboring Pakistan). Violence also preceded the October 2004 election.


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