Following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington D.C., President George W. Bush vowed to “win the war against terrorism.” This included the launch of a U.S.-led operative in Afghanistan, with the goal of toppling the terrorist groups Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Today, going into its 16th year, the war is the longest conflict the U.S. has ever been involved in and continues to inhibit the lives of thousands of civilians. Here are 10 facts about the ongoing Afghanistan War.
- The current volatile situation in Afghanistan is the latest in a long history of conflicts. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 came after over 20 years of war in the country. A Soviet Invasion in 1979 prompted opposition from several militant groups, called the Mujahideen. The U.S., Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia all provided funding and arms to the Soviet opposition. These contributions stemmed from a desire to resist the Soviet spread of communism but ended up contributing to budding extremism and violence in militant groups.
- By 1985, half of the Afghan population was already displaced due to war and conflict with the Soviets. By 1989, the last of the Soviet troops left Afghanistan after peace accords were reached between the USSR, Pakistan, the U.S. and Afghanistan. However, the existing government quickly toppled and the country dissolved into a brutal civil war, resulting in the Taliban seizing Kabul and quickly enforcing their influence across the country.
- President George W. Bush signed a joint resolution into law on September 18, 2001, authorizing the use of force against those responsible for the September 11 attacks. The resolution was later cited as justification by the Bush administration for decisions such as the invasion of Afghanistan, eavesdropping on American citizens with the absence of a court order, and the operation of a detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
- The movement in Afghanistan began covertly by the CIA on September 26, 2001. Just 15 days after the attacks in the U.S., the CIA backed Northern Alliance Liaison Team – codenamed JAWBREAKER – and was on the ground and operating in Afghanistan, thus officially beginning the Afghanistan War.
- The British invaded Afghanistan alongside the U.S. In October of 2001, the U.S. and British militaries began a bombing campaign against the forces of the Taliban. Other countries, like Canada, France, Australia and Germany pledged future support at the time the bombing began.
- On November 14, 2001, after the fall of the Taliban in Kabul, the UN Security council passed Resolution 1378, which called for the participation of the United Nations in forming a transitional administration and facilitating the growth and spread of stability. In December, several leaders from major factions in Afghanistan traveled to a U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany. The factions signed and an interim government was decided upon.
- Since the beginning of the conflict, more than four dozen countries have contributed troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
- In April 2002, President Bush promised: “By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from evil and is a better place to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.” The statement was meant to invoke reconstructions similar to that of post-World War II. Soon afterward, the U.S. Congress appropriated over $38 billion in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009.
- In 2011, President Barack Obama pledged the gradual exit of American troops from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, due to continuously escalated situations with the Taliban, 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. “We have to deal with the realities of the world,” says President Obama.
- As of 2015, the U.S. committed over $685 billion to funding the war in Afghanistan. Along with the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War has been the most expensive in U.S. history.
Stability in Afghanistan has made significant strides in the past several decades. The country’s GDP grew an average of 9.4% per year from 2003 to 2012. Life expectancy in the country has increased by nearly 20 years in the past decade. In 2002, less than a million children were enrolled in school, while now the number surpasses eight million. When the U.S. first invaded the country, only six percent of citizens had access to reliable electricity, while the number now reaches more than 28 percent.
Despite the country’s advances, basic amenities such as infrastructure and access to healthcare and education are still severely lacking. The length of the Afghanistan War and U.S. airstrikes, drone presence and ground troops have devastated the country’s ability to develop independently, and the Taliban continues to terrorize much of the country, causing thousands of Afghan refugees to continue to flee persecution.
– Peyton Jacobsen