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Literature of the Global War on Terror

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Afghan War/Operation Enduring Freedom

International conflict triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Within weeks of the hijacking of four jetliners by al-Qaeda operatives on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. began military operations in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda had been hosted by the Taliban regime. Teams of commandos infiltrated the country to coordinate with Afghan anti-Taliban groups while a U.S. bombing campaign weakened the Taliban, allowing anti-Taliban forces to take control of the country by December. As Taliban leaders retreated into rural areas and into Pakistan, an interim Afghan government was formed, and more U.S. and NATO troops arrived to stabilize the country.

In spite of promises for a large-scale rebuilding effort, American attention and resources were quickly diverted to the Iraq War, leaving reconstruction in Afghanistan underfunded and plagued by waste and corruption. Presidential and legislative elections were held in 2004 and 2005, respectively, but the Afghan government's inability to provide security and economic development led to widespread dissatisfaction, especially in the Pashtun regions. By 2005 a Pashtun insurgency had emerged, led by a reconstituted Taliban. Attacks were concentrated in eastern Afghanistan, where fighters were able to use the tribal areas of western Pakistan as a rear base. Faced with increasing violence, the U.S. began secretly targeting militants in Pakistan with missiles fired from remotely piloted drones in 2007.

The U.S. sent an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in late 2009 and increased the pace of drone strikes in an effort to slow the insurgency. In June 2011 the U.S. announced a plan calling for the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014.


taken from Credo Reference, "Afghanistan War"