“Global War on Terror” is the term used to describe the military, political, diplomatic, and economic measures employed by the United States and other allied governments against organizations, countries, or individuals that are committing terrorist acts; that might be inclined to engage in terrorism; or that support those who do commit such acts. The Global War on Terror is an amorphous concept and a somewhat indistinct term, yet its use emphasizes the difficulty in classifying the type of nontraditional warfare being waged against U.S. and Western interests by various terrorist groups that do not represent any nation. The term was coined by President George W. Bush in a September 20, 2001, televised address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, and has been presented in official White House pronouncements, fact sheets, State of the Union messages, and such National Security Council (NSC) position papers as the National Security Strategy (March 2006) and the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (February 2003 and September 2006 editions). Since 2001, the Global War on Terror has been directed primarily at Islamic terrorist groups but has also been expanded to include actions against all types of terrorism. During the Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also called it the “Long War.”
As with the Cold War, the Global War on Terror is being waged on numerous fronts, against many individuals and nations, and involves both military and nonmilitary tactics. President George W. Bush's September 20, 2001, announcement of the Global War on Terror was in response to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States, which led to the deaths of some 3,000 civilians, mostly Americans but representing civilians of 90 different countries.
Although the war constitutes a global effort, stretching into Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, the Middle East remains a focal point of the effort. The ongoing conflict and the manner in which it has been waged has been the source of much debate. There is no widely agreed-upon estimate regarding the number of casualties during the Global War on Terror because it includes the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the war in Iraq, as well as many acts of terrorism around the world. Some estimates, which include the U.S.-led coalition invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, claim that well over 2 million people have died in the struggle.
taken from Credo Reference, “Global War on Terror.”