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The War in Afghanistan was an armed conflict from 2001 to 2021. It began when an international military coalition led by the United States launched an invasion of Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban-ruled Islamic Emirate and establishing the internationally recognized Islamic Republic three years later. The conflict officially ended with the 2021 Taliban offensive, which overthrew the Islamic Republic, and re-established the Islamic Emirate. It was the longest war in the military history of the United States, surpassing the length of the Vietnam War (1955–1975) by approximately 6 months.
|War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)|
|Part of the Global War on Terrorism and the Afghan conflict|
Clockwise from top-left:
American troops in a firefight with Taliban insurgents in Kunar Province; An American F-15E Strike Eagle dropping 2000 pound JDAMs on a cave in eastern Afghanistan; an Afghan soldier surveying atop a Humvee; Afghan and American soldiers move through snow in Logar Province; victorious Taliban fighters after securing Kabul; an Afghan soldier surveying a valley in Parwan Province; British troops preparing to board a Chinook during Operation Black Prince
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
ISAF/RS phase (2001–2021):|
Islamic State of Afghanistan (2001–2002)
Afghan Transitional Authority (2002–2004)
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2004–2021)
ISAF (2001–2014; 51 countries)
High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (allegedly; from 2015)
Khost Protection Force and other pro-government paramilitaries
ISAF/RS phase (2001–2021):|
RS phase (2015–2021):
|Commanders and leaders|
ISAF: 130,000+ (Peak Strength)
Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: 307,947 (Peak Strength, January 2021)
Resolute Support Mission: 17,178 (Peak Strength, October 2019)Khost Protection Force: 3,000-10,000 (2018)<refMujib Mashal (31 December 2018). "C.I.A.'s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger". The New York Times.</ref>
Fidai Mahaz: 8,000 (2013)
ISIL–KP: 3,500–4,000 (2018, in Afghanistan)
|Casualties and losses|
Afghan security forces:
b The continued list includes nations who have contributed fewer than 200 troops as of May 2017.|
Following the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban immediately extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the United States; the Taliban refused to do so without evidence of Bin Laden's involvement. The US declared Operation Enduring Freedom, as part of the earlier-declared war on terror. Afghanistan was invaded and the Taliban and its allies were soon expelled from major population centers by the US-led forces, supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance; however, Bin Laden relocated to neighboring Pakistan. The US-led coalition remained in Afghanistan, forming a security mission (ISAF)—sanctioned by the United Nations—with the goal of creating a new democratic authority in the country that would prevent the Taliban from returning to power. A new Afghan Interim Administration was established, and international rebuilding efforts were launched. By 2003, the Taliban had reorganized under their founder, Mullah Omar, and began a widespread insurgency against the new Afghan government and coalition forces. Insurgents from the Taliban and other Islamist groups waged asymmetric warfare, fighting with guerrilla warfare in the countryside, suicide attacks against urban targets, and reprisals against perceived Afghan collaborators. By 2007, large parts of Afghanistan had been retaken by the Taliban. In response, the coalition sent a major influx of troops for counter-insurgency operations, with a "clear and hold" strategy for villages and towns; this influx peaked in 2011, when roughly 140,000 foreign troops were operating under ISAF command across Afghanistan.
A US covert operation in neighboring Pakistan led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, and NATO leaders began planning an exit strategy from Afghanistan. On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan and officially transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government. Unable to eliminate the Taliban through military means, coalition forces (and separately, the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani) turned to diplomacy to end the conflict. These efforts culminated in the US–Taliban deal in February 2020, which stipulated the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan by 2021. In exchange, the Taliban pledged to prevent any militant group from staging attacks from Afghan territory against the US and its allies. However, the Afghan government was not a party to the deal and rejected its terms. Coinciding with the withdrawal of troops, the Taliban launched a broad offensive throughout the summer of 2021, successfully reestablishing their control over Afghanistan, including the capital city of Kabul on 15 August. On the same day, the last president of the Islamic Republic, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country; the Taliban declared victory and the war was formally brought to a close. By 30 August, the last American military aircraft departed from Afghanistan, ending the protracted US-led military presence in the country.
Overall, the war killed an estimated 176,000–212,000+ people, including 46,319 civilians. While more than 5.7 million former refugees returned to Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion, by the time the Taliban returned to power in 2021, 2.6 million Afghans remained refugees, while another 4 million were internally displaced.
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