Afghanistan war enters 18th year
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | Stars and Stripes | Published: October 3, 2018
Sunday marks 17 years of the war in Afghanistan.
As the 18th year begins, Stars and Stripes has recapped key points throughout the war, which has spanned the terms of three presidents. Combat veterans now serve with their sons and daughters, some of whom were too young to remember 9/11.
Oct. 7, 2001
American forces invade Afghanistan after the ruling Taliban refuse to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The Taliban had allowed bin Laden and other members of the terrorist organization to reside in Afghanistan, where they orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Other countries soon join the U.S.-led mission, and the Taliban are ousted from power within weeks.
Jan. 4, 2002
Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, becomes the first American servicemember killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan, after his convoy is ambushed in Khost province. The communications specialist for a CIA paramilitary team is posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. As of 2018, nearly 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan, with fatalities peaking in 2010.
Feb. 4, 2002
The CIA uses an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing for the first time. The strike happens in Paktia province, near the city of Khost. Similar drone strikes become a common, yet controversial, tactic of the White House under President Barack Obama.
Aug. 11, 2003
NATO takes the lead of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, focusing on helping the Afghan government provide effective security, so that terrorists aren’t able to use the country again as a safe haven. Afghanistan is the alliance’s first mission beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. The U.S. has more than 10,000 troops in the country, but Washington’s attention is diverted to Iraq, which allows the Taliban to regroup and regain control of key areas.
Oct. 9, 2004
Hamid Karzai wins Afghanistan’s first presidential election with over 55 percent of the vote. Over the course of his first term, relations with Washington deteriorate, particularly because of mounting civilian casualties caused by U.S. forces. Karzai would go on to win a second five-year term in 2009, in an election marred by electoral fraud and low voter turnout.
Sept. 3, 2008
U.S. special forces conduct a covert raid against Taliban fighters in the border town of Angur Ada in South Waziristan. It’s the first ground-based battle fought by U.S. troops against the Taliban in Pakistan’s borders. Border skirmishes between the U.S. and Pakistan continue until 2012, resulting in dozens of Pakistani deaths and an apology from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. To this day, Pakistan continues to be blamed for harboring Taliban fighters, something Islamabad denies.
Dec. 1, 2009
Obama announces he’ll send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The troop surge brings the number of American forces in the country to an all-time high of about 100,000. The surge comes close to the force levels requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who argues that unless more troops are deployed, the war will likely be lost.
June 7, 2010
The war in Afghanistan reaches the 104-month mark, making it the longest war in U.S. history. It surpasses the Vietnam War, which — if U.S. involvement is calculated from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 — lasted for 103 months. Many critics have begun likening Afghanistan to Vietnam, which Obama calls “a false reading of history.”
June 23, 2010
Obama fires McChrystal, the U.S.’s top commander in Afghanistan, after Rolling Stone magazine publishes comments by McChrystal and his aids belittling the civilian component of the Afghan strategy team. After dismissing McChrystal, Obama says U.S. policy in Afghanistan will not change, despite strong doubts from his party and international allies. McChrystal’s firing was the first time in nearly 60 years that a president directly stepped in to remove a senior commander in a war zone for disrespect toward the White House.
May 2, 2011
Al-Qaida leader bin Laden is killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. The SEALS, who flew in stealth helicopters at night from Afghanistan to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, killed five people during a raid. The operation ended a nearly 10-year search for bin Landen, whose body was buried at sea.
Feb. 21, 2012
Gen. John Allen, the U.S.’s top commander in Afghanistan, orders an inquiry into allegations that Qurans were burned at an American base in Afghanistan. A spokesman for the NATO coalition says the books were burned by mistake. Hundreds of Afghans violently protest, while Allen announces all foreign troops serving in Afghanistan will be trained on how to identify, store and handle religious material.
June 18, 2013
The Taliban officially open an office in Qatar to facilitate peace talks, but there are immediate issues because of a sign and a flag displayed at the building. It prompts Karzai to pull out of peace talks before they begin. The U.S. says a political solution is the only way to end the conflict, and since the incident, several attempts have been made to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
May 31, 2014
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been the only U.S. military prisoner held in Afghanistan, is released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl, who pleads guilty to charges of desertion, left his platoon’s outpost in Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and was captured by enemy forces shortly afterward.
Some U.S. servicemembers risked their lives searching for him in the weeks that followed. Obama defends the controversial prisoner swap, admitting that the freed Taliban fighters could try to harm the U.S. again, but that, “we still get back an American soldier if he’s held in captivity. Period.”
December 28, 2014
International combat operations in Afghanistan end as ISAF wraps up its mission to be replaced by Resolute Support. This leads to a deterioration of the security situation, as Afghan forces aren’t able to provide an adequate level of protection.
April 18, 2015
The Islamic State group carries out its first attack in Afghanistan when a suicide bomb is detonated in Jalalabad, killing more than 30 people and injuring 100. The group would go on to claim many deadly attacks across the country, including in the capital Kabul. Despite concerted efforts by Afghan and U.S. forces, the group continues to carry out attacks currently.
Sept. 28, 2015
The Taliban overrun the northern city of Kunduz, the first time the group has managed to take control of a major population center since the war began. The U.S. is called on to provide air support, and on Oct. 3 bombs an international hospital killing 42 people. Gen. John Nicholson, the new commander for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, later apologizes for the bombing.
Jan. 20, 2017
Trump is inaugurated as U.S. president, becoming the third American leader to oversee the war. Under Trump, there is an uptick in U.S. airstrikes, including the use in April of the “Mother of All Bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. in combat. In August, Trump finally reveals his strategy for Afghanistan, which rejects timetables and commits the U.S. to the conflict indefinitely.
June 7, 2018
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offers the Taliban an unconditional cease-fire ahead of an Islamic holiday, which lasts for two weeks. Days later, the Taliban announce their own cease-fire, which holds tenuously for about three days. The insurgents continue to hold or contest more of the country than ever since the 2001 invasion.