American Involvement in Afghanistan: A Historical Timeline
American Involvement in Afghanistan: A Historical Timeline
THE ROOTS OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN (20TH CENTURY)
(August 8) The Treaty of Rawalpindi gives Afghanistan independence.Throughout the 19th century the British saw Afghanistan as a barrier protecting their interests in India from Russia. Afghanistan is not always in agreement with the British, and three different wars are fought to determine who will control the country's affairs. The third war results in the Treaty of Rawalpindi, as the British, tired of battle in the wake of World War I, relinquish control of Afghan foreign policy.
Mohammad Zahir Shah rules as Afghan king for 40 years. In 1953, General Mohammed Daoud becomes Prime Minister. He favors close relations with the Soviet Union, and these ties grow stronger after Nikita Krushchev becomes the Soviet leader in 1956. Daoud is forced out in 1963, and the next year Zahir Shah reorganizes Afghanistan as a constitutional monarchy. The result is political polarization as new parties form and vie for influence. In 1973, Daoud seizes power in a coup, deposing the king and abolishing the monarchy. Afghanistan is now a republic, with Daoud as president and prime minister.
(April 27) Another coup. The People's Democratic Party (PDP) overthrows the Daoud Government and establishes the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The new government introduces a combination of Marxist and liberal reforms, including many for women, such as the banning of forced marriages and female suffrage. Traditional Islamic conservatives don't approve of these changes, and various groups form to fight the government under the name Mujahedeen. Additionally, the PDP suffers from infighting of its own, and the country is hit by a series of violent incidents throughout 1978 and 1979.
(December 24) The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. The Afghan government's reforms are met with fierce and growing resistance in 1978 and 1979; its alliance with the Soviet Union includes a December 1978 treaty that permits the government to seek Soviet military aid if needed. The Afghans request help throughout 1979; although the Soviets respond in a minor way at first, by the end of the year they conclude that a full military presence is needed to stabilize and preserve the Afghan government against the Mujahedeen's attacks.
A stalemate develops. The invading Soviet forces gain control of urban areas, and make occasional offensives into Mujahedeen-controlled territory in the surrounding countryside. Some of these are successful, some less so, and although the Mujahedeen suffer heavy losses at times, they are able to continue their guerilla war against the Afghan government and their Soviet protectors.
International aid for the Mujahedeen. Seeing it as a vital engagement in the Cold War, the United States continues to provide covert aid to the Mujahedeen, which it has done since July 1979, six months before the Soviet invasion. Other countries also contribute aid, including Arab countries that prefer an Islamic Afghanistan, as well as China, which sees strategic value to its own interests in opposing the Soviets. In 1986 the U.S. supplies Stinger missiles, which help change the war's direction by forcing Soviet air power into less effective tactics.
The Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan. In 1985, the U.S.S.R.'s new leader Mikhail Gorbachev announces that Soviet troops will be leaving Afghanistan. A transfer of responsibility soon begins that sees the Afghan army increasingly taking on the bulk of the fighting against the Mujahedeen. The Soviet Army starts the first phase of its withdrawal on May 15, 1988, finishing on August 16 of that year. On November 15 the rest of the Soviet forces start to head home, and the last troops leave on February 15, 1989.
Afghan civil war continues. After the Soviet Union's troop withdrawal, the Mujahedeen continue fighting against Afghan government troops to determine who will gain control of the country. In 1992, the decisive blow to the Afghan government occurs when government troops led by Abdul Rashad Dostum switch sides and join the Mujahedeen. They help capture the Afghan capital of Kabul, causing the government to fall. Almost immediately, rival factions within the Mujahedeen vie for positions of power within the new government, which is led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
The Taliban take control. Made up of Islamic scholars, students, and former Mujahedeen soldiers, the Taliban quickly expand out of their southern base, overcoming resistance from warlord militias along the way. Initially Afghan citizens welcome their message of peace and stability, but soon they become unhappy with the Taliban's reliance on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Taliban control about 95 percent of the country by the end of 2000.
(August 7) The U.S. attacks Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The American embassies in Kenya and Sudan are hit by truck bombs, which kill hundreds of people and wound thousands more. Osama bin Laden is accused of directing the attack, and in retaliation President Bill Clinton launches cruise missiles at Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, hoping to eliminate bin Laden in the process. Their timing is off, however, as bin Laden leaves the camp just hours before the missiles hit.
(October 15) The U.N. imposes economic sanctions. The sanctions restricting trade and economic development are approved after the Taliban refuses to stop providing sanctuary and training for international terrorists and their organizations. The U.S. government wants Osama bin Laden to stand trial in America for his role in the embassy bombings, but the Taliban won't extradite him. By 2000, bin Laden has more camps in Afghanistan that are filled with terrorist trainees.
THE U.S. WAR IN AFGHANISTAN (21ST CENTURY)
(April 6) Anti-Taliban leader speaks at the European Parliament. Anti-Taliban forces, known as the Northern Alliance due to their location in the extreme north of Afghanistan, are led by Ahmad Shah Masood, a much-lionized veteran of the battles against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After receiving an invitation from European Parliament president Nicole Fontaine, Masood addresses that body in Brussels, Belgium, warning that the Taliban is working with Al Qaeda and that an important terrorist attack larger than the 1998 embassy bombings is coming soon.
(September 4) Eight international aid workers are put on trial by the Taliban.Arrested one month before, the aid workers are charged with promoting and spreading Christianity. According to Taliban law, anyone found guilty of these actions may be put to death as punishment. After being held in various prisons for three months, the eight are freed when their Taliban captors are forced to flee in the face of U.S. attacks.
(September 9) Anti-Taliban leader is murdered. Two men posing as journalists kill the Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masood while they are interviewing him. Although Al Qaeda doesn't take credit, it is reported that Osama bin Laden ordered Masood's killing to both help the Taliban and ensure its support following the September 11 attacks against the United States.
(September 11) The 9/11 Attacks. The U.S. government blames Al Qaeda terrorists for the hijacking of four commercial jetliners and subsequent crashing of them into the World Trade Center "Twin Towers" in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in western Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people die as a direct result of these attacks, and within days the American government announces a "global war on terrorism." Central to that goal will be overthrowing Taliban rule in Afghanistan, which, the U.S. asserts, continues to harbor Al Qaeda terrorists.
(September 20) An ultimatum for the Taliban. Addressing a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush demands that the Taliban extradite Al Qaeda leaders located in Afghanistan, close their camps and deliver everyone to the proper authorities, and give the U.S. access to the camps to verify their closure. The president makes it clear that if the Taliban do not cooperate, they will suffer the same fate as Al Qaeda.
(October 7) Operation Enduring Freedom begins. The Taliban refuse to hand over Osama bin Laden, but do offer to try him in an Islamic court in Afghanistan. The U.S. rejects this offer, and air strikes against selected targets, including camps suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, are launched. Seven days later, the Taliban offer to turn over bin Laden to a third country for trial, but only if the bombing stops and evidence connecting him to the September 11 attacks is produced. The U.S. rejects this offer as well.
(November 13) The Northern Alliance enters Kabul. After weeks of air strikes, the Taliban forces are considerably weakened, and Northern Alliance troops are able to make significant progress on the ground. By November 9 they are able to enter Mazar-i-Sharif, a city strategically positioned on the way to the capital of Kabul. Four days later Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul, finding virtually no resistance because the Taliban had fled the night before.
(December 7) The Taliban are defeated in Afghanistan. In the days following the fall of Kabul, the Taliban continue to lose ground. By early December they have been driven back into the southeast territory, where the original group of Taliban leaders first came together. On December 5 they are forced to give up their hold on Kandahar province, and two days later Zabul province is liberated, marking the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Top Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, manage to escape across the border into Pakistan.
(December) The battle for Tora Bora. Although the Taliban have been defeated, Al Qaeda fighters are still holding on in the mountainous Tora Bora region, southeast of Kabul near the Pakistan border. Over the next 10 days anti-Taliban militia backed by U.S. special forces climb over the rough terrain, rooting out terrorists they find in the massive cave complex there. Although intelligence data indicates that Osama bin Laden is in Tora Bora, no sign of him is found, and it is likely he fled into Pakistan with many of his operatives before they could be captured.
(December 22) Hamid Karzai is sworn in as the leader of Afghanistan's interim government. The United Nations hosts the Bonn Conference in Germany, which is organized by the Security Council and brings together representatives of four Afghan opposition groups. This results in the Bonn Agreement creating the Afghan Interim Authority, which will serve as the "repository of Afghan sovereignty." It is agreed that Hamid Karzai will lead the six-month interim government. To help with security in Kabul during this transition period, the U.N. creates the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
(March) Al Qaeda regroups in Afghanistan. As U.S. forces stabilize their positions throughout Afghanistan in early 2002, Al Qaeda begins to gather a group of more than 1,000 fighters in the mountains of Paktia province. In early March, U.S. and Afghan troops attack the Al Qaeda positions, and after several days of heavy fighting, the remaining Al Qaeda forces cross the border into Pakistan in order to survive.
(June 13) Hamid Karzai is reaffirmed as Afghanistan's leader. A Loya Jirga (grand council) composed of tribal leaders, returning exiles, and major Afghan factions is called to decide who will lead the national government that will rule until elections take place in 2004. Once again Hamid Karzai emerges as the man at the top, and he chooses the other interim government leaders that will run the country for the next two years.
(August 11) NATO assumes control of the ISAF. Taliban forces not captured or killed by the end of 2001 have spent the past year in hiding in either their southeastern home territory within Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan. In these rural areas they establish small training camps to educate recruits in guerilla warfare and terrorist strategy. By summer 2003 there are increasing attacks against Afghan forces, resulting in NATO assuming management of ISAF forces in Kabul. This marks the first time the organization makes this kind of commitment outside of Europe.
(January 4) Afghanistan's new constitution is approved. A Loya Jirga adopts Afghanistan's constitution; its provisions include consolidation of power in the office of president, equal rights for women, and acknowledgement that Islam is the country's sacred religion while providing protection for other faiths. Its passage opens the door for free elections to follow, although increasing violence throughout the country leaves the timing of the elections, scheduled for June 2004, in doubt.
(October 9) Afghanistan's first direct presidential election is held. Interim president Hamid Karzai gains 55 percent of the more than 10.5 million votes cast to win a four-year term in office. The election is originally scheduled for June but has to be postponed due to security issues and the slow pace in registering voters. Parliamentary elections are supposed to be held on the same date, but postponement is necessary due to the lack of progress in regulatory and logistical matters by the government.
(September 18) Parliamentary elections finally take place. After another delay from a May date set at the end of 2004, Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections in 30 years are held. Accusations of fraud delay the final results until November 12, when it is announced that former warlords and their followers have won a majority in both the lower house and the provincial council (which elects members to the upper house). Under the new constitution women are guaranteed 25 percent of Parliament's seats, but they better that by winning 28 percent.
NATO takes control of military operations in Afghanistan. The Taliban step up their attacks early in the year, using suicide bombs and improvised devices to target Afghan civilians to a greater degree than government troops and NATO-led ISAF peacekeepers. NATO's management of the ISAF expands to southern Afghanistan at the end of July before covering the entire country by early October. The forces replacing U.S. troops come from a range of NATO member countries, and they begin a series of operations designed to overcome the growing Taliban insurgency.
(November 22) U.N. mission chief has concerns about Afghanistan's future.Japan's Kenzo Oshima leads a 10-member U.N. mission to Afghanistan in mid-November and tells the Security Council upon his return that the country risks becoming a failed state. He cites as reasons the rise in Taliban-led insurgency, the increase in illegal drug production and trafficking, and weak state and provincial institutions racked by endemic corruption. Oshima adds that additional short- and long-term support is critically necessary for a successful future in Afghanistan.
Battles intensify between NATO forces and Taliban insurgents. NATO launches a series of missions throughout 2007 in a continuing effort to beat back the Taliban. Operation Achilles, the largest effort to date in southern Afghanistan, lasts from March to May and sees heavy fighting in Helmand province. The Taliban's most experienced commander, Mullah Dadullah, is killed during this battle. At the end of October, Canadian forces stop a potential Taliban offensive on Kandahar when they surround 300 insurgents near Arghandab.
(February 27) The Taliban continues guerilla tactics. On February 27, a suicide bomber attacks the American military base at Bagram Airfield. The Taliban claims Vice President Dick Cheney, who is inside the base at the time and not hurt in the attack, is the intended target. In November, another suicide attack—this time on a parliamentary delegation—kills at least 41 people. By the end of the year more than 300 people, most of them civilians, have died in Taliban-initiated suicide bombings.
(June 13) The Taliban stages a jailbreak. Demonstrating their continuing strength, the Taliban liberates 350–400 jailed terrorist colleagues from a Kandahar prison. This a major embarrassment for NATO, as it takes place in one of their chief operational centers in Afghanistan.
(June–July) Troop levels increase. In late June, a Pentagon report on Afghan security warns about the Taliban's resiliency and expects the insurgent group will further increase its attacks. Approximately two weeks later, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen agrees with Senator Barack Obama's assessment that circumstances in Afghanistan are in a precarious state, adding that the 10,000 additional needed troops will only become available if there are withdrawals from Iraq. In September, President Bush announces an increase of 4,500 troops in Afghanistan to coincide with a drawdown of 8,000 from Iraq.
(February 17) More troop increases are planned. New U.S. president Barack Obama announces that 17,000 more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan later in the year to shore up the increasingly dire situation there. In March he reveals a strategy shift that will dispatch 4,000 civilian and military personal to train the Afghan army and police, and provide support for civilian development.
(May–September) General Stanley McChrystal is the new ISAF commander.U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces on May 11 that he will appoint General McChrystal as the new NATO commander in Afghanistan. After arriving on June 15, McChrystal launches a major offensive in July against the Taliban in southern Helmand province. He prepares a report that is leaked in September that essentially says the war in Afghanistan could be lost unless there are significant troop level increases.
(August 20) Hamid Karzai is re-elected in a disputed election. The election is marred by a combination of Taliban violence that holds down the turnout and widespread charges of fraud, including ballot stuffing. Two months later Karzai accepts calls for a runoff with second-place finisher Abdullah Abdullah, but Abdullah pulls out five days before election day and Karzai is declared the winner. In November he is sworn in for his second term as president of Afghanistan.
(December 1) President Obama announces further troop increases. After putting the entire Afghanistan policy through a major strategic reassessment, Obama decides to add 30,000 more troops to the U.S. forces in the country. Early 2010 will see the initial stages of this increase, and by the middle of the year troop levels will reach 100,000. The Taliban respond to this announcement by vowing to fight even harder, adding that if more U.S. troops come, more will die.
(January 16) President Karzai's cabinet picks are rejected. After President Karzai sees 17 of his 24 cabinet picks fail to pass Parliament's muster in December, most of his replacement choices are also rejected. Members of Parliament complain the picks are either unqualified or have close connections to Afghan warlords. The dispute reinforces the political uncertainty that seems to hover over the Afghan government.
(February) The Taliban is pushed out of Marja. A major offensive begins in an effort to reassert control in the district of Marja after two years of Taliban control. For the first time, Afghan forces are in the lead as a total of 15,000 troops move into the area. Within days the Taliban has retreated, and a team of pre-assembled Afghan administrators and police forces are ready to move in and build a new government structure. The whole operation is a prototype for a new military operation that's intended to meet the Afghan government's pledge to hold any territory taken from the Taliban.
(February–May) Obama and Karzai reach an understanding. In February, President Karzai issues a decree giving him complete control of the Electoral Complaints Commission, which helped expose fraud in the previous year's presidential election. Two months later, Karzai accuses UN and EU election observers of plotting to install a puppet government, saying that foreign observers committed the election fraud. In May, however, Karzai visits Washington, D.C., for talks with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which leads to increased optimism about the future of Afghanistan's relationship with the U.S.