EQ#5; The War on Terror
How Has the US been involved in the War on Terror?
Believe it or not, we once supported many of the terrorist groups which we are now committed to fighting.
During the time of Cold War, the US gave about $3 billion to Afghani fighters, so they could help keep the Soviet Union out of the Middle East (TheInsider.org). The Soviet Union had recently invaded Afghanistan, and they were a big threat to Afghanistan. At the time, the tension between the Soviet Union and the US was high, and the Soviet Union was the biggest concern of the US (NewsOne.com). The US didn’t want the Soviet Union to gain control of Afghanistan and other countries in the region, so we payed Afghani militants to fight the Soviet Union (NewsOne.com). Years later these militants that were being supported by the US would become Al Qaeda, The Taliban, and many other terrorist organizations.(NewsOne.com). The US used tax dollars to fund training and weapons for people like Osama Bin Laden, a decision that would later haunt us (NewsOne.com).
On September 11, 2001 2 planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, killing thousands. This tragedy is often thought of as the worst day in US history, and it was later traced back to Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden (History.com). Al Qaeda was partially formed by the support that the US gave to Afghani militants during the Cold War to fight Russia. This atrocity brought Middle Eastern terrorism to the attention of the US, so this event greatly shaped our role in the War on Terror in the following years. Also, this is the sole reason for the War in Afghanistan. However, tension between the US and terrorist groups didn’t begin here, it began during the Iraq War when the US kept troops in Saudi Arabia and other countries for an extended period of time (Iraq War Notes). When the US kept troops in Iraq much longer than they should have, it made Al Qaeda members very angry (Iraq War Notes). This is because they felt that the US was trying to act as the world’s ‘babysitter’. Many say that the anger Al Qaeda felt from this can be directly traced to the attacks on 9/11. So how has our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan influenced The War on Terror?
The War in Afghanistan
In a response to 9/11 the US and UK sent airstrikes into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban as the start of an offensive against the Taliban (Council on Foreign). This war began on October 7, 2001, and it with major reductions of troops in the region occurring recently, the war is basically over (Council on Foreign Relations). This war costed the US about $800.5 billion and was responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 US soldiers, all in an effort to combat terrorism. The purpose of this entire war was to defeat the forces of The Taliban and Al Qaeda after the devastating attacks of 9/11, but this war escalated into much more than that. It continued for much longer than we anticipated, and it was much more complex than we anticipated. This single war has greatly shaped our outlook on The War on Terror.
A US covert operation is when the US government launches a mission against a country or group, but they do it in secret. The US makes sure that if something goes wrong with the covert operation, then the US will not have to take responsibility. Covert operations can be linked to The War on Terror because the US has used covert operations to attempt to fight terrorism. In 1979, long before the recently emerged War on Terror, the US launched a covert operation to free hostages that were being held at the US embassy in Tehran, Iran. The US pretended to be making a movie while they were actually in the process of freeing hostages. This operation is shown in the movie Argo. This covert operation was ultimately successful in fighting against the terrorist forces who were holding the hostages in Tehran. There have been many other instances, some of them secret, where the US launched covert operations to counter terrorism, and these show how we have been involved in fighting terror for a long time.
Time line of Major Events During The War in Afghanistan
9/11: September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001 2 planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, killing thousands (History.com). 2 other planes were hijacked, and these planes were planning on crashing into other important buildings. However, these 2 other planes were not successful in this. 2,977 people were killed in this tragedy, and this is commemorated every year throughout the US (CNN). This tragedy is often thought of as the worst day in US history, and it was later traced back to Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden (History.com). Al Qaeda was partially formed by the support that the US gave to Afghani militants during the Cold War to fight Russia (NewsOne.com). This atrocity brought Middle Eastern terrorism to the attention of the US, so this event greatly shaped our role in the War on Terror in the following years. However, tension between the US and terrorist groups didn’t begin here, it began during the Iraq War when the US kept troops in Saudi Arabia and other countries for an extended period of time (Iraq War Notes). When the US kept troops in Iraq much longer than they should have, it made Al Qaeda members very angry(Iraq War Notes). This is because they felt that the US was trying to act as the world’s ‘babysitter’ (Iraq War Notes). Many say that the anger Al Qaeda felt from this can be directly traced to the attacks on 9/11 (Iraq War Notes).
War in Afghanistan Starts with Airstrikes; October 7, 2001
The US, along with help from Great Britain, launched airstrikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan (Council on Foreign Relations). This event is better known as the start of Operation Enduring Freedom (Council on Foreign Relations). This event is important because it marked the beginning of a very long war in Afghanistan. These airstrikes continued for 5 days, and the original purpose was for the Taliban to stop supporting Al Qaeda and for them to turn over Osama Bin Laden to the US (CNN). After these airstrikes, the Taliban considered handing over Osama Bin Laden to another country for trial (CNN). Also, this was somewhat successful in pushing The Taliban out of parts of Afghanistan.
Taliban Forced to Retreat: November, 2001
The Taliban regime in Afghanistan takes a major hit when they are forced to retreat from Afghanistan after various losses in battles (Council on Foreign Relations). This first loss came in Mazar-e-Sharif, when the Taliban was defeated by an Uzbek based group (Council on Foreign Relations). The Taliban is hurt even more with losses on November 11, 12, 13, and 14 by coalition forces in Afghanistan (Council on Foreign Relations). These defeats also came from NATO forces in Afghanistan(Council on Foreign Relations). These many defeats drastically decreased the strength of Taliban forces, and they forced The Taliban to retreat from Afghanistan.
Taliban Regime Afghanistan Topples: December 9, 2001
Many say that the Taliban Regime in Afghanistan toppled on October 9, 2001. This is because The Taliban gave up control of the city of Kandahar (Council on Foreign Relations). After this surrender, The Taliban turned control of this city over to the ethnic Pashtun tribe (CNN). Along with control of Kandahar, The Taliban also agreed to turn over their weapons to leaders of the Pashtun Tribe (CNN). Under this agreement, Taliban leaders would be pledged safety while they returned to their respective homes. The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, retreated from the city (Council on Foreign Relations). This shows that the Taliban was lacking any sort of composure in Kandahar, therefore showing that their regime in Afghanistan had officially toppled (Council on Foreign Relations).
Operation Anaconda: March 2002
Operation Anaconda began when a coalition forces from the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, and others began a ground mission in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda (Global Security.org). This coalition of forces consisted of about 2,000 soldiers, most of them from the US (Global Security.org). Operation Anaconda is often referred to as the largest ground operation of the War in Afghanistan, and these battles involved thousands of people. This operation took place in valleys near the city of Gardez, a very mountainous region, and this terrain influenced the outcome of this mission (Council on Foreign Relations). The initial purpose of this mission was to defeat the remaining members of Al Qaeda and The Taliban who were still left in Afghanistan after the recent collapse of The Taliban Regime (Bustle). Although the US claimed that this was a success, many say that a lot of Taliban and Al Qaeda members escaped from the region (Fox News). Because of this, the outcome of this operation is often disputed. This operation was important because its purpose was to eradicate all of the remaining members of The Taliban and Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan, so it shows that the US was trying to end its conflict in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Democratically Elects President For First Time: October 9, 2004
For the first time ever, Afghanistan democratically elected a leader on October 9, 2004. After this important election, Hamid Karzai was ultimately elected to become the leader of Afghanistan (Council on Foreign Relations). There were many claims of fraud in the election by people and candidates because they believed that people could easily vote twice (The Guardian). However, a group of diplomats ultimately decided that no major fraud had been committed, so the results did not change (The New York Times). What is important is not who ultimately won the election, but that there was a democratic election. This election itself shows that Afghanistan supported democracy and that they posses the government composure that is needed to conduct an election. The participation in this election was very high even though the lives of voters were being threatened by individuals who opposed this (Council on Foreign Relations).
Violence Increases; July, 2006
In July and the summer of 2006, violence surged throughout Afghanistan. This surge in violence was due to intense fighting in July which was partially backed by NATO (BBC). The amount of suicide bombings quadrupled, and many other forms of terrorism were present throughout Afghanistan (Council on Foreign Relations). This got so bad so fast due to government instability in Afghanistan (Council on Foreign Relations). Because the government was so unstable, it lacked the composure necessary to establish police forces and get help from the rest of the world (Council on Foreign Relations). This lack of government stability made for a chaotic summer of violence in Afghanistan.
Obama Announces Surge In Troops In Afghanistan: February 17, 2009
On February 17, 2009 Obama announced that the US would be sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, claiming that Afghanistan is the important place to fight terrorism (Council on Foreign Relations). This resurgence in troops was intended to fight a spike in Taliban activity (Council on Foreign Relations). This increase in Taliban activity is credited to people from others countries joining forces with the Taliban (Council on Foreign Relations). Like the Second War in Iraq, many criticize this expansion in troops, claiming that this only made more of a mess out of things. May say that this resurgence in troops didn’t accomplish anything and that it merely prolonged a complete fail of a war.
Osama Bin Laden Killed: May 1, 2011
On May 1, 2011 initial purpose of The War in Afghanistan is fulfilled when Osama Bin Laden is murdered. This occurred in Pakistan, and this mission was completed by a team of Navy Seals (CNN). The team of Navy Seals broke into the building in which Osama Bin Laden was located, and they killed 5 individuals, including Osama Bin Laden (BBC). After this occurred, many questioned whether or not we should keep forces in Afghanistan. After all, we had accomplished the purpose that this entire war was started for. However, it would be a while before a massive reduction of troops would occur.
Obama Announces Final Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan: May 27, 2014.
After many years, Obama finally announces major troop reductions in Afghanistan on May 27, 2014 (Council on Foreign Relations). This plan called for 9,800 troops to stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, so they help to strengthen forces in Afghanistan and continue to fight against remaining forces of Al Qaeda (Council on Foreign Relations). However, Obama does not intend to end the fight against terrorism, and he expresses this when he says “the drawdown will free resources for counterterrorism priorities elsewhere.” This concludes what many people feel was an unnecessary war, and all troops are planned to be removed from the region by 2016 (ABC News).
Bush Approval Rate In Relation to The War in Afghanistan
This War has Strongly Hurt Our Image in the World
The chart of Bush approval rating and other indicators show that most of the US was opposed to The War in Afghanistan. Aside from hurting the images of Presidents Bush and Obama, this war also hurt our image around the world. One reason that it hurt our image is because we looked like we were getting involved in something that was none of our business, once again. We did have a right to get revenge on Al Qaeda after 9/11 but that, by no means, gives us the right to launch a full scale military operation for over 10 years. These countries are capable of dealing with terrorism on their own, so it makes no sense for us to launch this war. We caused a lot of violence and trauma in Afghanistan, and The War on Terror is really none of our business. So why did we get involved in the first place?
Another reason that this strongly hurt our image is because we launched a massive war just to kill Osama Bin Laden and defeat Al Qaeda, and the actual murder of him took one team of Navy Seals, not thousands of troops. This shows that we were extremely wasteful in this war, do it hurt our image. This war costed us over $800 billion, and when one thinks about it, this barely accomplished anything (National Priorities.org). Sure we killed Osama Bin Laden which is important, but Taliban and Al Qaeda forces are still active in the world. Also, many of the forces that we ‘defeated’ in this war are still active terrorists in different groups like ISIS. We poured so much money and so many lives into a war that barely accomplished anything. If that doesn't hurt our image then I don’t know what does. The fact of the matter is that terrorism will always be in that region of the world, and we can not do much about that.