As the United States prepares to pull the last of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of August, the journey the U.S. has taken from the beginning of its longest war is coming to a close.
By Megan Duzor | VOA News
(Brian Williamson | VOA News)
The war in Afghanistan has had high costs for the United States in terms of lives lost, troops deployed and dollars spent.
The longest U.S. war
Sources: Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense
The United States mounted an invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
U.S. Armed Forces and DOD-Funded Contractor Personnel in Afghanistan
During the height of the conflict, the United States had nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Sources: Congressional Research Service, Department of Defense Note: After FY2017, the Department of Defense began withholding U.S. Armed Forces levels from public release.
Since 2001, 2,442 U.S. troops have died in the conflict in Afghanistan. American researchers at Brown University estimate that in total about 70 times that number of people have been killed in Afghanistan during that period, including over 47,000 civilians.
The Pentagon says U.S. military operations in Afghanistan have cost $824.9 billion since 2001. Brown University’s researchers put the total cost of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan at nearly $2.3 trillion.
Major milestones of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan
Soviet - Afghan war
December 24, 1979
Soviet Union invades Afghanistan
The former Soviet Union invades Afghanistan to support a pro-communist government. Soviet troops remain in the country for nearly a decade.
U.S. funnels money to mujahedeen
The United States funnels money and weapons through Pakistan to Afghanistan’s mujahedeen as part of an anti-communist effort.
Introduction of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles
A major turning point in the war for the Afghan insurgency is the introduction by the U.S. of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. The mujahedeen are able to limit Soviet air capabilities.
February 15, 1989
USSR withdraws troops
The Soviets pull their last troops out of Afghanistan.
Coalition leadership forms, collapses
A coalition of seven mujahedeen leaders take power, but the group quickly fractures, leading to years of fighting.
Taliban capture Herat
The newly formed Taliban insurgency captures the province of Herat and begins their ascent to national power.
Taliban capture Kabul
The Taliban capture Kabul and drive out the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani – one of the founding members of the Afghan mujahedeen. Taliban leaders begin to impose strict Islamic edicts across the country.
September 11, 2001
Al-Qaida operatives carry out 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, putting U.S. on a warpath with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, host to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
Die at the World Trade Center
Die at the Pentagon
Die in the plane crashes
October 7, 2001
The U.S. military begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, supported by an international coalition of 136 countries.
April 17, 2002
U.S. President George W. Bush calls for billions of dollars in U.S. aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
May 23, 2005
Newly elected Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signs an agreement with President Bush, giving U.S. forces access to Afghan military facilities.
A resurgence of violence takes place across Afghanistan, including a rise of suicide attacks and remotely detonated bombings.
February 17, 2009
President Obama increases U.S. troops
New U.S. President Barack Obama announces plans to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
President Obama announces another surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan, tripling the number to nearly 100,000.
May 1, 2011
Bin Laden killed by U.S. forces
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, responsible for the 9/11 attacks, is killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.
May 27, 2014
President Obama announces a timetable for withdrawing most U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
April 13, 2017
U.S. drops “mother of all bombs”
The United States drops the most powerful nonnuclear weapon, dubbed the “Mother of all Bombs,” on suspected Islamic State militants at a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan.
August 21, 2017
President Trump increases troops
New U.S. President Donald Trump increases the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 14,000 from 8,500 troops.
September 4, 2018
Veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad appointed as U.S. special adviser tasked with assisting an Afghan peace process.
September 7, 2019
President Trump announces via Twitter that he is canceling plans for Taliban leaders and Afghanistan’s president to travel to Camp David to finalize a peace agreement. The president says he is calling off peace negotiations because of a recent attack that killed a U.S. soldier and 11 others.
February 29, 2020
U.S., Taliban sign timetable for withdrawal
The U.S. and the Taliban sign a deal in Doha, Qatar, setting a timetable for the withdrawal of 13,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan and committing the insurgents to halt attacks on Americans.
September 2020 - February 2021
Afghan government-Taliban negotiations in Qatar are attempted several times but stall with no progress. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani refuses unity government proposals, while the Taliban balk at a cease-fire.
April 14, 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden says the remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan, roughly 3,500, will be withdrawn by September 11 to end America’s “forever war.”
May 2021 - present
Taliban expands territorial control
Taliban fighters make rapid territorial advances across Afghanistan, taking control about half of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts.
July 2, 2021
U.S. hands over Bagram Airfield
U.S. hands over Bagram Airfield to Afghan military control after the last troops in the base leave. U.S. military announces withdrawal is nearly 90% complete, with the entire process expected to be completed by August 31.
July 5, 2021
The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August.
July 21, 2021
Taliban insurgents control about half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, emphasizing the scale and speed of their advance.
August 6, 2021
First provincial capital falls to the Taliban in years
Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north.
August 13, 2021
Four more provincial capitals fall in a day, including Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and the spiritual home of the Taliban.
August 14, 2021
The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The U.S. sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps.
August 15, 2021
Taliban capture Jalalabad without a fight; enter Kabul
The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight. Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an Interior Ministry official says, as the United States evacuates diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
August 17, 2021
Taliban consolidate control over country
The Taliban vow to respect women’s rights “within Islamic law” and form an “inclusive Islamic” government as the radical movement consolidates its hold over the war-torn country.
Some information for this timeline came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.