War in Afghanistan since 2001

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War in Afghanistan since 2001
Collage of the War in Afghanistan (2001-2021) .png
date October 7, 2001 ( Operation Enduring Freedom , ISAF , Resolute Support Mission) to date
location Afghanistan
Casus Belli Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (see UN Security Council resolution 1368 )
exit The Taliban took over government
Follow Establishment of an Islamic emirate
Parties to the conflict

AfghanistanAfghanistan Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ( Afghan National Army ) (from 2003) Uzbekistan Australia At the beginning: United States Northern Alliance United Kingdom Germany (December 2001 to June 2021)UzbekistanUzbekistan 

United StatesUnited States 
Afghanistan Islamic State 2001Afghanistan
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 

Afghanistan Islamic Emirate 1997Islamic emirate of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate Afghanistan ( Taliban ) al-Qaida since 2014: ISIS-K supported by: Pakistan ( ISI ) (disputed)
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AQMI flag asymmetric.svg



AfghanistanAfghanistan Ashraf Ghani
at the beginning: George W. Bush
United StatesUnited States

Afghanistan Islamic Emirate 1997Islamic emirate of Afghanistan Hibatullah Achundsada Aiman ​​az-Zawahiri at the beginning: Muhammad OmarOsama bin Laden
No flag.svg

Afghanistan Islamic Emirate 1997Islamic emirate of Afghanistan
No flag.svg

Troop strength
AfghanistanAfghanistan> 350,000
approx. 80,000-100,000

Afghan Security Forces ( Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police ):

  • 64,124 killed


  • 3,449 killed

Private military companies :

  • 3,814 killed


  • 71,387 dead


  • 67,000–72,000 + deaths

al Qaeda

  • 2400+

43,074 dead (until November 2019)
unknown, but far higher number of wounded

Partly as of November 2019

The war in Afghanistan since 2001 is the latest phase of the conflict in Afghanistan , which has been ongoing since 1978 , and which began with the US- led intervention ( Operation Enduring Freedom ) in autumn 2001.

The government of the United States (from 2001 to 2009 the government under George W. Bush ) and its allies pursued the goal of overthrowing the Taliban government , which has ruled since 1996, and to fight the terrorist organization al-Qaeda . The latter is responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 . To this end, the United States entered into an alliance in Afghanistan with the anti-Taliban coalition of the Northern Alliance , whose troops attacked the Taliban positions on October 7, 2001 with US air support. This phase of the war ended with the capture of the capital Kabul and the provincial capitals Kandahar and Kunduz in November and December 2001 by the Northern Alliance.

This was followed by the establishment of an interim government under President Hamid Karzai at the first Petersberg Afghanistan Conference taking place at the same time . In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council mandated an International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF ) provided by NATO countries and several partner countries to protect this government and to support reconstruction . Since 2003, the Afghan central government has been increasingly exposed to attacks by guerrilla groups, often referred to as the “neo-Taliban” . In order to slow their advance, ISAF's involvement was gradually expanded considerably. Over time it also became clear that more investments had to be made in building up Afghan state structures (see also History of Afghanistan since 2001 ) in order to ultimately end the war.

In February 2010, NATO and the Afghan National Army had around 700 military bases in Afghanistan .

In mid-April 2021, US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. The other participating NATO countries followed suit.

In August 2021, the Taliban recorded massive land gains in the country, whereupon the Afghan government announced a peaceful transfer of power to the radical Islamist Taliban ( see below ). On August 15, the Taliban captured the presidential palace and abandoned police headquarters in Kabul and announced that the war was over. On August 19, the Taliban proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan . On September 6, 2021, they claimed to have taken the last Punjjir province that they had not under their control .


War in Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan

Territorial control of Afghanistan in winter 1996: Massoud (blue), Taliban (green), Dostum (pink), Hezb-i Wahdat (yellow)

After the withdrawal of the Soviet Army , an intra-Afghan war followed with the participation of various regional powers. This was marked by the withdrawal of the two superpowers and the disinterest of large parts of the international community in the situation in Afghanistan. The vacant position was taken by the regional powers, particularly Pakistan , but also Iran , Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan . Pakistan's collaboration with militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyār was one of the main reasons for the military escalation in the capital Kabul in 1992.

After the end of the Soviet-backed government, the Peshawar Accords , on which the mujahideen parties had agreed, established the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed a transitional government. As a result, however, the militia Hizb-i Islāmī of Gulbuddin Hekmatyār turned against the newly established state and started a bombing campaign against the capital Kabul with Pakistani support. This happened despite Hekmatyār being repeatedly offered the office of prime minister. Hekmatyār was armed, funded and guided by Pakistan. Afghanistan expert and university professor Amin Saikal concluded in his 2006 book Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival :

“Pakistan was aiming for a breakthrough in Central Asia . […] Islamabad knew that the newly appointed members of the Islamic government [in Afghanistan] […] would not subordinate their own national interests to those of Pakistan in order for Pakistan to fulfill its regional ambitions. […] Without the logistical support and the delivery of a large number of rockets by the ISI , Hekmatyār's troops would not have been able to fire on and destroy half of Kabul. "

During the most intense phase of the bombing by Hekmatyār and the Junbisch-i Milli militia led by Raschid Dostum , over 25,000 people died in Kabul.

Kabul became a symbol of the country's fragmentation, while tensions escalated between other militias supported and in certain aspects controlled by Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia on the other. Kabul was divided into different zones of influence, where most of the fighting was concentrated. Also Kandahar in the south and Mazār-i-Sharif in the north witnessed bloody battles. In contrast, the rural regions devastated in the Soviet-Afghan War were hardly affected by fighting, and reconstruction began. The power structures in Afghanistan were highly decentralized. The south of Afghanistan was neither under the control of the central government nor under the control of externally controlled militias such as the Hekmatyārs. It was ruled by local militia or tribal leaders.

The Taliban first appeared in Kandahar in 1994. The Taliban movement originally came from religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, most of which were run by the Pakistani political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam . During 1994, the Taliban took power in various southern and western provinces of Afghanistan.

At the end of 1994 the Afghan Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud (1953-2001) succeeded in militarily defeating the militias fighting for supremacy in Kabul. Kabul experienced a brief period of relative calm. Massoud initiated a political process aimed at national consolidation and democratic elections, in which representatives from a large part of the Afghan provinces took part. Massoud invited the Taliban to join this process and participate in creating stability. The Taliban rejected a democratic form of government.

In early 1995 the Taliban launched large-scale offensives to bomb Kabul. Amnesty International writes:

“This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city […]”

"This is the first time in a few months that the civilians of Kabul have been the target of bombing attacks against residential areas in the city [...]"

The Taliban initially suffered heavy defeats against the forces of Massoud, so that some observers already suspected the end of the Taliban. In mid-1996, however, they had reorganized themselves with the support of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and were planning another major offensive against Kabul. On September 26, 1996, Massoud ordered a strategic withdrawal of his troops to northern Afghanistan. On September 27, 1996, the Taliban invaded Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan , which was only recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A military and political opposition led by Massoud, the Northern Alliance , kept the north-east of the country under its control. The Northern Alliance also provided the government formally recognized by most states and the United Nations.

Taliban / Pakistan / Al-Qaida versus Northern Alliance

With the advance of the Taliban from 1994 onwards, fighting also expanded to areas outside of Kabul. The Taliban imposed their political and legal interpretation of Islam on the areas under their control. Women lived under house arrest. According to a United Nations report, the Taliban carried out systematic massacres of civilians while trying to consolidate control in western and northern Afghanistan. The United Nations named 15 massacres in the years 1996 to 2001. These were "highly systematic and all attributable to the Ministry of Defense [the Taliban] or Mullah Omar (1960-2013) personally." The so-called 055 al-Qaeda Brigade was also on Involved in atrocities against Afghan civilians. The United Nations report cites testimonies describing Arab militia officers carrying long knives with which they cut throats and skinned people.

The Northern Alliance soon developed into a national political resistance movement against the Taliban, which was joined by representatives of all Afghan population groups ( Pashtuns , Tajiks , Hazara , Uzbeks and Turkmens ). The human rights situation depended on the respective commanders who controlled certain areas. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recorded no human rights crimes for the forces under the direct control of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the period from October 1996 to Massoud's assassination in September 2001. According to HRW, most human rights violations committed by members of the Northern Alliance were dated to in the period from 1996 to 1998, while Raschid Dostum controlled large parts of the north. In 1997, Dostum's forces under the command of Abdul Malik Pahlawan executed 3,000 Taliban prisoners in and around Mazar-e Sharif.

Former Pakistani military ruler and President
Pervez Musharraf sent tens of thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf  - at that time, among other things, as Chief of Staff of the military - dispatched tens of thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaida against the Northern Alliance. It is estimated that a total of 28,000 Pakistani citizens fought within Afghanistan. 20,000 of them were regular Pakistani soldiers of the so-called Frontier Corps or the army . Another estimated 8,000 were militiamen recruited in madrasas to fight in the Taliban army. Of the estimated 25,000 members of the Taliban troops, 8,000 were Pakistani citizens. A 1998 US State Department document stated that 20 percent to 40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers were Pakistani. According to this document, the parents of Pakistani citizens "were unaware of their children's military involvement with the Taliban until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan."

Another 3,000 soldiers in the regular Taliban army were militiamen from Arab countries or Central Asia. From 1996 to 2001 the al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden and Aiman ​​az-Zawahiri became a state within the Taliban state. Among other things, al-Qaeda set up a number of training camps in which thousands of Islamists from different countries received military training. Bin Laden sent his recruits against the Northern Alliance.

Of an estimated 45,000 soldiers who fought against the Northern Alliance within Afghanistan, only about 14,000 were Afghans.

From 1998 onwards, Ahmad Shah Massoud was the only military leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan who was able to successfully defend his territories. In early 2001 the Northern Alliance adopted a new strategy of local military pressure and a global political agenda. Resentment and resistance to the Taliban, based on the roots of Afghan society, grew stronger. This also affected the Pashtun areas. In total, an estimated one million people fled the Taliban. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fled to the areas of Ahmad Shah Massoud. The National Geographic comes in his documentary Inside the Taliban concludes:

"The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud."

In the areas under his control, Massoud established democratic institutions and signed the Declaration on Women's Rights. He trained more police forces, which should prevent a repetition of the chaos of Kabul (1992-1994), the Northern Alliance would be successful. In spring 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels and asked the international community for humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced a "very wrong interpretation of Islam" and that if the Taliban did not have the support of Pakistan, they would not be able to sustain their military campaigns within a year. During his visit to Europe, Massoud warned that, according to information from his secret service, a large-scale attack on American soil was imminent.

On September 9, 2001, while interviewing Massoud in Khojabahwoddin , two Arab suicide bombers posing as journalists set off a bomb they had hidden in their video camera. Massoud died a little later from his injuries. Osama bin Laden had commissioned the assassination attempt to appease the Taliban because of the imminent terrorist attacks in the USA, which would cause serious problems for the Taliban. The Taliban denied any involvement in Massoud's assassination, and it is extremely unlikely that they were privy to the assassination plans. John P. O'Neill , who had just retired from the FBI as a counterterrorism expert and had assumed the position of chief security officer of the World Trade Center two weeks earlier , told friends on September 10 that something bad was going to happen: " We're overdue. ”O'Neill was killed on September 11, 2001 when the South Tower collapsed.

On September 11, 2001, 19 members of al-Qaeda carried out the terrorist attacks in the United States . The United States government then demanded that the Taliban leadership close the al-Qaeda training camps and extradite their leaders. The UN Security Council, with reference to UN Resolution 1333, also demanded the extradition of Osama bin Laden - “immediately and unconditionally”. The Taliban admitted that bin Laden could be responsible for the attacks, but demanded evidence for extradition , international recognition of the Taliban regime and the lifting of UN sanctions against Afghanistan.

Political legitimation of western intervention

Security Council resolutions

The United Nations Security Council described the attacks in the United States in its resolution 1368 of September 12, 2001 as a "threat to world peace and security". In addition, the "natural right to individual or collective self-defense, which is recognized in the Charter of the United Nations " was emphasized. In this context, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were classified as an armed attack within the meaning of Articles 39 and 51 of the UN Charter. This implicitly granted the United States the right to defend itself. In the opinion of the United States and other governments, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, with this formulation and the direct reference to the right to self-defense enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom was recognized by the Security Council as an “act of Self-defense of the United States ”against the attack planned from Afghanistan and thus legitimized under international law .

At the request of the participants in the first Afghanistan conference in 2001 , the UN Security Council approved on December 20, 2001 (Resolution 1386) the establishment of the ISAF protection force, a security and reconstruction mission led by NATO . The mission is not a peacekeeping blue helmet mission, but a so-called peace enforcement mission under the responsibility of the states involved.

Decision of the North Atlantic Council

On September 12, 2001, the NATO Council declared the events of September 11, 2001 an attack on one of the NATO countries, if it can be confirmed that they had been controlled from outside the United States. On October 2, Francis X. Taylor, United States Coordinator for Counterterrorism, informed the NATO Council that the assassins belonged to al-Qaeda , who was being protected by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus, for the first time in NATO history, the alliance case under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty occurred, according to which “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America is regarded as an attack against all of them” and then “in exercise of the article 51 of the statutes of the United Nations recognized right of individual or collective self-defense “assistance is provided.

As long as the attacks of September 11, 2001 could be directly or indirectly attributed to Afghanistan, which was then ruled by the Taliban, the involvement of NATO countries due to the alliance was considered less problematic than it has been since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. The unlimited duration of the alliance case was also controversial.

National mandate of the troop contributing countries

The countries that would like to provide troops for the deployment decide within the framework of the UN mandate nationally the mandate for their own troops and how this is structured ( Rules of Engagement ). For the German military operation in Afghanistan , the German government needs a parliamentary resolution of the Bundestag for the use of armed forces . This must be extended regularly. The legitimacy of the participation of German troops in the ISAF mission is not undisputed from a constitutional and international law perspective.

Combatant status for the Taliban

President Bush's decision of February 7, 2002 to deny the Taliban combatant status and thus to restrict the validity of international martial law is now largely viewed as not legally justified (see illegal combatants ).

Course of war

Before the start of the fighting

On October 4, 2001, the North Atlantic Council decided on several individual and collective measures, such as more intensive cooperation between the secret services, support for allied and other states that, because they help NATO, are in greater terrorist danger, the granting of overflight rights Access to ports and airports and increased security measures for facilities of the NATO countries.

Overthrow of the Taliban government

Map of major American operations in Afghanistan

After the strategic preparation, the United States stationed Task Force Dagger ( TF Dagger ) on a former Soviet air base near Qarshi in southern Uzbekistan . The task force was composed of members of special forces and spearheaded the US war in Afghanistan.

Representatives of the TF Dagger won the Northern Alliance, which was competing with the Taliban, as allies for the coming military engagement of the armed forces of the United States. To this end, they contacted the military leaders of the most important groups within the Northern Alliance: Raschid Dostum from the Junbisch-i Milli and Mohammed Fahim and Mohammed Daoud from the Jamiat-i Islāmi . They agreed to the proposal to launch an American-led military campaign against the Taliban before winter. In order to signal to the leaders political equality among each other, the TF Dagger endeavored to distribute their forces as evenly as possible among the territories of the rival groups. As a result, military attacks were delayed by several days in some places.

United Front troops with American special forces in Afghanistan November 2001

Official fighting began on October 7, 2001. The United States bombed targets across Afghanistan with cruise missiles , fighter jets and B-2 long-range bombers. The attacks lasted 44 hours, making them the longest single operation by the American air force to date.

Despite massive American air support, the troops of the United Front initially failed to break through the Taliban lines. It was only after the air strikes at the beginning of November 2001 were concentrated on the Taliban's front positions that their lines began to crumble. On November 9, 2001, the Northern Alliance captured Mazar-e Sharif, the first major city from the Taliban, thereby gaining control of the overland supply lines to the northern neighboring countries, especially Uzbekistan. The offensive culminated on November 13, 2001 with the non-fighting occupation of Kabul. The Taliban strongholds, on the other hand, were bitterly fought over and only captured in the following weeks ( Kunduz on November 23, 2001 and Kandahar on December 7, 2001).

The so-called Battle of Qala-i-Jangi , a prison riot near Mazar-e Sharif, ended in early December 2001 with many dead .

The Afghan organization Counterterrorism Pursuit Team is fighting against radical Muslims in the country with the support of the United States. With their help, Operation Dragon Strike was initiated at the end of 2010 .

Search for al-Qaeda members

After the Northern Alliance had largely conquered the country at the end of 2001, units of the Western allies began looking for al-Qaida members, above all Osama bin Laden. Around 200 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the Battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. Operation Anaconda followed in March 2002 , in which 1,700 US soldiers and 1,000 Afghan militiamen fought against 500 to over 1,000 al-Qaida and Taliban fighters for control of the Shahi Kot valley in the Paktia province . Until 2005 there was a CIA organization under the code name Alec Station , which dealt solely with bin Laden.

Captured Taliban and suspected members of al-Qaeda were flown to the US base at Guantanamo in Cuba by the US armed forces, controversial under international law and accompanied by protests by human rights organizations . Various prison camps in the country - above all the Bagram military prison  - served as transit stations in many cases. Since the then US government decided in autumn 2004 not to move any more prisoners to Guantanamo, Bagram has finally become a permanent facility, where the number of prisoners has multiplied.

Rebuilding and beginning of the counter-offensive

Simplified map of the ethnic relationships in Pakistan and the neighboring areas of Iran and Afghanistan from 1980.
Expansion of the areas of influence of the insurgents from 2002 to 2006
Ethnic groups of Afghanistan in 2014.

A part of the Taliban and al-Qaida were able to settle across the border in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan, where she protected by the Pakistani intelligence Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the close ally of the United States, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf established, new and, together with Islamists from all over the world, were increasingly able to counterattack. About twice as many Pashtuns live in Pakistan as in Afghanistan: 31 million instead of just 15 million in Afghanistan. In the winter of 2002, Muhammad Omar arrived in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, and ordered a counterattack on the neighboring Afghan provinces of Urusgan , Helmand , Kandahar and Zabul . The Taliban and the Haqqani network also became active in the tribal areas under federal administration , in Miranshah in North Waziristan . These groups that formed in 2002 are also summarized under the term "Neo-Taliban". Organized attacks against Afghan government institutions began around autumn 2002. Meanwhile, the Iraq crisis smoldered in 2003 between parts of the EU - especially Germany , France and Belgium - and the so-called coalition of the willing . Then, in March 2003, the Iraq war began . At the end of August / beginning of September 2003, Operation Mountain Viper ( en: Operation Mountain Viper ) was the first major military operation in the province of Zabul in which 124 Taliban were probably killed. In the summer of 2003 Ahmed Rashid made several trips to the Afghan / Pakistani border area. Among other things, he observed over 50 madrasses in the villages along the 80-mile stretch from Quetta to the Pakistani border town of Chaman , where Taliban recruiters were active, and in Quetta he learned from vehicle dealers that the Taliban are said to have bought 900 motorcycles in the summer. In addition, hundreds of satellite phones and long-range walkie-talkies are said to have been bought locally or imported from the Arabian Gulf. He also heard about several military training camps in Balochistan.

In 2003, Taliban fighters carried out their attacks in increasingly larger groups of up to 200 men and brought the province of Zābul and the south of Paktikā under their control. In the rural areas of Zābul and in the east of Paktikā they were able to almost completely eliminate the influence of the government. In the following year they succeeded in building new strongholds, especially in the province of Urozgān . Since 2004, the Taliban also managed to gain a foothold in the region around Kabul, particularly in the provinces of Logar , Wardak and Nangarhār , and to carry out operations in Kabul suburbs. In 2005 and 2006 they moved closer to the city of Kandahar and expanded their areas of influence to the provinces of Helmand, Farāh, Ghazni and Nimruz.

According to a report published in November 2007 by the International Council on Security and Development , the Neo-Taliban had established a permanent presence in over half of the country by 2006. They also control district centers as well as important transport links, parts of the economy and energy supply. General Egon Ramms , commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum of NATO and thus of the ISAF operations, described at the end of 2007 how the switch from farmer to Taliban took place in practice: “Local farmers (...) at the moment when, for example, they take on agricultural tasks have to meet, are busy with the family or the like, put their AK 47 aside, possibly in order to get them out again next year after the drug season and to rejoin the Taliban in the fight. "

The Neo-Taliban also used new combat strategies, such as remote-controlled street mines, and attacked government forces and foreign troops with grenades and rocket launchers.

Expansion of the ISAF troops

US Army soldiers in action with Taliban fighters in Parwan province , 2007
German soldiers return to
PRT Feyzabad after patrol with the ANA , 2009

In October 2003 the UN Security Council decided to extend the ISAF mandate to areas outside Kabul. The ISAF increased its troop strength from around 9,000 soldiers to 18,500 soldiers and took over many tasks that were previously carried out by the United States-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). This included the takeover of PRTs ( Provincial Reconstruction Team ; in German: "Regionales Wiederaufbauteam") throughout Afghanistan, which consist of a civilian and a military part. In a first step, this only happened for northern Afghanistan in 2003/04. Starting from a camp near Kunduz, for example, Austrian soldiers and German soldiers patrolled . In a second step in 2005, ISAF expanded to the West, with Italian soldiers and Spanish soldiers making up the majority of ISAF troops. The third step in 2005/06 was expansion to the south, where US soldiers , British soldiers , Canadian soldiers , Danish soldiers , Dutch soldiers and Australian soldiers made up the bulk of the ISAF troops. As of 2010, Georgian combat troops in south-west Afghanistan also took part. At the end of 2006, in a fourth step, the east of Afghanistan was placed under the ISAF mandate, with US soldiers contributing most of the troops. From 2008/2009, French soldiers and Polish soldiers , in cooperation with US troops, assumed responsibility for security in one province in the east.

Afghanistan was divided into several regional commandos, with the capital Kabul receiving its own regional command. Since 2006, the command there has been changing between Turkey, Italy and France , only to be transferred to the Afghan security forces in August 2008. A regional command consists of an FSB (Forward Support Base) for logistical support, several PRTs and several OMLTs (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team) who are responsible for training the Afghan National Army (ANA) within a province and coordinate between ANA and ISAF. In the regional command north there has also been a PAT (Provincial Advisory Team) since 2007 , which are similar to small PRTs. In June 2010, the South Regional Command was split into a new South Regional Command and a South West Regional Command (RC SW). The RC SW comprises the provinces of Helmand, Nimrus and parts of Kandahar.

Fusion of NATO and ISAF, intense fighting in the south

With the order of December 19, 2005, the US withdrew 3,000 soldiers, leaving 16,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan who fought in the south and east. That was just before the 3rd phase of the expansion of the ISAF forces began. A merger of NATO and ISAF was agreed, with only half of the US troops participating in ISAF while the other 8,000 troops continued under their own command. During the preparation of the mission it turned out that the USA had not carried out any satellite reconnaissance in the south. British headquarters in Helmand became Camp Bastion , a few kilometers northwest of Laschkar Gah . A trunk road leads east to the city of Kandahar , where the Canadians have taken up quarters.

To prevent an offensive by the Taliban as long as the British and Canadians had not yet established themselves, the Americans started Operation Mountain Thrust ( en ) on May 15, 2006 with a total of 11,000 troops. The losses on the part of the western and Afghan troops in this military operation amounted to 155, the Taliban lost 1,134 fighters. It ended on July 31, and on August 1, ISAF / NATO took over command in the south. The British strategy consisted of quartering 40 to 100 soldiers in fortified platoon houses in small towns in Helmand so that the towns would not fall back into Taliban hands immediately after the "purge", but it was very dangerous to close the troops stationed there supply and they were a welcome target for Taliban attacks.

At the end of summer 2006, the Taliban tried to infiltrate and conquer the city of Kandahar with hundreds of fighters they had previously gathered in the Panjwai district, 35 kilometers southwest . NATO responded with the Canadian-led Operation Medusa . The losses of the Taliban were very high, which had to do with the fact that after they had been expelled from Kandahar, they brought reinforcements from Pakistan and defended themselves in Panjwai in the Soviet style, which is why they were there almost exclusively ("Second battle of Panjwaii") could be fought from the air. After the battle, the Canadians began to build a road from Kandahar to this district, which was not successful without further losses on all sides. There the Canadians stationed Leopard tanks at the advanced military base Masum Ghar in December . In December 2006 Canada already carried out Operation Falcon Summit in this district.

Between June and December 2006 there were a total of 2,100 air strikes and 2006 was the year in which the Taliban first carried out large numbers of suicide bombings: in 2004 there were only 6 and in 2005 21 such attacks, while there were 141 in 2006 and 137 in 2007 . This development continued in the following years, with 2008 as a new high point.

On June 13, 2008, the neo-Taliban stormed a prison in Kandahar and freed all inmates; around 1,150 suspected extremists, including around 400 neo-Taliban. In April 2011, over 500 Taliban, including allegedly around 100 Taliban commanders, fled through a 360-meter-long tunnel from the same facility, which had been converted into a maximum security prison.

New strategy

The new strategy announced on February 18, 2009 included, among other things, an increase in the number of Afghan security authorities and temporarily also the western troops, as well as an “Afghanization” of warfare. Furthermore, in March 2009 the USA officially established a connection between the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the name AfPak . As a result, the public now became more aware of the operations behind the border in Pakistan and this with Operation Neptune Spear on May 2, 2011, when Osama bin Laden was found in the Pakistani military garrison town of Abbottabad , where he had been since August 2005 lived, found their climax.

William B. Caldwell was appointed commander of both NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) and the US-led multinational Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A) in November 2009 , providing the training and expansion of the Afghan Army and the police benefited. In addition, locally or regionally active, lightly armed militias and the so-called Afghan Local Police (ALP) were recruited.

One of the first major missions of the Afghan National Army was Operation Mushtarak , which began on February 13, 2010 , in which 2,500 Afghan soldiers and 12,500 ISAF soldiers took the city of Marjah in Helmand province after two weeks , so that a state infrastructure can then be built there . Marjah is a center of opium cultivation , but the US armed forces initially did not want to take action against it.

At the Afghanistan conference in London in 2010 , the transfer of military responsibility to the Afghan army and a timetable for the withdrawal of the international armed forces were discussed. At the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010, NATO announced that it would hand over responsibility for the security of the first Afghan provinces to the Afghan National Army from 2011. All provinces should have been handed over by 2014. For this reason, the number of foreign soldiers is to be gradually reduced by 2014 so that only a few 10,000 trainers are in the country. 33,000 US soldiers will have left the country by summer 2012, 10,000 of them in 2011. In July 2011, the first 650 US soldiers were flown out. It is the first withdrawal of US troops without replacement. At the same time Canada withdrew its approximately 3,000 soldiers, with some Canadian soldiers remaining in the country only for training purposes. Command of the regions affected by the withdrawal was transferred to the United States.

In March 2011, Karzai named the first seven regions for which Afghan security forces are to take responsibility from July 2011. These are large parts of the province of Kabul and the provinces of Punjjir and Bamiyan , as well as the cities of Mazar-e Sharif, Mehtarlam (capital of the province of Laghman ), Lashkar Gah and most of Herat . On June 18, 2013, Karzai announced that the security transfer in Afghanistan had been completed.

On October 7, 2011, the former chairman of the military committee, the NATO general a. D. Harald Kujat , on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the military operation in Afghanistan for "failed".

US Marine Corps soldier in a poppy field, April 2011

An unexpected problem of Afghanization is a phenomenon that has meanwhile been dubbed “Green on Blue” in military circles. It describes the targeted fire by actually allied Afghan soldiers or police officers. For example, of the first 54 ISAF soldiers who fell in 2012, a total of 16 were killed by “Green on Blue”, i.e. almost a third. After the murder of two US officers in the Afghan Interior Ministry at the end of February 2012, which in turn was an obvious reaction to the burning of the Koran by American soldiers, the Bundeswehr, among other things, temporarily stopped partnering, joint operations (and training) with the Afghan Soldiers.

The problem has steadily worsened since 2008. While many countries have already withdrawn their armed forces in whole or in part, the remaining soldiers now not only have to close the gap between the withdrawing soldiers, but also fear being shot at by allied units of the Afghan National Army (ANA). This has a big impact on the morale of the troop. While in 2008 only 2 deaths out of a total of 295 deaths were caused by "Green on Blue", in 2009 there were already 12 deaths, and in 2010 this number rose to 16. In 2011 there were already 35 deaths, and it was no longer possible to speak of “individual cases”. In 2012, 61 of the 402 fallen soldiers died as a result of "Green on Blue"; by March 2013 there were 3 of the 21 fallen soldiers.

The fall of Kunduz

On September 28, 2015, the Taliban captured Kunduz . The Afghan army managed to retake the city after four days. She was supported by the US Air Force through air strikes. An airstrike hit the hospital of Doctors Without Borders , there were at least 19 people, including seven patients killed. Three of the dead were still children. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Seid al-Hussein , speculated about possible intent, which would have been a war crime. Investigation into the incident revealed that the hospital had been mistaken for a neighboring Taliban-occupied building.

Taliban attacks in 2017 and development to the peace agreement in 2020

At the end of March 2017, Afghan government troops withdrew from the city of Sangin, which is in the center of the opium region of Helmand, and left the place largely without a fight to the Taliban.

On April 22, 2017, the Taliban attacked an army base near the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif in the Afghan province of Balkh . At least 140 soldiers were killed and more than 160 wounded. The 12 Taliban fighters wore uniforms of the Afghan armed forces and drove up in military vehicles; some with bandages pretended to be wounded. They gained access to the base with forged papers. The fighters detonated an explosive charge and began shooting soldiers during Friday prayers in a mosque on the base. They then attacked the canteen and shot down groups of unarmed soldiers. Only after hours of firefight did the army regain control of the base. According to the Taliban, four of the fighters had previously served as soldiers on the base and therefore had a good knowledge of the area. Many German soldiers were usually on training at the attacked army base. There were no German soldiers in the base during the attack.

Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim resigned two days after the April 22 massacre.

On May 5, the Afghan security forces withdrew from Qala-i-zal (Kal-e-Sal) west of Kunduz and left the district to the Taliban. According to an Afghan police spokesman, this was an attempt to avoid further military and civilian losses.

In addition to the Taliban, fighters from the Sunni terrorist group ISIS-K ( Islamic State ) were active in the province of Khorasan, in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces near the Pakistani border in the summer of 2017 . About one in five air strikes by coalition forces during this period was targeted at IS fighters, the rest the Taliban. Observers assume that ISIS-K would also be supported by circles of the Pakistani military and only fought on the other side of the border in Pakistan if the group violates Pakistani interests. Since the group was founded in 2014, the main base of ISIS-K has been the mountain region of the Achin district in Nangarhar. In 2017, 3,440 civilians were killed and 7,019 injured.

According to the Afghan government, 45,000 soldiers of the national army died in the fight against groups such as the Taliban and IS between 2014 and 2019 .

According to UNAMA , more than 3800 civilians died in 2018 as a result of regular terrorist attacks in Afghanistan , and another 7189 were injured. In the same year, the Americans stepped up their bombing raids because they dropped more bombs than in the previous 10 years. UNAMA's first quarterly report for 2019 lists 581 civilians and 1,129 injured as a result of the armed conflict for the first three months of 2019. In the same quarter of the previous year there were 799 dead and 1,506 injured. For the first time, more civilians were killed in attacks by foreign forces stationed in the country (particularly the US) and the Afghan government's military and militia than in attacks by the Taliban. Due to the general danger situation, the Afghan presidential and local elections were postponed for months to September 2019. According to a US report, the Afghan government can only control about 55% of the country. According to the Federal Foreign Office's situation report , organized crime and tribal conflicts contribute to a complex security situation in Afghanistan. In September 2019, the US administration under Donald Trump broke off peace talks with the Taliban for the time being because members of the Taliban did not adhere to an agreed ceasefire . A condition for a resumption of the talks are "concessions" on the part of the Taliban, which they can keep. The talks then resumed in December.

When the Islamic State expanded in the Kunar province in the summer of 2018, the regional government and the Taliban cooperated militarily in the region until February 2020, until they had defeated the IS there. The US Air Force also avoided attacks on the Taliban there at that time.

The US-Taliban peace agreement and its breach

On February 29, 2020, the American special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad , and the head of the Taliban's political office in Doha , Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar , signed the Doha Agreement .

In a first step, the American troops in Afghanistan should be reduced by around a third to 8,600 people. The US and NATO also committed to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. In return, the Taliban guaranteed to start peace talks with the Afghan government within two weeks and to renounce terrorism or not to tolerate it in Afghanistan. As a party to the conflict, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan did not sign the agreement. Since the Taliban were also not representatives of the state, the agreement is not a peace treaty under international law . The treaty did not affect the future shape of the political system in Afghanistan or the distribution of political power.

After militant Islamist extremists carried out attacks in Afghanistan even after they were signed, there was a phone call between the head of the Taliban's political office and US President Donald Trump at the beginning of March 2020, as well as an announcement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that troops would only be withdrawn if the Taliban adhered to the agreement. Negotiations on an exchange of prisoners between the Taliban leadership and the Afghan government began at the end of March 2020, as a result of which several hundred Taliban fighters were released from their custody in the first weeks of April. Up to 5000 captured Taliban are to be released, provided that in return the Taliban release 1000 of their prisoners.

After several attacks in Afghanistan in May 2020 , to which the Islamic State (IS) , among others , claimed responsibility , Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that he also wanted to fight the Taliban again, even though they had denied participation in the attacks. The Taliban called this a declaration of war and carried out at least one attack, which they professed to commit. Before the festival of the breaking of the fast, the Taliban proposed a three-day ceasefire for the very time of the breaking of the fast, which the Afghan government agreed to. After the end of that ceasefire, the Afghan government released a further 900 Taliban prisoners on the one hand, but launched air strikes on enemy groups on the other. A few days later, attacks on soldiers and police officers in the country followed in return. According to government reports, 422 state security forces were killed or wounded in 222 Taliban terrorist attacks within a week in June.

At the end of June 2020, the New York Times published US intelligence information from spring 2020, according to which members of the Russian military intelligence had offered the Taliban bounties for the killing of US soldiers and other NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, and in some cases paid them. Arrested Taliban fighters and criminals had made corresponding statements, and large sums of money in US dollars had been seized from Taliban bases. According to the US secret service report, the destabilization action against Western forces was carried out by the Russian secret service GRU .

According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, there were almost 600 attacks by the Taliban on security forces and government facilities across the country in October 2020. 180 civilians were also killed and 375 injured. In Helmand province , the US Air Force supported the Afghan armed forces in fighting the Taliban near Lashkargarh that same month .

In the years from 2016 to 2020, the Taliban killed between around 1,300 and 1,625 civilians annually, according to UNAMA . In addition, between around 2,500 and 3,600 civilians were injured or killed, directly or indirectly, by Taliban IEDs each year . The Taliban also calculated and deliberately killed progressive politicians, journalists and activists who, contrary to the Islamist views of the Taliban, stand for the construction of a diverse, modern society. The Taliban are using the persistently high levels of violence to exert pressure in the peace talks with the Afghan government.

According to UNAMA, at least 573 civilians were killed and 1,783 other civilians injured in Afghanistan in the first quarter of 2021. According to the United Nations, 43.5% of these incidents were due to the Taliban and 25% to the Afghan National Army.

In February 2021 Sabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, insisted on the implementation of the treaty and the withdrawal of the international troop presence in Afghanistan: "NATO, America and all sides have come to the conclusion that the only good solution to overcoming the current crisis is Implementation of the signed agreement is (..) If the agreement, God forbid, is violated, then of course the people of Afghanistan will defend themselves from their own country, as they have done for the last 20 years. "

Withdrawal of NATO troops and advance of the Taliban

Current area control in Afghanistan. Gray: Under the control of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and others.
Red: Under the control of government troops or allied militias.
Green: Contested or area control unclear.
The respective data of the capture of cities can be seen in the close-up view of the map.
Boeing C-17 cargo bay during an evacuation flight
from Kabul with 823 people on board

On March 23, 2021, Heiko Maas declared at the NATO meeting in Brussels: "We do not want to risk the Taliban returning to violence and trying to come to power by military means by withdrawing from Afghanistan early."

A few months after taking office as US President, Joe Biden announced in mid-April 2021 that he had ordered the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan from May 1 to September 11, 2021, thereby ending the war in Afghanistan. The decision to withdraw was not made conditional on the security situation on the ground or the fulfillment of the requirements of the peace agreement negotiated by the Taliban and the Trump administration. The agreement originally provided for the full withdrawal of foreign troops by May 1, 2021. However, the Biden government failed to meet this deadline. The decision of the USA was followed by the decision of NATO. At the meeting of the NATO Council on April 14, 2021, all 30 NATO ambassadors voted unanimously to withdraw all regular soldiers from NATO member states and partner nations from Afghanistan.

US intelligence ratings indicated that the country's government could be defeated by the Taliban within months of the total withdrawal of US forces. Other estimates were from six months to a year.

According to a UN report dated May 20, 2021, the Taliban controlled or threatened 50 to 70% of Afghan territory and have direct control over 57% of the centers of the administrative districts of Afghanistan.

On June 9, 2021, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas referred to the peace negotiations: "At the same time, however, there is a peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which has not been suspended and whose success I do not consider unattainable."

German participation in the war in Afghanistan ended at the end of June 2021 when the last German soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan. A few days later, on July 2, the US armed forces left Bagram Air Base, their largest military base and headquarters in Afghanistan, to the Afghan National Army (ANA).

In early July, the Taliban controlled between a third and 50% of all 407 administrative districts of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan . About 120 other districts were contested. By July 5, the Taliban had captured 38 of Afghanistan's 407 districts within a week. Most of the districts were taken without resistance. The army, police and local militias fled across the borders to neighboring countries or went home. They often left their weapons and equipment behind. In some cases, the Taliban send village elders to military posts and give the soldiers the choice of fighting to the death or receiving free deduction and a hand money equivalent to 50 euros. The Taliban paid some additional money for weapons and equipment. The government in Kabul reacted headlessly to the advance of the Taliban. Even the few elite units were deployed in an uncoordinated manner.

According to the United Nations , a total of 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in May and June 2021 - the highest number since records began in 2009.

Between May 1 and July 12, the Taliban captured a total of 139 districts in Afghanistan. About a week later, it was reported that 210 districts were controlled by the Taliban and 110 districts were under government control. The remaining 80 districts are hotly contested.

NATO's Resolute Support mission ended on July 16, 2021 . But even after its end, US soldiers and their allies were in Afghanistan.

At the end of July / beginning of August 2021, rocket attacks on Kandahar airport and offensives by the Taliban on the provincial capitals Herat and Laschkar Gah were reported. On August 2, 2021, according to information from local authorities and residents, the Taliban already controlled at least eight of the ten police districts of Laschkar Gah. In the fight against the Taliban, the US military supported the Afghan army in August 2021 with fighter and bomber aircraft launched from neighboring countries, as the US armed forces have almost completely left the military bases in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 244,000 people in Afghanistan fled the fighting between the beginning of May and the end of July 2021. Most of the internally displaced people fled provinces in the northeast and east from armed fighting. According to OCHA in Afghanistan, between the beginning of the year and the beginning of August, more than 550,000 people fled their towns and villages because of skirmishes. Of those who fled Afghanistan during the 20 years of war, almost 90 percent are in Iran and Pakistan. According to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan , 2.7 million Afghan refugees lived in Pakistan.

On 6 August 2021 the Taliban took Zaranj one, the provincial capital of Nimros . According to the province's vice-governor, Roh Gul Chairsad, the Taliban had taken control of the governor's seat as well as the headquarters of the police and prison administration, among other things. A police spokesman said there had been no reinforcements from Kabul, so the city could not be held. The city was apparently surrendered without a fight. Saranj was the first provincial capital to be captured by the Taliban in 2021. On the same day, the Afghan Interior Ministry announced the death of the head of the government's media information center, Daua Khan Menapal, in an attack in a mosque. On August 7, 2021, the Taliban took Scheberghan , the capital of Juzdschan , another provincial capital. The government armed forces and their officials had withdrawn to the airport, according to the governor's office. On the same day, the United States Embassy in Kabul urged US citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately. Given the security conditions and the reduced staff, the embassy’s ability to help US citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited, even in Kabul. The embassy offered repatriation loans to destitute citizens.

On August 8, 2021, the Taliban captured Sar-i Pul, another provincial capital. On the same day, the Taliban captured the provincial capitals of Kunduz and Taloqan, which had been besieged for weeks, in just two days. The Taliban then captured the provincial capital Aybak on August 9, 2021, the provincial capitals Farah and Pol-e Chomri on August 10, 2021, the provincial capital Faizabad on August 11, 2021 , and Herat and Kandahar on August 12, 2021 in addition to the provincial capital Ghazni ( two of the three largest cities in Afghanistan ), Qala-i-Naw and, on August 13, 2021, the provincial capitals Laschkar Gah , Qalat , Pul-i-Alam , Tarin Kut and Tschaghtscharan . The Taliban captured at least 18 of the 34 provincial capitals within a week, because Asadabad and Sharan (capital of Paktika ) fell on the same day - almost without a fight .

On August 14, the Taliban took the fourth largest Afghan city, Mazar -e Sharif and Gardis , almost without a fight . In mid-August, the Afghan state under Ashraf Ghani still had around 50,000 security forces ( Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police ), according to the US military .

On August 15, Jalalabad, the last major city before Kabul, was taken. At the same time, the first Taliban were spotted in all the outskirts of Kabul without encountering any resistance there. On the same day, the US evacuated its embassy in Kabul and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. In a message published on the Internet, the Taliban leadership instructed its fighters not to march into Kabul on their own, but to wait until a peaceful handover of government by Taliban negotiators is ensured. On the same day, August 15, the Taliban took over the presidential palace and abandoned police headquarters in Kabul and announced that the war was over and that they would soon proclaim the Islamic emirate .

A spokesman for the US Department of Defense had announced on August 12, 2021, that it would move 3,000 soldiers to Kabul airport at short notice , but the United States had another 2,000 soldiers transferred there by August 16. These were ordered to ensure security at the airport during the evacuation of the US embassy staff and former US Afghan employees. Britain announced the deployment of 600 British Special Forces to assist the departure of British citizens. The German federal government planned to evacuate its embassy and nationals on August 16. Russia, on the other hand, does not plan to evacuate its embassy. An international evacuation began, in which at least 19 countries took part with their own military aircraft and by August 26, 2021, more than 100,000 people were flown out of Afghanistan from Kabul Airport. During the evacuation mission , the Islamic State of Korasan carried out an attack on August 26, 2021 at Kabul Airport, killing at least 79 Afghans, 13 US soldiers and three British nationals and injuring at least 150 other people. The international evacuation ended on the night of August 31, 2021. This was also the time when the US armed forces had withdrawn their last troops in Afghanistan from there. According to the United Nations, al-Qaeda was already present in almost every second Afghan province before the withdrawal of international troops.

The Panjshir Valley was for some days the only region of the country, which was not yet under the control of the Taliban. The valley is 150 kilometers northeast of Kabul and is known for the resistance during the time of the occupation by the Soviet Union (1980–1985) as well as under the first rule of the Taliban (1996–2001). There the Punjjir resistance formed under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud . The Vice President ( Amrullah Saleh ) and the Minister of Defense ( Bismillah Khan Mohammadi ) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan exercised their offices there. On September 6, 2021, the Taliban claimed to have captured Punjjir, which the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, Sahir Aghbar, immediately denied. The fighting continues.

Strategic partnership agreement

Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan

After one and a half years of negotiations, the governments of the United States and Afghanistan agreed in April 2012 on a framework agreement that should regulate cooperation between the two countries for the next ten years. The Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and the American Ambassador to Kabul Ryan Crocker signed the document on April 22, 2012. Details of the framework agreement are not known as the entire agreement has not been published. In addition, controversial details such as the size of the American military presence or the amount of American financial aid for Afghanistan for the period after 2014, when all international combat troops have left the country, are not regulated in the framework agreement.

The "Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America" ​​(German: Permanent and strategic partnership agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America) was on May 2, 2012 between the US - President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed in Kabul. It runs for 10 years and gives the United States the opportunity, after the international combat troops have withdrawn in 2014, to deploy US soldiers in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces and to fight terrorism. Neither the amount of American financial aid nor the amount of possible US troops are regulated in the agreement.

Before the signing of the strategic framework agreement, two major obstacles had been removed that were considered to be a prerequisite for the agreement. First, in March 2012 the United States and Afghanistan signed an agreement on the gradual transfer of control to Afghanistan over the Bagram military prison and other prisons under American control. On the other hand, Afghanistan and the United States signed an agreement in April 2012, according to which the night raids by the American special forces will in future be carried out by Afghan forces, American forces will be available as support and a committee of Afghan and NATO or US representatives should decide on night operations .

Strategic partnership agreement between Germany and Afghanistan

On May 16, 2012, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a partnership agreement in Berlin that regulates relations between the two countries after the international combat troops had withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014. The agreement has a term of five years and is extended for a further five years if it is not terminated in writing by one of the contracting parties. It is also planned that projects based on the partnership agreement should be monitored by a bilateral government working group due to widespread corruption in Afghanistan.

Politics, good governance, security cooperation, police and army support, development, culture and science are subjects covered in the agreement. Involvement in basic and vocational training, the energy supply and in the water sector, cooperation in the preservation and care of the cultural heritage and protected cultural monuments, assistance in setting up the judiciary and civil aviation are other areas in which Germany wants to get involved.

The agreement also stipulates that the two countries will continue to work together to build up the police force and that Germany will make an appropriate contribution to the financing of the Afghan security forces. According to Chancellor Merkel, this contribution amounts to 150 million euros annually. However, the number of German soldiers and police officers after 2014 is not specified in the agreement. On the subject of Afghan security forces, the newspaper Die Welt writes : “The agreement already stipulates further training aid from Germany for the army after the withdrawal of the German troops at the end of 2014. There should be bilateral annual programs for this. In addition to the continuation of so-called mentoring programs, which meant that soldiers continued to stay after the end of the ISAF mission, high-ranking Afghan soldiers were trained in Bundeswehr facilities. In addition, the establishment of the Afghan national police should be continued. "

Military strategies


Development of the number of stationed ISAF soldiers
Search for booby traps, December 2010

One of the early strategies was the establishment of Provincial Reconstruction Teams to support and protect the reconstruction of the infrastructure in Afghanistan. The approach was implemented differently by the troop contributor nations and it changed depending on the military situation on site. For example, the size of the teams and whether the focus is more on the military or the civilian part differ.

Another strategy is called clear, hold and develop . It is part of the US Army's field manual, which was newly created in 2006 , and was tried out on a larger scale for the first time as clear and hold during the Vietnam War . Weaknesses of this strategy became known, for example it requires a very high number of troops in the field. In Afghanistan it also includes the establishment of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan police so that they have a permanent presence there after the insurgents have been driven out of an area. So that the National Army can be deployed quickly, it is further trained in the deployment of OEF / ISAF troops (partnering) .

Some new techniques were used to counter insurgency . Unmanned aerial vehicles are increasingly being used to investigate enemy troop movements . Biometric databases have been created to identify the enemy when he is hiding among civilians .

The war in Afghanistan is "defined by its strategists as a ' war on terror '". The instrument of “targeted killings” are so-called “ ck lists (capture or kill) , which are also drawn up by the BND .” The ISAF strategists plan for civilian victims as “ collateral damage ” in a collateral damage estimate . The target persons and alleged Taliban leaders are found, among other things, by “anonymous informants ”. See also: Air raid near Kunduz .

More and more specialized vehicles were used to track down and clear mines. The Husky Mark 3 has a ground penetrating radar and z. B. with the Buffalo , a mine clearance vehicle, the suspected location of the booby trap is then examined with a remote-controlled mechanical crane arm and then excavated.

Supply and supply lines of the western troops

Since Afghanistan has no direct connection to the sea, supplies for the ISAF and OEF units have to be brought into the country via the territory of neighboring countries. Pakistan is the most important transit country for bulk goods. Starting from the ports in Karachi , an important route leads over the Chaiber Pass in the Hindu Kush to Kabul, a second route runs via Quetta to the border town of Chaman and on to Kandahar . In the north there is another route to Afghanistan. In the spring of 2010, for example, NATO was able to transport freight containers across Russian territory for the first time, a similar agreement had previously been made with individual NATO countries. In November 2010, the agreement was expanded to include the transport of unarmed armored vehicles. The construction of a railway line from Uzbekistan to Mazār-i Sharif began in early 2010 and the construction work was completed by the end of 2010.

Bases on the Arabian Peninsula are often used for air transport . Since the beginning of the war there have been similar bases in the states north of Afghanistan, for example in Kyrgyzstan in its capital Bishkek at Manas Airport . In Termiz , Uzbekistan , the Mazar-e Sharif squadron handles air transports for the German and Dutch ISAF contingents. With the development of efficient airports ( Camp Bastion (from 2006), Bagram Air Base , Kandahar Airport , Kabul Airport ), destinations in Afghanistan are served directly from outside the country.

Disrupting supply lines is an increasingly important target of the Taliban. Booby traps are an important means .

Pakistan closed its territory to transport from November 26, 2011 to July 2012. During this time, the route via Russia could be used more intensively.

United States Contribution

The United States is the main contributor to troops, the main donor and crucial to the strategy in the fight against the opponents of the Afghan government.

In early 2008, the United States increased its troop strength from 26,607 soldiers to 48,250 soldiers. Furthermore, between December 2008 and June 2009 there were more than 60,000 people working for a military service provider in Afghanistan.

In October 2010, over 130,000 soldiers were under ISAF command in Afghanistan, with the United States being the main contributor with 90,000 soldiers. The number of ISAF troops rose because the 20,000 or so US soldiers assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom until spring 2010 are now under ISAF command. This leaves only the US special forces and soldiers guarding prisoners under OEF command.

Major operations in 2010 and 2011 were in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, with significant success in Kandahar. In the east of Afghanistan, where a large part of the population lives, nothing can be seen until 2011.

In January 2013, Karzai and Obama decided that the handover of responsibility to Afghanistan should be completed in the spring of 2013. Afterwards, the US role should only consist of: "Training, advice and support for Afghan forces". The 66,000 US soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan in January will be further reduced by then.


Stopped UAZ-469 that had loaded three bombs

An essential means of warfare is the booby trap to attack the technically superior troops of the OEF / ISAF.

According to Ahmed Rashid board, detonators, explosives and housing - - the components for improvised explosive devices ( english improvised explosive devices (ied) ) produced in homework behind the Pakistan border and then taken to Afghanistan, put there together and applied .

In addition, representatives of the Afghan state, such as police officers ( Afghan National Police ), are killed. There are also suicide attacks. However, there are also larger attacks, such as the brief conquest of a district. As a rule, however, the neo-Taliban only achieved dominance in individual districts or provinces, and through so-called shadow governors, parallel to the official governors, they then exert influence on the population.

The neo-Taliban use targeted propaganda . You are trying to address three groups: the international public, the Arab world and the Afghan people. There are neo-Taliban spokesmen who answer media inquiries via satellite telephone, and word of mouth and flyers (night letters) are distributed in Afghanistan. Other means of transport for propaganda are videos, songs, and the Internet.

As a counter-strategy to partnering , the Taliban are pursuing the strategy of infiltrating the Afghan security organizations in order to get closer to the ISAF soldiers and carry out successful attacks. This is also intended to undermine trust between the partners.

Afghan National Army

The Afghan National Army cannot pursue a high-tech strategy or asymmetrical warfare . There were deficits in tactics in warfare and discipline. Since the soldiers' pay was very low - it was later increased - they were often successfully lured away by the neo-Taliban and other insurgents.

Countries with a withdrawal decision

After Canada threatened to withdraw its troops in 2008, the country finally decided in 2010 to end the operation in 2011 . The disproportionately high number of deaths that the country has to lament against the population of Canada played a decisive role in the discussion. In the Netherlands, after similar clashes, the government broke up in 2010 and it was also decided to withdraw . Half a year later, however, the new government decided to help Germany train police officers in Kunduz.

The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on April 17, 2012 that her country's troops would start withdrawing as early as 2012.

The withdrawal of French troops began on the instructions of President François Hollande in July 2012. The last French combat troops were withdrawn from the country on November 21, 2012.

Peace efforts

The Afghan National Peace Jirga in June 2010 did little to change the situation in the country; many Taliban boycotted this council. It is possible that negotiations between the Afghan government and Gulbuddin Hekmatyār were discussed there. In any case, a split from his party Hizb-i Islāmī pretended to be allied with Karzai since autumn 2009 and appointed the Minister for Economic Affairs in 2010. These alleged allies of Karzai, however, have left no doubt in their public statements about their loyalty to Hekmatyār. The chairman of the High Peace Council, Burhānuddin Rabbāni , founded at the suggestion of the Peace Jirga, was killed on September 20, 2011 by a suicide bomber.

An important neo-Taliban leader named Mansour, with whom they had apparently been negotiating for months, turned out to be a con man (Bogus-Mansour) . Large payments are said to have been made to him so that he can take part in peace negotiations. He is said to have been flown in a NATO plane to a meeting with Karzai in the presidential palace in Kabul.

Michael Steiner (left) with Zalmay Rassoul (center) and Marc Grossman at a press conference in Kabul in June 2011

On November 28, 2010, the first meeting between representatives of NATO and the Taliban for ten years took place in Pullach, Bavaria . Michael Steiner , Special Representative of the German Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Taliban spokesman Syed Tayyab Agha , Frank Ruggiero from the US State Department, Jeff Hayes from the National Security Council of the United States and a representative of the Qatari ruling family were present at the location provided by the Federal Intelligence Service . The meeting was disguised as a celebration of Steiner's 61st birthday.

In the winter of 2011 the Taliban announced that they would set up a “diplomatic mission abroad” in Qatar in order to “enter into a dialogue with the international community”. According to US information, negotiations between the Taliban and US representatives took place for ten months, with Germany and Doha (Qatar) meeting about half a dozen times. In fact, however, the talks lasted intermittently until 2019, before they were broken off by the US administration under Donald Trump after members of the Taliban failed to adhere to an agreed ceasefire . The condition for a resumption of the peace talks are convincing concessions on the part of the Taliban, which they can credibly keep.

A multilateral peace process initiated by Russia began in February 2016 and gained momentum in 2018. On March 27, political representatives from all neighboring states of Afghanistan, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the EU, NATO and the USA met for talks in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. The government in Kabul was not invited, the invited Taliban did not appear.

A second conference planned for August did not take place because of the negative stance in Kabul and Washington. The Afghan government did not even send a delegation of its own to the meeting in Moscow, which was rescheduled for November 9th. Instead, members of the High Peace Council attended the event. This body oversaw peace efforts but did not represent the government. Its members repeated President Ashraf Ghani's offer to hold peace talks with the Taliban without preconditions. The visiting Taliban representatives said they did not want to negotiate with the government in Kabul. At the moment they are only prepared to negotiate directly with the USA itself. On the American side, a representative from the US embassy in Moscow attended the conference as an observer.

The Taliban had achieved their goal when, in February 2019, the US opened official talks with representatives of the Taliban in Doha for the first time. The core of the negotiations was the unscathed withdrawal of US troops. When a "peace agreement" ( Doha Agreement ) was concluded on February 29, 2020, the Taliban were asked little more than general political assurances for the time after they came to power. The agreement is not legally binding, as no authorized representatives of Afghanistan and its government were involved in the negotiation and signature.

A peace conference held on June 22, 2019 in Bhurban, Pakistan, which was named the “Lahore Process”, probably served the purpose of strengthening Pakistan's political contacts with as many internal Afghan actors as possible. The conference was attended by the heads of all Afghan political parties and the political advisers to the president, but not by the Taliban.

Influence of the regional powers

The regional powers Russia, Pakistan and India are not militarily involved in the war, but their influence is considerable. Pakistan has always been a retreat and recruiting area for Islamist rebels who are active in Afghanistan. The Quetta Shura , the leading organization of the Taliban active in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is also based in Pakistan. It was led by Mohammed Omar , the former de facto head of state of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan . A conflict in northwest Pakistan began in 2004 when the Pakistani army was looking for al-Qaida members to be in Waziristan , a Pakistani province on the border with Afghanistan.

According to Michael G. Mullen , senior soldier in the US armed forces and shortly before the end of his term of office, the Taliban-owned Haqqani network is acting as an extension of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (military intelligence service of the Pakistani armed forces) in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai concluded a strategic partnership with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 4, 2011 , including with a view to the withdrawal of western troops by 2014.

War dead

Coalition war dead by month
Fallen US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by gender, age and origin (as of 2016)

So far, around 3,600 coalition soldiers have been killed, including 59 soldiers from the Bundeswehr and three German police officers. The United States, the largest contributor of troops, recorded the highest casualties, accounting for around 68% of the total number of coalition soldiers killed. The number of Afghan soldiers and insurgents who died is unknown. Official information on civilian victims is incomplete, estimates vary widely:

  • In October 2003, Professor Marc Herold estimated that between 3,100 and 3,600 civilians were killed in US bombings and special forces attacks .
  • According to information from tagesschau.de , at the end of July 2008 one hundred Afghan and international aid organizations of the ACBAR umbrella organization in Kabul declared that by that time in 2008, 2,500 people had been killed, including 1,000 civilians, and that two thirds of the victims were insurgents be responsible.
  • The largest number of victims by far from an ISAF mission to date was the result of a bombing by US planes on September 4, 2009 , which was requested by Germans. According to NATO estimates, up to 142 people, including children, were killed or injured. The legality of this mission was controversial in the ISAF and in Germany.
  • In the reports of the Afghan War Diary from 2004 to 2009 published by the WikiLeaks website in July 2010 , 24,155 deaths related to the war were numerically recorded.
  • In 2010, 2,777 Afghan civilians were killed, around 15 percent more than in 2009 , according to an annual report issued by the United Nations and the Afghan Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Most of the civilian casualties were caused by attacks by the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyār's militia . Since 2003 the Taliban waged war against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the international ISAF troops in Afghanistan. They are targeting the Afghan civilian population in attacks. In 2009, according to the United Nations, they were responsible for over 76 percent of the casualties among Afghan civilians. The AIHRC called the targeted attacks by the Taliban against the civilian population a " war crime ". Religious leaders condemned the Taliban's attacks as a violation of Islamic ethics .

International observers and Afghan experts such as the former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh fear a massacre campaign by the Neo-Taliban and Hekmatyārs in the event of an early withdrawal of the international ISAF troops . The UK gives translators who have worked for the British Army and their families a five-year UK visa.

For 2011, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) calculated 3021 civilian casualties. 77 percent were victims of the insurgents and 14 percent died in operations by NATO and the Afghan army. No assignment was possible for 8 percent. 967 civilians were killed by so-called unconventional explosive devices or incendiary devices (IED), 450 in suicide attacks, 187 in air raids and 63 in night attacks. Since then, the number of victims has increased noticeably (2009: 5,969, 2010: 7,162, 2011: 7,842, 2012: 7,590, 2013: 8,638, 2014: 10,535, 2015: 11,034). For 2016, UNAMA puts the number of civilian casualties at 11,418 (3,498 fatalities, 7,920 injured).

The US armed forces , by far the largest provider of troops in Afghanistan, had wounded 17,674 soldiers up to and including September 2012. Of these, 12,309 were wounded in the US Army , 4,630 in the Marines , 396 in the Air Force and 339 in the Navy .

After 2010, the number of fallen coalition soldiers steadily declined until 2014 and was only 66 in that year, after 161 deaths in 2013, and 711 in 2010.

According to a quarterly report by the US government's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for the US Congress, a total of 5,523 Afghan soldiers were killed and 9,665 soldiers were wounded in the war in Afghanistan from January to August 28, 2016 alone . In addition, the state controls only 258 of 407 districts. 33 districts are under insurgent control or influence and 116 districts are contested.

According to the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan lost a total of 70,000 nationals in this conflict by the end of 2020. He said the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan were devastated and half of the people in these areas, around 1.5 million Pakistani, had to flee.

Monetary Cost of War

According to the US Department of Defense, the total cost to the US between 2001 and the end of December 2019 was US $ 776.1 billion. This includes costs for the reconstruction of US $ 137.9 billion, the largest portion of which, at over US $ 80 billion, represents the reconstruction of the Afghan security forces. A study by Brown University again estimates total costs for the Department of Defense and War Veterans from 2001 to the end of September 2019 at US $ 975 billion. The university also estimates that without spending on the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, about 1.4 million additional jobs could have been created.

The German share is around one hundredth of the American contribution: “The official costs for the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan have been fixed for each of the 13 mandates by the Bundestag since 2001. In the first year it was 436 million euros, in the meantime this sum has more than doubled: In the mandate text of January 2011, a little more than a billion euros was estimated for the first time. ”This includes costs for personnel, infrastructure and material. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) also calculates the costs of the death or wounding of soldiers as well as the investments by the Development Ministry and the Foreign Office in the total social costs and thus comes to a sum of 17 billion euros over ten years. According to the DIW, every additional year costs three times more than the officially estimated 1 billion euros per year. Over the entire period from 2001 to 2021, the costs amount to around 12.5 billion euros.

The costs for the Neo-Taliban can be calculated from their assumed income. In March 2010, the United States Drug Control Agency announced that the neo-Taliban would make hundreds of millions of dollars on drugs.

“The Taliban taxes opium poppy farmers, brokers, and laboratories that process opium into heroin, as well as traffickers passing through Taliban-controlled areas. They also collect donations from drug traffickers and sell drugs themselves to finance arms and munitions for their continued fight against US-led forces in Afghanistan. "

“The Taliban tax opium farmers, opium dealers and laboratories that process opium into heroin, as well as dealers who travel through Taliban-controlled areas. They also collect donations from drug dealers and sell drugs themselves to finance weapons and ammunition for their ongoing fight against US-led troops in Afghanistan. "

- Anthony P. Placido : Tested before the Senate International Drug Surveillance Committee

Progress through development aid during the war

According to a government statement by Angela Merkel on August 25, 2021, there was also progress in Afghanistan during the war. Child mortality in Afghanistan has halved since the beginning of the war. If less than 20% of the population had access to electricity in 2011, it would be over 90% in 2021. According to Merkel, the drinking water supply of the population could be increased from less than 20% in 2011 to almost 70% in 2021. Merkel's statement on access to electricity contradicts other statements, according to which in 2021 not 90% of the population will have access to electricity, but only 35% of households.

However, according to Human Rights Watch , the goal of enforcing the right to education for all girls, set at the beginning of the war, was nowhere near achieved by 2017. It is estimated that two thirds of all Afghan girls did not receive any schooling.


  • On July 25, 2010, newspapers from the USA and Great Britain as well as a German weekly magazine published the Afghan War Diary , excerpts from more than 91,000 reports, some of which were secret, that the US military obtained or wrote and wrote about between January 2004 and December 2009 WikiLeaks had made available. This made it known to the public in detail that the situation of ISAF forces had deteriorated significantly during this period and that neighboring Pakistan may have been influencing secret operations to the detriment of ISAF.

See also


  • William Maley: Rescuing Afghanistan . University of New South Wales Press, Sydney 2006, ISBN 0-86840-937-5 .
  • Daniel Marston: Lessons in 21st-Century Counterinsurgency. Afghanistan 2001-2007 . In: Daniel Marston / Carter Malkasian (eds.): Counterinsurgency in modern warfare . Osprey Publishing Ltd, Oxford, United Kingdom 2008, ISBN 978-1-84603-281-3 , pp. 220-240 .
  • Ahmed Rashid : Descent into Chaos. The US and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia . Viking Penguin, New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-14-311557-1 .
  • Mark Sedra (Ed.): Afghanistan. Transition under threat . Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo 2008, ISBN 978-1-55458-011-8 .
  • Antonio Giustozzi: Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop. The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan . Columbia University Press, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-231-70010-8 .
  • Antonio Giustozzi: Decoding the New Taliban. Insights from the Afghan Field . Columbia University Press, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-231-70112-9 .
  • Seth G. Jones: In the graveyard of empires. America's was in Afghanistan . New York 2009.
  • Conrad Schetter : Intervention in a civil war country - the example of Afghanistan . In: Stephan Conermann (Ed.): Asia today: Conflicts without end . Hamburg-Schenefeld 2009, p. 175-199 .
  • Johannes M. Becker: Afghanistan. A dead end war . In: Herbert Wulf (Ed.): Series of publications on conflict research . tape 25 . Lit Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-10460-1 .
  • Fritz Kobras: Afghanistan and NATO. Caught in the asymmetrical war . RG Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt 2010, ISBN 978-3-8301-1322-5 .
  • Frank Ledwidge: Losing small wars. British military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yale University Press, New Haven 2011, ISBN 978-0-300-16671-2 .
  • Ahmed Rashid : On the edge. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West . CW Leske Verlag, London 2012, ISBN 978-3-942377-06-5 .
  • Anton Friesen: “Who is talking about victories? Everything is surviving. ”About the failure of the US strategy in the Afghan war . Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, Saarbrücken 2014, ISBN 978-3-8381-3900-5 .
  • Philipp Münch: The Bundeswehr in Afghanistan. Military logic of action in international interventions . Rombach Verlag, Freiburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-7930-9827-0 .
  • Steve Coll : Directorate S. The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan . Penguin Press, New York 2018, ISBN 978-1-59420-458-6 .
  • Carter Malkasian: The American War in Afghanistan: A History. Oxford University Press, New York 2021, ISBN 978-0-19-755077-9 .


See also this list of documentaries about the war in Afghanistan in the English language Wikipedia .

Web links

 Wikinews: Afghanistan  - in the news

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