The War on Terror Comes to an End – But What Was It?
America is finally ending the war in Afghanistan. But how did the country get to this point?
By: Jeff Charles | August 25, 2021 | 726 Words
President Joe Biden is now withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It will be the end of a war that lasted two decades. But this does not represent the end of only one war; it is the end of an era known as the “War on Terror.” As America prepares to turn the page on this chapter in history, it is important to remember how the nation arrived at this point.
September 11 Terrorist Attacks
On September 11, 2001, America experienced the first attack on its soil since the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Extremists working with al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic terrorist group, hijacked four airplanes. They crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon. The fourth plane went down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost three thousand people were killed in the attack.
It was later revealed that most of the 19 men who hijacked the planes were from Saudi Arabia. However, American intelligence found out that the plot was masterminded in Afghanistan by al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. The terrorists were given shelter by the Taliban, another extremist Islamic group that was in charge of Afghanistan at the time.
President George W. Bush vowed to “win the war against terrorism” and threatened the Taliban. He demanded the group “deliver to the United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land.”
The United States military invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, when it became clear the Taliban would not meet Bush’s demand to give up bin Laden. It only took two months for the organization to lose control of the country. The U.S. was assisted by British forces along with backup from France, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
The U.S. and others tried to set up a new government in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai was eventually elected as president in 2004. He declared that the country would become partners with the U.S. as it continued to fight terrorist groups.
Almost ten years after the 9/11 attack, U.S. special forces held a raid at a compound in Afghanistan, where they killed Osama bin Laden. The war wasn’t over, though, as rebel groups kept fighting the new government.
Invasion of Iraq
Afghanistan wasn’t the only country invaded during the War on Terror.
On March 19, 2003, the United States and some of its allies invaded Iraq. Leaders said they had intelligence that Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction that the country could use against its neighbors – but this was later found to be false. It was also suspected that Hussein was aiding terrorists internationally.
Hussein was killed, and a new government was set up in Iraq – but rebel groups fought the new regime. The U.S. was at war there from 2003 to 2011. Another radical Islamic terrorist group rose in Iraq after the U.S. left. It was called Islamic State (ISIS), and it soon spread to different countries.
The two biggest conflicts in the War on Terror were Afghanistan and Iraq, but they weren’t the only ones.
The U.S. took military action in different countries that had problems with terrorist groups – such as Cameroon, the Philippines, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan. One major conflict was in Libya from 2015 to 2019.
The End of the War
In 2014, President Barack Obama declared an end to the war in Afghanistan. However, he kept about 11,000 troops in the region to keep peace. The number of soldiers eventually rose to 15,000 before President Donald Trump took office.
The American public wanted to end its wars overseas. President Trump had campaigned to end the War on Terror, and he stepped up the effort to defeat ISIS. While the group is still active, it is not nearly as powerful as it once was.
Now, President Biden is ending the war in Afghanistan, which means the War on Terror has come to its conclusion. Is this the end? After the U.S. began to leave, the Taliban soon took over Afghanistan once again. ISIS and al-Qaeda also seem to be regrouping. After 20 years, some are asking what the war achieved.