The United States government had announced its intentions to engage in a protracted war against terrorists and states which aid terrorists in response to the attack. The first target is the Taliban government in Afghanistan, because they did not turn over Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. There were some early indications that Iraq may have been involved, but nothing other than circumstantial evidence had been produced in the month following the attack. The United States has made it clear that this war will continue after dealing with whomever is responsible for the September 11 attack, but it is very unclear exactly what that means.
Before October 7, there were reports that U.S. and British special-forces soldiers were covertly landed in Afghanistan at some time after September 11, presumably for reconnaisance purposes, and that several of these troops were captured by the Taliban. As of October 1, all such reports had been officially denied by the U.S., British, and Afghani governments.
At approximately 16:30 GMT (12:30 EDT, 17:00 local time) on Sunday October 7, 2001, US and British forces struck at the Taliban forces and those of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan. The US government justifies these attacks as a response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. The Taliban condemns these attacks and call them an 'attack on Islam.'
Strikes have been reported over the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed) at the airport and military nerve-centre of Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader), and also at the city of Jalalabad (military/terrorist training camps). Both US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have addressed their respective nations on the subject. Bush confirmed the attacks on national television at 1 PM EDT. He said that Taliban military and terrorists training grounds would be targeted, at the same time food will be dropped because the Afghani people are our "friends".
A number of different technologies were employed in the strike. Air Force general Richard Myers, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that approximately 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched by British and US submarines and ships, 15 strike aircraft from carriers and 25 bombers, such as B1, B2 and B52's F16's, were involved in the first wave. Two C17 transport jets were to deliver 37,500 daily rations by airdrop to the refugees inside Afghanistan on the first day of the attack.
A pre-recorded video tape of Osama bin Laden had been released before the attack in which he condemned any attacks against Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite news channel, claim that these tapes have been recently received. In this recording bin Laden claims the United States will collapse after it fails in Afghanistan, just as the Soviet Union did, and calls for a war of Muslims, a 'Jihad', against the entire non-Muslim world.
Briefings by Washington defense officials indicated that the assaults would continue for the foreseeable future, with long-range bombing missions attacking Afghanistan from US and allied coalition soil.
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Nature of coalition
The first wave of attacks was carried out solely by American and British forces. On the second day, only American forces participated.
In addition to the United Kingdom other countries have pledged support, including Canada, France and Germany. Canada said that it would contribute 2,000 troops, mostly commandos, six ships and six aircraft. Japan, in it's first military deployment since World War II, also contributed naval support for non-combat reinforcement of the operation. By December, reports indicate Australian, British, French, German and Russian special forces are on the ground in Afghanistan.
Despite reluctance in the Arab states against retaliation against the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan, the Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf has offered support. Pakistan, as well as Iran, have agreed to open borders to receive the increased migration of refugees expected to travel across their borders. Pakistan has traditionally supported the Taliban. Uzbekistan has allowed the U.S. to place troops on the ground as well as use an airfield for humanitarian relief.
The campaign is viewed on all fronts as an American initiative. The American news media labeled the attacks as "America Attacks", "American Strikes Back" or some such; the U.S. government has stated repeatedly that it will do these attacks unilaterally if necessary; the BBC calls this a "confrontation between Afghanistan and the U.S."; the majority of the forces are American; the entire campaign is unequivocally led by the U.S.; the U.S. informed NATO of the attack but did not seek its consent.
Casualties and Accidental Strikes
On October 9, in a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, a United Nations spokeswoman reported that a cruise missile had killed four U.N. employees and injured four others in a building several miles east of Kabul. The casualties were Afghans employed as security guards by the Afghan Technical Consultancy, the U.N. demining agency (Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country on the planet). The Taliban reported about 8 to 20 civilian casualties, unconfirmed by independent sources.
United States bombs have also struck a Kabul residential area and struck near and damaged a military hospital (according to the U.N.) or an elderly home (according to the Pentagon) in Herat.
Meetings of various Afgan leaders organized by the UN took place in Germany. The Taliban was not included. These meetings produced an interim government and an agreement to allow a UN peacekeeping force to enter Afganistan.
It is estimated that in Afghanistan there are 1.5 million suffering from immediate starvations, as well as 7.5 million suffering at the hands of the country's dire situation; a result of civil war, famine from drought, and, to a large extend, the Taliban's oppressive regime.
In Pakistan, the United Nations and private humanitarian organizations have begun gearing up for the massive humanitarian effort necessary in addition to the already major refugee and food efforts. The United Nations World Food Program temporarily suspensed activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks. The efforts have, as of early December 2001, resumed with a daily distrubution rate of 3,000 tons a day. It is however estimated that 30,000 tons of food will be needed by Junuary 2002 to provided sufficient relief to the impoverished masses.
By November 1, U.S. C-17s flying at 30,000 feet had dropped 1,000,000 food and medicine packets marked with an American flag. Doctors Without Borders called it an act of transparent propaganda and said that using medicines without medical consultation is much more likely to cause harm than good. Action Against Hunger head of operations in Afghanistan Thomas Gonnet said it was an "act of marketing". A further problem lies in the fact that the food packets are bright yellow in color; the same color as unexploded bomblets from U.S. cluster bombs. Some injuries and damage to housing also occurred from boxes of relief supplies dropped from U.S. aircraft.
A USAF C-17 Globemaster returns to base from a humanitarian drop:
Protests, demonstrations and rallies
Several small protest occured in various cities and college campuses across the U.S. and in other contries in the first days after the start of the boming campaign. This were mainly peaceful. Larger protests and general strikes occurred in Pakistan, a previous Taliban ally. Some of these were suppressed by police with causalties among the protesters. In various Islamic nations, as well as in many "western" industrialized nations with no official state religion, protests and rallies of various sizes against the attack on Afghanistan took place.
On October 7, there was a peace rally of ten to twelve thousand people in New York City. They marched from Union Square to Times Square, cheering the police at the beginning of the march. The list of about twelve speakers was cut to three or four by the police, and they were herded at the end into a one-lane-wide "bullpen". The New York Times buried their coverage of the march on page B12.
After the first couple weeks few protests occured.
Misinformation and rumors
U.S. planned "terrorist" attack as pretext
- These attacks are stated to be in response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. However, many members of the Islamic community believe that there was actually a conspiracy, and that the terrorist attacks were planned as an artificial pretext for the American military action. Many Islamic media organizations are disseminating these theories. See also September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Misinformation and rumors.
Coded messages in Osama bin Laden tapes
- The U.S. government requested that national media not air or check with the federal government first, before airing pre-recorded messages from Osama bin Laden. The reasons they gave were that bin Laden may be sending coded messages within the tapes, and that the airing of such propaganda was inadvisable. The networks stated that they would review the tapes before airing them. See also propaganda, steganography, First Amendment.
- The executive branch, claiming secrets from a classified briefing were leaked to the media (the actual story, involving a Washington Post article, is more complicated), said that it would henceforth only brief eight members of Congress on military exercises. As that is illegal, Congress objected and the President backed off. White House officials did say that they would reconsider the amount of information they would release in such briefings. See also Watergate, Pentagon Papers, Freedom of Information Act.
Slogans and terms
- US Government: Enduring Freedom
- Yahoo: "Allied Strikes"
- CNN: "America Strikes Back", "America's New War"
- MSNBC: "America Strikes Back"
- ABC: "America Strikes" (AMERICA STRIKES in white bold italic sans-serif above three horizontal red stripes which fade at edges on dark blue background)
- NBC: "Taliban Attacked" ("Taliban ATTACKED" in yellow sans-serif)
- New York Times: "America Attacks"& "A Nation Challenged"
2001 U.S. Attack on Afghanistan -- Timeline