Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan from 2001 to Today

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan from 2001 to Today

Article excerpt

The attacks of September 1 1, 2001 shocked the world and wounded the United States. In a state of uncertainty, the US rose up in defiance, issuing strong statements that served to rally patriotism, threatening anyone on the other side of a solid red line: "You are either with us or against us." In an act of retribution, the U.S. quickly planned to attack the perpetrators, al Qaeda. They were an unknown group to the American public, a stateless group of nomads who lived in caves and traveled along goat paths. It was a new type of enemy that used airplanes as weapons; the fight against them would require a new type of warfare. President Bush called it the War on Terror and issued a warning to anyone who harbored terrorists. Of course, Afghanistan's government, the Taliban, who were recognized as legitimate by only three other governments, refused to turn over their guests who had been based in the country since 1997. With emotions running high and a sense of urgency to respond, the United States made invasion plans.

The ultimate goal of engagement was broad: to end terrorism. Regarding Afghanistan, the U.S. wanted to be sure that the country would never be used to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. or her allies. President Bush wanted to use Afghanistan as an example to send a message to other terrorist organizations that the U.S. would not end the war until "'every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated'" (James M. Lindsay, 2001). The strategy was incomplete however; without a determined, well defined and measurable goal, the world's greatest military power engaged in a war that has lasted ten years against an elusive and amorphous enemy that has been all but defeated. This paper will discuss the changing U.S. policy towards Afghanistan as time progressed, beginning with President Bush's initial authorization to engage and the development of democracy as a goal, and then proceeding on to President Obama's new strategy and the terms of the troop drawdown. The policy is long and complicated; this paper will offer insight into the comprehensive timeline and general trends, and will touch on one possible policy avenue based solely on the United States' recent history in the country.

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE STRATEGY

President Bush prepared for war. On September 18, 2001, he signed a law that authorized the use of force against America's attackers (Bruno, 201 1). He looked to other countries for support, especially from within the region. Within a month, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), a Special Operations Unit, had landed in Uzbekistan, bordering the north of Afghanistan (Stewart, 2003). From the onset, the immediate objective was to destroy al Qaeda and their networks of support, and the administration had "stated that it is not out to replace one regime with another" (Gossman, 2001) . However, the U.S. Army Center of Military History claims that the Army Special Forces were to "change the government of Afghanistan so that the country was no longer a safe haven for terrorists," demonstrating the confusion that surrounded the invasion (Stewart, 2003). The plan to take the country was called Operation Enduring Freedom. The Special Forces aligned with a number of commanders from the Northern Alliance - the anti -Taliban government that had been run into a miniscule part of northeastern Afghanistan. The U.S. was aware of the inner-rivalry between the Afghan commanders, and divided the Special Forces teams amongst them evenly to avoid favoritism (Stewart, 2003). With global and internal support, the U.S. was ready to invade.

Operation Enduring Freedom was the first taste of combat for most American soldiers. It commenced on October 7, 2001 with a bombing campaign (Bruno, 201 1). On October 19, 2001, conventional ground forces invaded to meet up with their Afghan allies (Stewart, 2003). The first military success was the fall of Mazar-e Sharif, in the north on November 10, 2001 (Stewart, 2003). …

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