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War on Terror

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War on Terror
War on Terror montage1.png
Clockwise from top left: Aftermath of the 11 September attacks; US infantry in Afghanistan; a US soldier and Afghan interpreter in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; explosion of an Iraqi car bomb in Baghdad
Date 7 October 2001 – ongoing
(11 years, 5 months, 1 week and 5 days)
Location Global (esp. Middle East, parts of Asia and Africa, Europe and North America)
Status War in Afghanistan (2001–present):
  • Fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan
  • Destruction of al-Qaeda camps
  • Taliban insurgency
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • Killing of Osama bin Laden

Iraq War (2003–2011):

  • Fall of the Ba'ath Party government in Iraq
  • Execution of Saddam Hussein
  • Free elections
  • Ongoing insurgency

War in North-West Pakistan (2004–present):

  • Ongoing insurgency
  • Large part of FATA under Taliban control
  • Shifting public support for the Pakistani government
  • Drone strikes being conducted by CIA.


  • OEF Horn of Africa
  • OEF Philippines
  • OEF Trans Sahara
  • OEF Caribbean and Central America
Main participants:


Non-NATO participants:

International missions *:

  • ISAF-Logo.svg NATO—ISAF
  • Operation Enduring Freedom Allies
  • Flag of Afghanistan (1992-1996; 2001).svg Northern Alliance
  • Multi-National Force – Iraq
  • CJTF-HOA insignia.jpg Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa

(* note: most contributing nations are included in the international operations)

Main targets*:
  • Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Al-Qaeda
  • Flag of Taliban.svg Taliban

(* note: the groups listed here do not necessarily cooperate politically or militarily in this conflict)

Commanders and leaders
United States Gen. Tommy Franks (CENTCOM commander 2001–2003),
United States Gen. John Abizaid (CENTCOM commander 2003–2007),
United States Adm. William J. Fallon (CENTCOM commander 2007–2008),
United States Gen. David Petraeus (CENTCOM commander 2008–2010, ISAF commander 2010–2011),
United States Gen. James Mattis (CENTCOM commander 2010–present),
United States Gen. Dan K. McNeill (ISAF commander 2007–2008),
United States Gen. David D. McKiernan (ISAF commander 2008–2009),
United States Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal (ISAF commander 2009–2010)

United States Gen. John R. Allen (ISAF commander 2011–present)

Flag of Taliban.svg Mohammed Omar
Flag of Taliban.svg Baitullah Mehsud  
Flag of Taliban.svg Mullah Dadullah  
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Osama bin Laden  
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Ayman al-Zawahiri
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Abu Musab al-Zarqawi  
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Abu Ayyub al-Masri  
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Anwar al-Awlaki  
Shabab.png Moktar Ali Zubeyr
Shabab.png Nasir al-Wuhayshi
Shabab.png Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud

The War on Terror (also known as the Global War on Terrorism) is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign which started as a result of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. This resulted in an international military campaign to eliminate al-Qaeda and other militant organizations. The United Kingdom and many other NATO and non-NATO nations took part in the conflict.

The phrase 'War on Terror' was first used by US President George W. Bush on 20 September 2001. The Bush administration and the Western media have since used the term to denote a global military, political, legal and ideological struggle—targeting both organizations designated as terrorist and regimes accused of supporting them. It was typically used with a particular focus on militant Islamists and al-Qaeda.

Although the term is not officially used by the administration of US President Barack Obama (which instead uses the term Overseas Contingency Operation), it is still commonly used by politicians, in the media and officially by some aspects of government, such as the United States' Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.


Letter from Barack Obama indicating appropriation of Congressional funds for "Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism"

The phrase "War on Terror" has been used to specifically refer to the ongoing military campaign led by the US, UK and their allies against organizations and regimes identified by them as terrorist, and excludes other independent counter-terrorist operations and campaigns such as those by Russia and India. The conflict has also been referred to by names other than the War on Terror. It has also been known as:

  • World War III
  • World War IV (assuming the Cold War was World War III)
  • Bush's War on Terror
  • The Long War
  • The Global War of Terror
  • The War Against al-Qaeda

History of the name

In 1984, the Reagan Administration used the term "war against terrorism" as part of an effort to pass legislation that was designed to freeze assets of terrorist groups and marshal the forces of government against them. Author Shane Harris asserts this was a reaction to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.

The concept of America at war with terrorism may have begun on 11 September 2001 when Tom Brokaw, having just witnessed the collapse of one the towers of the World Trade Centre, declared "Terrorists have declared war on [America]."

On 16 September 2001, at Camp David, President George W. Bush used the phrase war on terrorism in an unscripted and controversial comment when he said, "This crusade – this war on terrorism – is going to take a while, ... " Bush later apologized for this remark due to the negative connotations the term crusade has to people of Muslim faith. The word crusade was not used again. On 20 September 2001, during a televised address to a joint session of congress, Bush stated that, "(o)ur 'war on terror' begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." Bush did not say when he expected this would be achieved.

In April 2007 the British government announced publicly that it was abandoning the use of the phrase "War on Terror" as they found it to be less than helpful. This was explained more recently by Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller. In her 2011 Reith lecture, the former head of MI5 said that the 9/11 attacks were "a crime, not an act of war." "So I never felt it helpful to refer to a war on terror."

US President Barack Obama has rarely used the term, but in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009, he stated "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." In March 2009 the Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from "Global War on Terror" to "Overseas Contingency Operation" (OCO). In March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid use of the term, instead using "Overseas Contingency Operation". Basic objectives of the Bush administration "war on terror", such as targeting al Qaeda and building international counterterrorism alliances, remain in place. In December 2012, Jeh Johnson, the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, stated that the military fight will be replaced by a law enforcement operation when speaking at Oxford University, predicting that al Qaeda will be so weakened to be ineffective, and has been "effectively destroyed", and thus the conflict will not be an armed conflict under international law.

The rhetorical war on terror

Because the actions involved in the "war on terrorism" are diffuse, and the criteria for inclusion are unclear, political theorist Richard Jackson has argued that "the 'war on terrorism' therefore, is simultaneously a set of actual practices—wars, covert operations, agencies, and institutions—and an accompanying series of assumptions, beliefs, justifications, and narratives—it is an entire language or discourse." Jackson cites among many examples a statement by John Ashcroft that "the attacks of September 11 drew a bright line of demarcation between the civil and the savage". Administration officials also described "terrorists" as hateful, treacherous, barbarous, mad, twisted, perverted, without faith, parasitical, inhuman, and, most commonly, evil. Americans, in contrast, were described as brave, loving, generous, strong, resourceful, heroic, and respectful of human rights.

Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preventive war, human rights abuses and other violations of international law.

Precursor to the 9/11 attacks

The origins of al-Qaeda as a network inspiring terrorism around the world and training operatives can be traced to the Soviet war in Afghanistan (December 1979 – February 1989). The United States supported the Islamist mujahadeen guerillas against the military forces of the Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In May 1996 the group World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (WIFJAJC), sponsored by Osama bin Laden and later reformed as al-Qaeda, started forming a large base of operations in Afghanistan, where the Islamist extremist regime of the Taliban had seized power that same year. In February 1998, Osama bin Laden signed a fatwā, as the head of al-Qaeda, declaring war on the West and Israel, later in May of that same year al-Qaeda released a video declaring war on the US and the West.

Following the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, US President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in Sudan and Afghanistan against targets the US asserted were associated with WIFJAJC, although others have questioned whether a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was used as a chemical warfare plant. The plant produced much of the region's antimalarial drugs and around 50% of Sudan's pharmaceutical needs. The strikes failed to kill any leaders of WIFJAJC or the Taliban.

Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. In October 2000 the USS Cole bombing occurred, followed in 2001 by the 11 September 2001 attacks.

US objectives

   Trans Sahara initiative
  Major military operations ( Afghanistan • Pakistan • Iraq Somalia • Yemen)
  Other allies involved in major operations
Circle Burgundy Solid.svg Major terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups: 1. 1998 United States embassy bombings • 2. 11 September attacks 2001 • 3. Bali bombings 2002• 4. Madrid bombings 2004 • 5. London bombings 2005 • 6. Mumbai attacks 2008

The George W. Bush administration defined the following objectives in the War on Terror:

  1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroy their organizations
  2. Identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their organizations
  3. Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists
    1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism
    2. Establish and maintain an international standard of accountability with regard to combating terrorism
    3. Strengthen and sustain the international effort to fight terrorism
    4. Work with willing and able states
    5. Enable weak states
    6. Persuade reluctant states
    7. Compel unwilling states
    8. Interdict and disrupt material support for terrorists
    9. Eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and havens
  4. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit
    1. Partner with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism
    2. Win the war of ideals
  5. Defend US citizens and interests at home and abroad
    1. Implement the National Strategy for Homeland Security
    2. Attain domain awareness
    3. Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad
    4. Integrate measures to protect US citizens abroad
    5. Ensure an integrated incident management capability

US and NATO-led military operations

US Army soldier of the 10th Mountain Division in Nuristan Province, June 2007

Operation Active Endeavour

Operation Active Endeavour is a naval operation of NATO started in October 2001 in response to the 11 September attacks. It operates in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of militants or weapons of mass destruction and to enhance the security of shipping in general. The operation has also assisted Greece with its prevention of illegal immigration.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Campaign streamer awarded to units who have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the Bush administration for the War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions, under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. These global operations are intended to seek out and destroy any al-Qaeda fighters or affiliates.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan

Campaign streamer awarded to units who have participated in OEF-A.
US Army Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan
Soldiers beside a mud wall
US Marines return fire on enemy forces in Marjeh, February 2010

On 20 September 2001, in the wake of the 11 September attacks, George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban government of Afghanistan to turn over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leaders operating in the country or face attack. The Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden's link to the 11 September attacks and, if such evidence warranted a trial, they offered to handle such a trial in an Islamic Court. The US refused to provide any evidence.

Subsequently, in October 2001, US forces (with UK and coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. On 7 October 2001, the official invasion began with British and US forces conducting airstrike campaigns over enemy targets. Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, fell by mid-November. The remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants fell back to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, mainly Tora Bora. In December, Coalition forces (the US and its allies) fought within that region. It is believed that Osama bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the battle.

In March 2002, the US and other NATO and non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda with the goal of destroying any remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-i-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban suffered heavy casualties and evacuated the region.

The Taliban regrouped in western Pakistan and began to unleash an insurgent-style offensive against Coalition forces in late 2002. Throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan, firefights broke out between the surging Taliban and Coalition forces. Coalition forces responded with a series of military offensives and an increase in the amount of troops in Afghanistan. In February 2010, Coalition forces launched Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan along with other military offensives in the hopes that they would destroy the Taliban insurgency once and for all. Peace talks are also underway between Taliban affiliated fighters and Coalition forces. The United States and other NATO and non-NATO forces are planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines

US Special Forces soldier and infantrymen of the Philippine Army

In January 2002, the United States Special Operations Command, Pacific deployed to the Philippines to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating Filipino Islamist groups. The operations were mainly focused on removing the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) from their stronghold on the island of Basilan. The second portion of the operation was conducted as a humanitarian program called "Operation Smiles." The goal of the program was to provide medical care and services to the region of Basilan as part of a "Hearts and Minds" program.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa

US soldiers and French Naval commandos in Djibouti.
Ships assigned to Combined Task Force One Five Zero (CTF-150)
The Fall of Mogadishu in December 2006 and the withdrawal of the ICU

This extension of Operation Enduring Freedom was titled OEF-HOA. Unlike other operations contained in Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF-HOA does not have a specific organization as a target. OEF-HOA instead focuses its efforts to disrupt and detect militant activities in the region and to work with willing governments to prevent the reemergence of militant cells and activities.

In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. It contains approximately 2,000 personnel including US military and special operations forces (SOF) and coalition force members, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150).

Task Force 150 consists of ships from a shifting group of nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The primary goal of the coalition forces is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and affecting the US' Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Included in the operation is the training of selected armed forces units of the countries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics. Humanitarian efforts conducted by CJTF-HOA include rebuilding of schools and medical clinics and providing medical services to those countries whose forces are being trained.

The program expands as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative as CJTF personnel also assist in training the armed forces of Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali. However, the War on Terror does not include Sudan, where over 400,000 have died in an ongoing civil war.

On 1 July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western governments that the al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there.

Somalia has been considered a " failed state" because its official central government was weak, dominated by warlords and unable to exert effective control over the country. Beginning in mid-2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist faction campaigning on a restoration of "law and order" through Sharia law, had rapidly taken control of much of southern Somalia.

On 14 December 2006, the US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer claimed al-Qaeda cell operatives were controlling the Islamic Courts Union, a claim denied by the ICU.

By late 2006, the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia had seen its power effectively limited to Baidoa, while the Islamic Courts Union controlled the majority of southern Somalia, including the capital of Mogadishu. On 20 December 2006, the Islamic Courts Union launched an offensive on the government stronghold of Baidoa, and saw early gains before Ethiopia intervened in favour of the government.

By 26 December, the Islamic Courts Union retreated towards Mogadishu, before again retreating as TFG/Ethiopian troops neared, leaving them to take Mogadishu with no resistance. The ICU then fled to Kismayo, where they fought Ethiopian/TFG forces in the Battle of Jilib.

The Prime Minister of Somalia claimed that three "terror suspects" from the 1998 United States embassy bombings are being sheltered in Kismayo. On 30 December 2006, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called upon Muslims worldwide to fight against Ethiopia and the TFG in Somalia.

On 8 January 2007, the US launched the Battle of Ras Kamboni by bombing Ras Kamboni using AC-130 gunships.

On 14 September 2009, US Special Forces killed two men and wounded and captured two others near the Somali village of Baarawe. Witnesses claim that helicopters used for the operation launched from French-flagged warships, but that could not be confirmed. A Somali based al-Qaida affiliated group, the Al-Shabaab, has confirmed the death of "sheik commander" Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of militants. Nabhan, a Kenyan, was wanted in connection with the 2002 Mombasa attacks.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara

Northern Mali conflict.svg

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) is the name of the military operation conducted by the US and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of counter-terrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa.

The conflict in northern Mali began in January 2012 with radical Islamists (affiliated to al-Qaeda) advancing into northern Mali. The Malian government had a hard time maintaining full control over their country. The fledgling government requested support from the international community on combating the Islamic militants. In January 2013, France intervened on behalf of the Malian government’s request and deployed troops into the region. They launched Operation Serval on 11 January 2013, with the hopes of dislodging the al-Qaeda affiliated groups from northern Mali.


A British C-130J Hercules aircraft launches flare countermeasures prior to being the first coalition aircraft to land on the newly reopened military runway at Baghdad International Airport.

Iraq had been listed as a State sponsor of terrorism by the US since 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Iraq was also on the list from 1979 to 1982; it was removed so that the US could provide material support to Iraq in its war with Iran. Hussein's regime proved a continuing problem for the UN and Iraq’s neighbors due to its use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds.

Iraqi no-fly zones

After the Gulf War, the US, French and British militaries instituted and began patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones, to protect Iraq's Kurdish minority and Shi'a Arab population—both of which suffered attacks from the Hussein regime before and after the Gulf War—in Iraq's northern and southern regions, respectively. US forces continued in combat zone deployments through November 1995 and launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq in 1998 after it failed to meet US demands of "unconditional cooperation" in weapons inspections.

Prior to Operation Desert Fox, US president Bill Clinton predicted "And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them." Clinton also declared a desire to remove Hussein from power and in the same speech said, "The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world." In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox, during December 1998, Iraq announced that it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its attempts to shoot down US aircraft.

Air strikes by the British and US against Iraqi anti-aircraft and military targets continued over the next few years. Also in 1998, Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which called for regime change in Iraq on the basis of its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, oppression of Iraqi citizens, and attacks on other Middle Eastern countries.

The George W. Bush administration called for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to again send weapons inspectors to Iraq to find and destroy the alleged weapons of mass destruction and called for a UNSC resolution. UNSC Resolution 1441 was passed unanimously, which offered Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" or face "serious consequences."

Resolution 1441 did not authorize the use of force by member states. The Iraqi government subsequently allowed UN inspectors some access to Iraqi sites, while the US government continued to assert that Iraq was being obstructionist.

In October 2002, a large bipartisan majority in the United States Congress authorized the president to use force if necessary to disarm Iraq in order to "prosecute the war on terrorism." After failing to overcome opposition from France, Russia, and China against a UNSC resolution that would sanction the use of force against Iraq, and before the UN weapons inspectors had completed their inspections (which were claimed to be fruitless by the US because of Iraq's alleged deception), the US assembled a " Coalition of the Willing" composed of nations who pledged support for its policy of regime change in Iraq.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Campaign streamer awarded to units who have participated in the Iraq War.
Map of the invasion routes and major operations/battles of the Iraq War as of 2007.

The Iraq War began in March 2003 with an air campaign, which was immediately followed by a U.S.-led ground invasion. The Bush administration stated the invasion was the "serious consequences" spoken of in the UNSC Resolution 1441. The Bush administration also stated the Iraq war was part of the War on Terror, something later questioned or contested.

Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, fell in April 2003 and Saddam Hussein’s government quickly dissolved. On 1 May 2003, Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. However, an insurgency arose against the U.S.-led coalition and the newly developing Iraqi military and post-Saddam government. The insurgency, which included al-Qaeda affiliated groups, led to far more coalition casualties than the invasion. Other elements of the insurgency were led by fugitive members of President Hussein's Ba'ath regime, which included Iraqi nationalists and pan-Arabists. Many insurgency leaders are Islamists and claim to be fighting a religious war to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate of centuries past. Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003. He was executed in 2006.

In 2004, the insurgent forces grew stronger. The US conducted attacks on insurgent strongholds in cities like Najaf and Fallujah.

In January 2007, President Bush presented a new strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom based upon counter-insurgency theories and tactics developed by General David Petraeus. The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was part of this "new way forward" and, along with US backing of Sunni groups it had previously sought to defeat, has been credited with a widely recognized dramatic decrease in violence by up to 80%.

Operation New Dawn

The war entered a new phase on 1 September 2010, with the official end of US combat operations. The last U.S. troops exited Iraq on 18 December 2011.

Other military operations

Fighting in Pakistan

Map detailing the spread of the Neo-Taliban Insurgency into Afghanistan from safe havens within Pakistan (2002–2006)
President Musharraf with former President Bush
Diagram of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was killed there on 2 May 2011.

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf sided with the US against the Taliban government in Afghanistan after an ultimatum by former US President George W. Bush. Musharraf agreed to give the US the use of three airbases for Operation Enduring Freedom. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and other US administration officials met with Musharraf. On 19 September 2001, Musharraf addressed the people of Pakistan and stated that, while he opposed military tactics against the Taliban, Pakistan risked being endangered by an alliance of India and the US if it did not cooperate. In 2006, Musharraf testified that this stance was pressured by threats from the US, and revealed in his memoirs that he had "war-gamed" the United States as an adversary and decided that it would end in a loss for Pakistan.

On 12 January 2002, Musharraf gave a speech against Islamic extremism. He unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism and pledged to combat Islamic extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan itself. He stated that his government was committed to rooting out extremism and made it clear that the banned militant organizations would not be allowed to resurface under any new name. He said, "the recent decision to ban extremist groups promoting militancy was taken in the national interest after thorough consultations. It was not taken under any foreign influence".

In 2002, the Musharraf-led government took a firm stand against the jihadi organizations and groups promoting extremism, and arrested Maulana Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and took dozens of activists into custody. An official ban was imposed on the groups on 12 January. Later that year, the Saudi born Zayn al-Abidn Muhammed Hasayn Abu Zubaydah was arrested by Pakistani officials during a series of joint US-Pakistan raids. Zubaydah is said to have been a high-ranking al-Qaeda official with the title of operations chief and in charge of running al-Qaeda training camps. Other prominent al-Qaeda members were arrested in the following two years, namely Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is known to have been a financial backer of al-Qaeda operations, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who at the time of his capture was the third highest-ranking official in al-Qaeda and had been directly in charge of the planning for the 11 September attacks.

In 2004, the Pakistan Army launched a campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan's Waziristan region, sending in 80,000 troops. The goal of the conflict was to remove the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region.

After the fall of the Taliban regime many members of the Taliban resistance fled to the Northern border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pakistani army had previously little control. With the logistics and air support of the United States, the Pakistani Army captured or killed numerous al-Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wanted for his involvement in the USS Cole bombing, the Bojinka plot, and the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The United States has carried out a campaign of Drone attacks on targets all over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, the Pakistani Taliban still operates there. To this day it’s estimated that 15 US soldiers were killed while fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants in Pakistan since the War on Terror began.

Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, was killed on 2 May 2011, during a raid conducted by the United States special operations forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Fighting in Yemen

The United States has also conducted a series of military strikes on al-Qaeda militants in Yemen since the War on Terror began. Yemen has a weak central government and a powerful tribal system that leaves large lawless areas open for militant training and operations. Al-Qaida has a strong presence in the country.

The US, in an effort to support Yemeni counter-terrorism efforts, has increased their military aid package to Yemen from less than $11 million in 2006 to more than $70 million in 2009, as well as providing up to $121 million for development over the next three years.

Fighting in Kashmir

Political Map: the Kashmir region districts

In a 'Letter to American People' written by Osama bin Laden in 2002, he stated that one of the reasons he was fighting America is because of its support of India on the Kashmir issue. While on a trip to Delhi in 2002, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested that Al-Qaeda was active in Kashmir, though he did not have any hard evidence. An investigation in 2002 unearthed evidence that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were prospering in Pakistan-administered Kashmir with tacit approval of Pakistan's National Intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence. A team of Special Air Service and Delta Force was sent into Indian-administered Kashmir in 2002 to hunt for Osama bin Laden after reports that he was being sheltered by the Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. U.S. officials believed that Al-Qaeda was helping organize a campaign of terror in Kashmir in order to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the leader of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, signed al-Qaeda's 1998 declaration of holy war, which called on Muslims to attack all Americans and their allies. In 2006, Al-Qaeda claim they have established a wing in Kashmir; this worried the Indian government. Al-Qaeda has strong ties with the Kashmir militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan. While on a visit to Pakistan in January 2010, U.S. Defense secretary Robert Gates stated that Al-Qaeda was seeking to destabilize the region and planning to provoke a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

In September 2009, a U.S. Drone strike reportedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, who was the chief of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, a Kashmiri militant group associated with Al-Qaeda. Kashmiri was described by Bruce Riedel as a 'prominent' Al-Qaeda member, while others described him as the head of military operations for Al-Qaeda. Waziristan had now become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants, who were now fighting NATO in support of Al-Qaeda. On 8 July 2012, Al-Badar Mujahideen, a breakaway faction of Kashmir centric terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, on conclusion of their two day Shuhada Conference called for mobilisation of resources for continuation of jihad in Kashmir.

International military support

The United Kingdom is the second largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan.

The invasion of Afghanistan is seen to have been the first action of this war, and initially involved forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Afghan Northern Alliance. Since the initial invasion period, these forces were augmented by troops and aircraft from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway amongst others. In 2006, there were about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan.

On 12 September 2001, less than 24 hours after the 11 September attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and declared the attacks to be an attack against all 19 NATO member countries. Australian Prime Minister John Howard also declared that Australia would invoke the ANZUS Treaty along similar lines.

In the following months, NATO took a wide range of measures to respond to the threat of terrorism. On 22 November 2002, the member states of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) decided on a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism which explicitly states that "EAPC States are committed to the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as the rule of law, in combating terrorism." NATO started naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general called Operation Active Endeavour.

Support for the US cooled when America made clear its determination to invade Iraq in late 2002. Even so, many of the "coalition of the willing" countries that unconditionally supported the US-led military action have sent troops to Afghanistan, particular neighboring Pakistan, which has disowned its earlier support for the Taliban and contributed tens of thousands of soldiers to the conflict. Pakistan was also engaged in the War in North-West Pakistan (Waziristan War). Supported by US intelligence, Pakistan was attempting to remove the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda element from the northern tribal areas.

International Security Assistance Force

Map of countries currently contributing troops to ISAF as of 5 March 2010. Major contributors (over 1000 troops) in dark green, other contributors in light green, and former contributors in magenta.

December 2001 saw the creation of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Transitional Administration and the first post-Taliban elected government. With a renewed Taliban insurgency, it was announced in 2006 that ISAF would replace the US troops in the province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force in southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,000 Canadian, 1,400 from the Netherlands and 240 from Australia, along with special forces from Denmark and Estonia and small contingents from other nations. The monthly supply of cargo containers through Pakistani route to ISAF in Afghanistan is over 4,000 costing around 12 billion in Pakistani Rupees.

Al-Qaeda attacks

Since 9/11, al-Qaeda and other affiliated radical Islamist groups have executed major attacks in several parts of the world.

  • 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia
  • 2003 Casablanca bombings and 2007 Casablanca bombings in Morocco
  • 2003 Istanbul bombings in Turkey
  • 2004 Madrid train bombings in Spain
  • 7 July 2005 London bombings and 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack in the United Kingdom
  • 11 April 2007 Algiers bombings in Algeria
  • 2009 Fort Hood shooting
  • 2011 Cirebon bombing in Indonesia
  • 2011 Marrakech bombing in Morocco
  • 25 June 2011 Logar province bombing in Afghanistan
  • 30 June 2011 Nimruz province bombing in Afghanistan
  • 2 July 2011 Zabul province bombing in Afghanistan
  • 2011 Charsadda bombing, 2011 Faisalabad bombing, 2011 Dera Ghazi Khan bombings, July 2011 Karachi target killings, June 2011 Peshawar bombings, March 2011 Peshawar bombing, PNS Mehran attack, in Pakistan
  • 21 June 2011 Al Diwaniyah bombing, 24 January 2011 Iraq bombings, 27 January 2011 Baghdad bombing, January 2011 Baghdad shootings, January 2011 Iraq suicide attacks, 5 July 2011 Taji bombings in Iraq

There may also have been several additional planned attacks that were not successful.

  • 2004 financial buildings plot
  • 21 July 2005 London bombings and 2007 London car bombs
  • 2006 Toronto terrorism plot
  • 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot involving liquid explosives carried onto commercial airplanes
  • Hudson River bomb plot
  • 2007 Fort Dix attack plot
  • 2007 John F. Kennedy International Airport attack plot
  • 2009 Bronx terrorism plot
  • 2009 New York Subway and United Kingdom Plot
  • 2009 Christmas Bomb Plot
  • 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt
  • 2010 cargo plane bomb plot
  • 2010 Portland car bomb plot
  • 2011 Dearborn mosque bombing plot
  • 2011 Manhattan terrorism plot
  • 2012 U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi

U.S. Military aid to other countries


In the three years before the attacks of 11 September, Pakistan received approximately US$9 million in American military aid. In the three years after, the number increased to US$4.2 billion, making it the country with the maximum funding post 9/11.

Such a huge inflow of funds has raised concerns in the Indian press that these funds were given without any accountability, as the end uses not being documented, and that large portions were used to suppress civilians' human rights and to purchase weapons to contain domestic problems like the Balochistan unrest. Pakistan has stated that India has been supporting terror groups within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan with the aim of creating unrest within the country.


On 20 May 2007, a conflict began in north Lebanon after fighting broke out between Fatah al-Islam, an Islamist militant organization, and the Lebanese Armed Forces in Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. The conflict evolved mostly around the Siege of Nahr el-Bared, but minor clashes also occurred in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon and several bombings took place in and around Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

Fatah-al-Islam has been described as a militant mujahid movement that draws inspiration from al-Qaeda. The US provided military aid to the Lebanese government during the conflict. On 7 September 2007, Lebanese government forces captured the camp and declared victory.

Post 9/11 events inside the United States

A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement helicopter patrols the airspace over New York City.

In addition to military efforts abroad, in the aftermath of 9/11 the Bush Administration increased domestic efforts to prevent future attacks. Various government bureaucracies which handled security and military functions were reorganized. A new cabinet level agency called the United States Department of Homeland Security was created in November 2002 to lead and coordinate the largest reorganization of the US federal government since the consolidation of the armed forces into the Department of Defense.

The Justice Department launched the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System for certain male non-citizens in the US, requiring them to register in person at offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The USA PATRIOT Act of October 2001 dramatically reduces restrictions on law enforcement agencies' ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; eases restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States; expands the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadens the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act's expanded law enforcement powers could be applied. A new Terrorist Finance Tracking Program monitored the movements of terrorists' financial resources (discontinued after being revealed by The New York Times newspaper). Telecommunication usage by known and suspected terrorists was studied through the NSA electronic surveillance program. The Patriot Act is still in effect.

Political interest groups have stated that these laws remove important restrictions on governmental authority, and are a dangerous encroachment on civil liberties, possible unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment. On 30 July 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the first legal challenge against Section 215 of the Patriot Act, claiming that it allows the FBI to violate a citizen's First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, and right to due process, by granting the government the right to search a person's business, bookstore, and library records in a terrorist investigation, without disclosing to the individual that records were being searched. Also, governing bodies in a number of communities have passed symbolic resolutions against the act.

In a speech on 9 June 2005, Bush said that the USA PATRIOT Act had been used to bring charges against more than 400 suspects, more than half of whom had been convicted. Meanwhile the ACLU quoted Justice Department figures showing that 7,000 people have complained of abuse of the Act.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA) began an initiative in early 2002 with the creation of the Total Information Awareness program, designed to promote information technologies that could be used in counter-terrorism. This program, facing criticism, has since been defunded by Congress.

By 2003, 12 major conventions and protocols were designed to combat terrorism. These were adopted and ratified by a number of states. These conventions require states to co-operate on principal issues regarding unlawful seizure of aircraft, the physical protection of nuclear materials, and the freezing of assets of militant networks.

In 2005, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1624 concerning incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the obligations of countries to comply with international human rights laws. Although both resolutions require mandatory annual reports on counter-terrorism activities by adopting nations, the United States and Israel have both declined to submit reports. In the same year, the United States Department of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a planning document, by the name "National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism" which stated that it constituted the "comprehensive military plan to prosecute the Global War on Terror for the Armed Forces of the United States...including the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and a rigorous examination with the Department of Defense".

On 9 January 2007, the House of Representatives passed a bill, by a vote of 299–128, enacting many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission The bill passed in the US Senate, by a vote of 60–38, on 13 March 2007 and it was signed into law on 3 August 2007 by President Bush. It became Public Law 110-53. In July 2012, US Senate passed a resolution urging that the Haqqani Network be designated a foreign terrorist organisation.

The Office of Strategic Influence was secretly created after 9/11 for the purpose of coordinating propaganda efforts, but was closed soon after being discovered. The Bush administration implemented the Continuity of Operations Plan (or Continuity of Government) to ensure that US government would be able to continue in catastrophic circumstances.

Since 9/11, extremists made various attempts to attack the US homeland, with varying levels of organization and skill. For example, vigilant passengers aboard a transatlantic flight prevented Richard Reid, in 2001, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in 2009, from detonating an explosive device.

Other terrorist plots have been stopped by federal agencies using new legal powers and investigative tools, sometimes in cooperation with foreign governments.

Such thwarted attacks include:

  • The 2001 shoe bomb plot
  • A plan to crash airplanes into the US Bank Tower (aka Library Tower) in Los Angeles
  • The 2003 plot by Iyman Faris to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
  • The 2004 Financial buildings plot which targeted the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, DC, the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions
  • The 2004 Columbus Shopping Mall Bombing Plot
  • The 2006 Sears Tower plot
  • The 2007 Fort Dix attack plot
  • The 2007 John F. Kennedy International Airport attack plot
  • The New York Subway Bombing Plot and 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt

The Obama administration has promised the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, and promised the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq.


According to Joshua Goldstein, a international relations professor from the American University, The Global War on Terror has seen fewer war deaths than any other decade in the past century.

There is no widely agreed on figure for the number of people that have been killed so far in the War on Terror as it has been defined by the Bush Administration to include the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and operations elsewhere. Some estimates include the following:

  • Iraq: 62,570 to 1,124,000
  • Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll conducted 12–19 August 2007 estimated 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the Iraq War. The range given was 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths. A nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 Iraqi adults answered whether any members of their household (living under their roof) were killed due to the Iraq War. 22% of the respondents had lost one or more household members. ORB reported that "48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance."
  • Between 392,979 and 942,636 estimated Iraqi (655,000 with a confidence interval of 95%), civilian and combatant, according to the second Lancet survey of mortality.
  • A minimum of 62,570 civilian deaths reported in the mass media up to 28 April 2007 according to Iraq Body Count project.
  • 4,409 US military dead (929 non-hostile deaths), and 31,926 wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 66 US Military dead (28 non-hostile deaths), and 295 wounded in action during Operation New Dawn.
  • Afghanistan: between 10,960 and 49,600
  • According to Marc W. Herold's extensive database, between 3,100 and 3,600 civilians were directly killed by US Operation Enduring Freedom bombing and Special Forces attacks between 7 October 2001 and 3 June 2003. This estimate counts only "impact deaths"—deaths that occurred in the immediate aftermath of an explosion or shooting—and does not count deaths that occurred later as a result of injuries sustained, or deaths that occurred as an indirect consequence of the US airstrikes and invasion.
  • In an opinion article published in August 2002 in the magazine The Weekly Standard, Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute, questioned Professor Herold's study entirely on the basis of one single incident that involved 25–93 deaths. He did not provide any estimate his own.
  • In a pair of January 2002 studies, Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives estimates that "at least" 4,200–4,500 civilians were killed by mid-January 2002 as a result of the US war and airstrikes, both directly as casualties of the aerial bombing campaign, and indirectly in the resulting humanitarian crisis.
  • His first study, "Operation Enduring Freedom: Why a Higher Rate of Civilian Bombing Casualties?", released 18 January 2002, estimates that, at the low end, "at least" 1,000–1,300 civilians were directly killed in the aerial bombing campaign in just the 3 months between 7 October 2001 to 1 January 2002. The author found it impossible to provide an upper-end estimate to direct civilian casualties from the Operation Enduring Freedom bombing campaign that he noted as having an increased use of cluster bombs. In this lower-end estimate, only Western press sources were used for hard numbers, while heavy "reduction factors" were applied to Afghan government reports so that their estimates were reduced by as much as 75%.
  • In his companion study, "Strange Victory: A critical appraisal of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghanistan war", released 30 January 2002, Conetta estimates that "at least" 3,200 more Afghans died by mid-January 2002, of "starvation, exposure, associated illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from war zones", as a result of the US war and airstrikes.
  • In similar numbers, a Los Angeles Times review of US, British, and Pakistani newspapers and international wire services found that between 1,067 and 1,201 direct civilian deaths were reported by those news organizations during the five months from 7 October 2001 to 28 February 2002. This review excluded all civilian deaths in Afghanistan that did not get reported by US, British, or Pakistani news, excluded 497 deaths that did get reported in US, British, and Pakistani news but that were not specifically identified as civilian or military, and excluded 754 civilian deaths that were reported by the Taliban but not independently confirmed.
  • According to Jonathan Steele of The Guardian between 20,000 and 49,600 people may have died of the consequences of the invasion by the spring of 2002.
  • 2,046 US military dead (339 non-hostile deaths), and 18,201 wounded in action.
  • Pakistan: Between 1467 and 2334 people were killed in U.S. drone attacks as of 6 May 2011.
  • Yemen
  • Germany
  • Two Airmen were killed, another two were wounded at Frankfurt Airport by Arid Uka; they were en route to deployment to Afghanistan.
  • Somalia: 7,000+
  • In December 2007, The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization said it had verified 6,500 civilian deaths, 8,516 people wounded, and 1.5 million displaced from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year 2007.
  • USA
  • Two radicals, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, conducted sniper attacks in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia in October 2002. Ten people were killed and three others were critically wounded in those shootings.
  • 1 June 2009, Pvt. William Andrew Long was shot and killed by Abdulhakim Muhammad, while standing unarmed outside a recruiting facility in Little Rock AR.
  • On 5 November 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan, an Islamic extremist, shot and killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in Fort Hood, Texas.

Total American casualties from the War on Terror
(this includes fighting throughout the world):

US Military killed 6,639
US Military wounded 50,422
US DoD Civilians killed 16
US Civilians killed (includes 9/11 and after) 3,000 +
US Civilians wounded/injured 6,000 +
Total Americans killed (military and civilian) 9,655 +
Total Americans wounded/injured 56,422 +
Total American casualties 66,077 +


A March 2011 Congressional report estimated spending related to the war through fiscal year 2011 at $1.2 trillion, and that spending through 2021 assuming a reduction to 45,000 troops would be $1.8 trillion. A June 2011 academic report covering additional areas of spending related to the war estimated it through 2011 at $2.7 trillion, and long term spending at $5.4 trillion including interest.

Expense CRS/ CBO (Billions US$): Watson (Billions constant US$):
War appropriations to DoD 1208.1 1311.5
War appropriations to DoS/ USAid 66.7 74.2
VA medical 8.4 13.7
VA disability 18.9
Interest paid on DoD war appropriations 185.4
Additions to DoD base spending 362.2-652.4
Additions to Homeland Security base spending 401.2
Social costs to veterans and military families to date 295-400
Total: 1283.2 2662.1-3057.3
FY2012 DoD request 118.4
FY2012 DoS/USAid request 12.1
Projected 2013-2015 war spending 168.6
Projected 2016-2020 war spending 155
Projected obligations for veterans' care to 2051 589-934
Additional interest payments to 2020 1000
Total: 454.1 2043.1-2388.1
Subtotal: 1737.3 4705.2-5445.4


Participants in a rally, dressed as hooded detainees.

Criticism of the War on Terror addresses the issues, morals, ethics, efficiency, economics, and other questions surrounding the War on Terror and made against the phrase itself, calling it a misnomer. The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that it has been exploited by participating governments to pursue long-standing policy / military objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. It is argued that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in War on Drugs), since there is no identifiable enemy, and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.

Other critics, such as Francis Fukuyama, note that " terrorism" is not an enemy, but a tactic; calling it a "war on terror", obscures differences between conflicts such as anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen. With a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and its associated collateral damage Shirley Williams maintains this increases resentment and terrorist threats against the West. There is also perceived U.S. hypocrisy, media induced hysteria, and that differences in foreign and security policy have damaged America's image in most of the world.

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