Why did the US attack Afghanistan

Background current


In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US and its allies attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The military conflict with the Islamist Taliban continues to this day.

US Marines on December 10, 2001 near Kandahar, Afghanistan. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

The war in Afghanistan began immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the USA, in which more than 3,000 people were killed. The trigger: The Islamist Taliban government in Afghanistan supported the terrorist group al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the attacks. The military alliance NATO responded on October 7, 2001 with a US-led offensive against the Taliban.

After conquering the capital Kabul on November 13, 2001, US ground troops succeeded in pushing back the Taliban in large parts of the country with the help of British soldiers with the militias of the Northern Alliance (which were recruited from former mujahideen). With the UN resolution 1386, the international protection force (ISAF) was created in December 2001, in which the German Bundeswehr was also involved. It was a security and reconstruction mission led by NATO. A transitional government was established under Hamid Karzai in 2002, and Afghanistan held presidential elections in October 2004, in which he was elected president.

Although there were several troop reinforcements from September 2008, the US and its allies failed to defeat the Taliban and pacify the country. In 2009, US President Barack Obama planned to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 2011. In fact, NATO's thirteen-year combat mission did not end until December 2014.

In the course of the follow-up mission "Resolute Support", around 12,000 soldiers from NATO countries have been stationed in Afghanistan to date. The Bundeswehr currently has around 980 soldiers in Mazar-i-Sharif and near Kunduz. Its primary task is to advise and train Afghan security forces. The security situation has deteriorated massively despite military support and financial aid. The political leadership under President Ashraf Ghani is divided, and economic and social problems are weighing heavily on the country.

The Taliban are still the strongest force among the radical Islamist insurgents. In September 2015 they temporarily took the northern city of Kunduz. In the middle of the year the Taliban were on the rise again and currently Kunduz is again fiercely contested. According to the United Nations, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 injured as a result of the military conflict in the first half of 2016 alone. The UN has been collecting these figures since 2009. Since then, 22,941 have been killed and 40,993 injured. In addition, according to Amnesty International, there are currently 1.2 internally displaced persons in Afghanistan.

Different estimates

Civilian casualties in the Afghan war

While the number of ISAF soldiers who fell is known relatively precisely, there are only estimates of civilian casualties in the Afghan war.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been systematically collecting numbers on civilian victims of the war since 2009. According to this, around 15,500 Afghan civilians died in combat between 2009 and mid-2014 alone.

The Costs of War project of the US Watson Institute at Brown University, which describes itself as "non-partisan", assumes that at least 21,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in combat operations between the beginning of the Afghan war in 2001 and early 2014 were.

The association "International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War" (IPPNW), which is active in the international peace movement, estimates in its Body Count report from 2012 that from October 2001 to the end of 2011 between 14,500 and up to 43,500 Afghan civilians were killed in combat operations. In a revision of the study from 2013, it extended the maximum value to up to 116,000 civilian deaths. IPPNW assumes that the number of civilians indirectly killed in war - through hunger, flight and disease - is much higher.

The Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research believes that NATO shares responsibility for civilian victims in Afghanistan. According to UNAMA figures, anti-government forces are responsible for around three quarters of all civilian deaths, but around one in ten Afghan civilians was killed by Afghan and international security forces. In addition, the warfare of NATO caused an increase in civilian casualties. In the past, NATO had publicly apologized several times for civilian casualties in Afghanistan.



At the Afghanistan donor conference in Brussels from October 4th to 5th, 2016 it was decided that the EU and its member states want to support Afghanistan with 1.2 billion euros annually until 2020. Representatives from 70 countries and 20 organizations attended the meeting. Germany wants to contribute 1.7 billion euros, but makes this dependent on progress in reforms.