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America's longest war, in pictures

The war in Afghanistan has seen trillions of dollars squandered in what has largely been deemed a failed nation-building project.
Published 06 Jul, 2021 08:03pm

America's longest war has all but ended.

Launched in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans along with around 2,400 US soldiers, and seen trillions of dollars squandered in what has largely been deemed a failed nation-building project.

Although the Taliban's hardline regime fell within a matter of weeks after the United States unleashed a ferocious bombing campaign and incited tribal uprisings, the conflict festered.

The initial celebratory images of men shaving their beards and women re-entering the workforce gave way to suicide bombings, mounting civilian casualties, and the resurrection of a Taliban movement hell-bent on ejecting foreign forces from Afghanistan.

What began as a mission to dismantle Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan evolved over the years into a full-scale war against their Taliban hosts, triggering an insurgency that the US military's enormous firepower was unable to quell.

In this file photo taken on December 14, 2001, multiple explosions rock Al Qaeda positions in the Tora Bora mountains after an attack by US warplanes in Tora Bora. — AFP
In this file photo taken on December 14, 2001, multiple explosions rock Al Qaeda positions in the Tora Bora mountains after an attack by US warplanes in Tora Bora. — AFP

In this file photo taken on April 15, 2011, US soldiers from the 234th Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas are seen inside of a plane to Afghanistan from the US transit center Manas, 30km from Bishkek. — AFP
In this file photo taken on April 15, 2011, US soldiers from the 234th Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas are seen inside of a plane to Afghanistan from the US transit center Manas, 30km from Bishkek. — AFP

In this file photo taken on November 4, 2009, US medics of Medevac unit of 3rd battalion 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade carry an injured Afghan soldier off the helicopter to be taken to the hospital in Kandahar. — AFP
In this file photo taken on November 4, 2009, US medics of Medevac unit of 3rd battalion 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade carry an injured Afghan soldier off the helicopter to be taken to the hospital in Kandahar. — AFP

In this file photo taken on March 16, 2010, a US Marine of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines jumps down to fetch a hammer as they build an observation point on the perimeter of their combat outpost recently set up in Marjah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. — AFP
In this file photo taken on March 16, 2010, a US Marine of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines jumps down to fetch a hammer as they build an observation point on the perimeter of their combat outpost recently set up in Marjah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. — AFP

In this file photo taken on May 2, 2011, US Marines of Regiment Combat Team 1 watch TV announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province. — AFP
In this file photo taken on May 2, 2011, US Marines of Regiment Combat Team 1 watch TV announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province. — AFP

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2010, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Corporal Joe McCarty, 21, of Sullivan, Missouri, poses to show his tattoos for a portrait at the entrance to a bunker at a base in Marjah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. — AFP
In this file photo taken on March 20, 2010, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Corporal Joe McCarty, 21, of Sullivan, Missouri, poses to show his tattoos for a portrait at the entrance to a bunker at a base in Marjah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. — AFP

In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019, former US president Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. — AFP
In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019, former US president Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. — AFP

In this file photo taken on October 13, 2012, US Army soldiers attached to 2nd platoon, C troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st US Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team operating under Nato-sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) protect a wounded comrade from dust and smoke flares after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast during a patrol near Baraki Barak base in Logar province. — AFP
In this file photo taken on October 13, 2012, US Army soldiers attached to 2nd platoon, C troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st US Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team operating under Nato-sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) protect a wounded comrade from dust and smoke flares after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast during a patrol near Baraki Barak base in Logar province. — AFP

The killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 by US special forces renewed debate about the purpose of continuing the fight and eventually led to a failed effort to spur talks with the Taliban.

Former US president Donald Trump's election spelled the beginning of the end for the American involvement in Afghanistan, culminating in a landmark withdrawal deal hammered out between Washington and the Taliban's leadership in February 2020 in Qatar.

The final nail in the coffin came in April with his successor Joe Biden announcing that remaining US troops would be pulled from the country ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, prompting America's Nato allies to follow suit.

But the US departure leaves Afghanistan facing an uncertain future, with an increasingly confident Taliban appearing to set the stage for a military takeover and another round of internecine civil war.

In this file photo taken on March 12, 2002, US soldiers disembark from a CH-46 Chinook helicopter at Bagram Air Base. — AFP
In this file photo taken on March 12, 2002, US soldiers disembark from a CH-46 Chinook helicopter at Bagram Air Base. — AFP

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2002, a fireball emerges from explosion of ordnance in Bagram. — AFP
In this file photo taken on March 20, 2002, a fireball emerges from explosion of ordnance in Bagram. — AFP

In this file photo taken on November 26, 2006, US soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, practice some boxing techniques at Firebase Wilderness in Paktia province. — AFP
In this file photo taken on November 26, 2006, US soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, practice some boxing techniques at Firebase Wilderness in Paktia province. — AFP

In this file photo taken on March 30, 2003, US soldiers carry the coffins of their colleagues draped in national flags to a C-17 aircraft during a memorial ceremony held at Kandahar army base. — AFP
In this file photo taken on March 30, 2003, US soldiers carry the coffins of their colleagues draped in national flags to a C-17 aircraft during a memorial ceremony held at Kandahar army base. — AFP

In this file photo taken on June 2, 2014, a US soldier watches as a lift is used to demolish Hesco barriers ahead of the withdrawl from Forward Operating Base Pasab in Kandahar province. — AFP
In this file photo taken on June 2, 2014, a US soldier watches as a lift is used to demolish Hesco barriers ahead of the withdrawl from Forward Operating Base Pasab in Kandahar province. — AFP

In this file photo taken on July 2, 2009, US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province in Afghanistan. — AFP
In this file photo taken on July 2, 2009, US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province in Afghanistan. — AFP

In this file photo taken on December 24, 2013, US soldiers hold candles as they attend a religious ceremony on Christmas Eve at a US military base in Kabul. — AFP
In this file photo taken on December 24, 2013, US soldiers hold candles as they attend a religious ceremony on Christmas Eve at a US military base in Kabul. — AFP

In this file photo taken on September 11, 2010, a US army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division Alpha Battery 1-320th fires an AT-4 as Combat Outpost Nolen on the outskirts of the village of Jellawar in the Arghandab Valley came under Taliban attack. — AFP
In this file photo taken on September 11, 2010, a US army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division Alpha Battery 1-320th fires an AT-4 as Combat Outpost Nolen on the outskirts of the village of Jellawar in the Arghandab Valley came under Taliban attack. — AFP

In this file photo taken on December 5, 2006, US soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32 Infantry Regiment (1-32), attached to 4th Battalion, 25 Field Artillery, (4-25), 10th Mountain Division, are seen through a night vision scope following a search of a compound near Khowst in Paktia province. — AFP
In this file photo taken on December 5, 2006, US soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32 Infantry Regiment (1-32), attached to 4th Battalion, 25 Field Artillery, (4-25), 10th Mountain Division, are seen through a night vision scope following a search of a compound near Khowst in Paktia province. — AFP


Header image: In this file photo taken on November 11, 2009, US Army soldiers from 2-506 Infantry 101st Airborne Division and Afghan National Army soldiers race to get out of the way of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter landing in hostile territory during the launch of Operation Radu Bark VI in the Spira mountains in Khost province, 5km from the Afghan-Pakistan border. — AFP