US Afghanistan withdrawal: Top commander steps down

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From 9/11, to intense fighting on the ground, and now full withdrawal of US-led forces, here’s what happened.

9/11

Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, carries out the largest terror attack ever conducted on US soil.

Image caption The World Trade Centre is reduced to rubble

Image copyright by Getty

Four commercial airliners are hijacked. Two are flown into the World Trade Centre in New York, which collapses. One hits the Pentagon building in Washington, and one crashes into a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.

First air strikes

A US-led coalition bombs Taliban and al-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan. Targets include Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad.

The Taliban, who took power after a decade-long Soviet occupation was followed by civil war, refuse to hand over Bin Laden. Their air defences and small fleet of fighter aircraft are destroyed.

Fall of Kabul

The Northern Alliance, a group of anti-Taliban rebels backed by coalition forces, enters Kabul as the Taliban flee the city.

Coalition-backed Northern Alliance fighters ride tanks into Kabul as the Taliban retreat
Image caption Coalition-backed Northern Alliance fighters ride tanks into Kabul as the Taliban retreat

Image copyright by Getty

By the 13 November 2001, all Taliban have either fled or been neutralised. Other cities quickly fall.

New constitution

After protracted negotiations at a “loya jirga” or grand assembly, the new Afghan constitution is signed into law. The constitution paves the way for presidential elections in October 2004.

Hamid Karzai becomes president

Hamid Karzai led anti-Taliban groups around Kandahar before becoming president
Image caption Hamid Karzai led anti-Taliban groups around Kandahar before becoming president

Image copyright by Getty

Hamid Karzai, the leader of the Popalzai Durrani tribe, becomes the first president under the new constitution. He serves two five-year terms as president.

UK troops deployed to Helmand

British troops arrive in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold in the south of the country.

Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment lead the first UK deployment to Helmand
Image caption Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment lead the first UK deployment to Helmand

Image copyright by Getty

Their initial mission is to support reconstruction projects, but they are quickly drawn into combat operations. More than 450 British troops lose their lives in Afghanistan over the course of the conflict.

Obama’s surge

US President Barack Obama approves a major increase in the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. At their peak, they number about 140,000.

US troops in intense combat operations in the south of the country
Image caption US troops in intense combat operations in the south of the country

Image copyright by Getty

The so-called “surge” is modelled on US strategy in Iraq where US forces focussed on protecting the civilian population as well as killing insurgent fighters.

Osama Bin Laden killed

Bin Laden is traced to a compound located less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy
Image caption Bin Laden is traced to a compound located less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy

Image copyright by Getty

The leader of al-Qaeda is killed in an assault by US Navy Seals on a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s body is removed and buried at sea. The operation ends a 10-year hunt led by the CIA.  The confirmation that Bin Laden had been living on Pakistani soil fuels accusations in the US that Pakistan is an unreliable ally in the war on terror.

Death of Mullah Omar

The founder of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, dies. His death is kept secret for more than two years.

The Taliban leader is believed to have suffered a shrapnel wound to his right eye in the 1980s
Image caption The Taliban leader is believed to have suffered a shrapnel wound to his right eye in the 1980s

Image copyright by EPA

According to Afghan intelligence, Mullah Omar dies of health problems at a hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Pakistan denies that he was in the country.

Nato ends combat operations

At a ceremony in Kabul, Nato ends its combat operations in Afghanistan. With the surge now over, the US withdraws thousands of troops.  Most of those who remain focus on training and supporting the Afghan security forces.

Taliban resurgence

The Taliban launch a series of suicide attacks, car bombings and other assaults. The parliament building in Kabul, and the city of Kunduz are attacked. Islamic State militants begin operations in Afghanistan.

Kabul's international airport is struck on 10 August 2015
Image caption Kabul’s international airport is struck on 10 August 2015

Image copyright by Getty

Death toll announcement

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says more than 45,000 members of his country’s security forces have been killed since he became leader in 2014. The figure is far higher than previously thought.

US signs deal with Taliban

The US and the Taliban sign an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan, in Doha, Qatar. The US and Nato allies agree to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.

The deal lays out a timetable for full withdrawal
Image caption The deal lays out a timetable for full withdrawal

Image copyright by Getty

Date for final withdrawal

US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021, exactly 20 years since 9/11. There are strong indications that the withdrawal may be complete before the official deadline.

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Their air defences and small fleet of fighter aircraft are destroyed.”,”timeline__element_9-header”:”u003cstrong> u003c/strong>Fall of Kabul”,”timeline__element_9-date”:”13 November 2001″,”text_10-value”:”The Northern Alliance, a group of anti-Taliban rebels backed by coalition forces, enters Kabul as the Taliban flee the city.”,”figure_11-caption”:”Coalition-backed Northern Alliance fighters ride tanks into Kabul as the Taliban retreat”,”figure_11-attribution”:”Getty”,”figure_11-src”:”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/3DEE/production/_119145851_gettyimages_na.jpg”,”text_12-value”:”By the 13 November 2001, all Taliban have either fled or been neutralised. Other cities quickly fall.”,”timeline__element_13-header”:”u003cstrong> u003c/strong>New constitution”,”timeline__element_13-date”:”26 January 2004″,”text_14-value”:”After protracted negotiations at a “loya jirga” or grand assembly, the new Afghan constitution is signed into law. The constitution paves the way for presidential elections in October 2004.”,”timeline__element_15-header”:”Hamid Karzai becomes president”,”timeline__element_15-date”:”7 December 2004″,”figure_16-caption”:”Hamid Karzai led anti-Taliban groups around Kandahar before becoming president”,”figure_16-attribution”:”Getty”,”figure_16-src”:”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/8C0E/production/_119145853_gettyimages_karzai.jpg”,”text_17-value”:”Hamid Karzai, the leader of the Popalzai Durrani tribe, becomes the first president under the new constitution. He serves two five-year terms as president.”,”timeline__element_18-header”:”UK troops deployed to Helmand”,”timeline__element_18-date”:”May 2006″,”text_19-value”:”British troops arrive in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold in the south of the country.”,”figure_20-caption”:”Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment lead the first UK deployment to Helmand”,”figure_20-attribution”:”Getty”,”figure_20-src”:”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/B31E/production/_119145854_gettyimages-154419188.jpg”,”text_21-value”:”Their initial mission is to support reconstruction projects, but they are quickly drawn into combat operations. More than 450 British troops lose their lives in Afghanistan over the course of the conflict.”,”timeline__element_22-header”:”Obama’s surge”,”timeline__element_22-date”:”17 February 2009″,”text_23-value”:”US President Barack Obama approves a major increase in the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. 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Islamic State militants begin operations in Afghanistan.”,”figure_37-caption”:”Kabul’s international airport is struck on 10 August 2015″,”figure_37-attribution”:”Getty”,”figure_37-src”:”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/10210/production/_119146066_gettyimages-flames.jpg”,”timeline__element_38-header”:”Death toll announcement”,”timeline__element_38-date”:”25 January 2019″,”text_39-value”:”Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says more than 45,000 members of his country’s security forces have been killed since he became leader in 2014. The figure is far higher than previously thought.”,”timeline__element_40-header”:”US signs deal with Taliban”,”timeline__element_40-date”:”29 February 2020″,”text_41-value”:”The US and the Taliban sign an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan, in Doha, Qatar. 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Two are flown into the World Trade Centre in New York, which collapses. One hits the Pentagon building in Washington, and one crashes into a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n First air strikesn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>7 October 2001u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>A US-led coalition bombs Taliban and al-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan. Targets include Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad.u003c/p>n n n n u003cp>The Taliban, who took power after a decade-long Soviet occupation was followed by civil war, refuse to hand over Bin Laden. Their air defences and small fleet of fighter aircraft are destroyed.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n u003cstrong> u003c/strong>Fall of Kabuln u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>13 November 2001u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>The Northern Alliance, a group of anti-Taliban rebels backed by coalition forces, enters Kabul as the Taliban flee the city.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/3DEE/production/_119145851_gettyimages_na.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”Coalition-backed Northern Alliance fighters ride tanks into Kabul as the Taliban retreat” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> Coalition-backed Northern Alliance fighters ride tanks into Kabul as the Taliban retreatn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>By the 13 November 2001, all Taliban have either fled or been neutralised. Other cities quickly fall.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n u003cstrong> u003c/strong>New constitutionn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>26 January 2004u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>After protracted negotiations at a “loya jirga” or grand assembly, the new Afghan constitution is signed into law. The constitution paves the way for presidential elections in October 2004.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Hamid Karzai becomes presidentn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>7 December 2004u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/8C0E/production/_119145853_gettyimages_karzai.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”Hamid Karzai led anti-Taliban groups around Kandahar before becoming president” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> Hamid Karzai led anti-Taliban groups around Kandahar before becoming presidentn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>Hamid Karzai, the leader of the Popalzai Durrani tribe, becomes the first president under the new constitution. He serves two five-year terms as president.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n UK troops deployed to Helmandn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>May 2006u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>British troops arrive in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold in the south of the country.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/B31E/production/_119145854_gettyimages-154419188.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment lead the first UK deployment to Helmand” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment lead the first UK deployment to Helmandn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>Their initial mission is to support reconstruction projects, but they are quickly drawn into combat operations. More than 450 British troops lose their lives in Afghanistan over the course of the conflict.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Obama’s surgen u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>17 February 2009u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>US President Barack Obama approves a major increase in the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. At their peak, they number about 140,000.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/DA2E/production/_119145855_gettyimages_surge.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”US troops in intense combat operations in the south of the country” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> US troops in intense combat operations in the south of the countryn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>The so-called “surge” is modelled on US strategy in Iraq where US forces focussed on protecting the civilian population as well as killing insurgent fighters.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Osama Bin Laden killedn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>2 May 2011u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/1013E/production/_119145856_obl_gettypng.png??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”Bin Laden is traced to a compound located less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> Bin Laden is traced to a compound located less than a mile from a Pakistani military academyn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>The leader of al-Qaeda is killed in an assault by US Navy Seals on a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s body is removed and buried at sea. The operation ends a 10-year hunt led by the CIA.  The confirmation that Bin Laden had been living on Pakistani soil fuels accusations in the US that Pakistan is an unreliable ally in the war on terror.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Death of Mullah Omarn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>23 April 2013u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>The founder of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, dies. His death is kept secret for more than two years.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/1284E/production/_119145857_omar_epa_2.png??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”The Taliban leader is believed to have suffered a shrapnel wound to his right eye in the 1980s” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> The Taliban leader is believed to have suffered a shrapnel wound to his right eye in the 1980sn u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> EPAn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n n u003cp>According to Afghan intelligence, Mullah Omar dies of health problems at a hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Pakistan denies that he was in the country.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Nato ends combat operationsn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>28 December 2014u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>At a ceremony in Kabul, Nato ends its combat operations in Afghanistan. With the surge now over, the US withdraws thousands of troops.  Most of those who remain focus on training and supporting the Afghan security forces.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Taliban resurgencen u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>2015u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>The Taliban launch a series of suicide attacks, car bombings and other assaults. The parliament building in Kabul, and the city of Kunduz are attacked. Islamic State militants begin operations in Afghanistan.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/10210/production/_119146066_gettyimages-flames.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”Kabul’s international airport is struck on 10 August 2015″ />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> Kabul’s international airport is struck on 10 August 2015n u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Death toll announcementn u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>25 January 2019u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says more than 45,000 members of his country’s security forces have been killed since he became leader in 2014. The figure is far higher than previously thought.u003c/p>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n US signs deal with Talibann u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>29 February 2020u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>The US and the Taliban sign an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan, in Doha, Qatar. The US and Nato allies agree to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.u003c/p>n n n n u003cfigure class=”figure”>n u003cpicture>n u003cimg class=”figure__img”n src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/DB00/production/_119146065_gettyimages_qatar.jpg??v=1.0.202107090622.202107090623″n alt=”The deal lays out a timetable for full withdrawal” />n u003c/picture>n u003cfigcaption class=”figure__figcaption gel-brevier” >n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image captionu003c/span> The deal lays out a timetable for full withdrawaln u003cspan class=”figure__attribution”>n u003cspan class=”off-screen”>Image copyright byu003c/span> Gettyn u003c/span>n u003c/figcaption>n u003c/figure>n n n u003c/div>n n u003cdiv class=”timeline”>n u003cdiv class=”timeline__indicator”>n u003c/div>n u003ch3 class=”timeline__header”>n Date for final withdrawaln u003c/h3>n u003cp class=”timeline__date”>n u003ctime>11 September 2021u003c/time>n u003c/p>n n u003cp>US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021, exactly 20 years since 9/11. 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