In a chronology of conflict, 9/11 propels the US to war.
In the immediate aftermath, Osama bin Laden is the prime suspect behind the attacks. A vast manhunt is launched. Bin Laden stakes claim to his mastermind role well after 9/11. The US military is long since in Afghanistan.
Autumn 2001: the ‘War on Terrorism’ declared by the George W. Bush administration includes aerial bombardment of the Taliban. The Northern Alliance militia in Afghanistan are also given support to overthrow the regime accused of protecting the al Qaeda chief.
The mission is to capture or kill bin Laden, to smash al Qaeda. The Americans in the mountainous Tora Bora region believe their prey is hiding in a network of caves here, but they fail to find him.
More and more US troops are sent to Afghanistan. The anti-Taliban war grows and lasts. There are many casualties in the US-led military campaign. There are also many Afghan civilian deaths.
Ten years later, the UN says the first six months of 2011 are the deadliest for the people of the country since this war began.
The collateral death toll since the beginning fuels the Taliban insurgence.
Political analyst Waheed Mojda said: “The searches and night raids by foreign troops on Afghan civilian homes to find Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar were a mistake. Many innocent people have been killed and detained.”
It takes ten years for the Americans to corner bin Laden. Special forces swoop in for the kill on May 2, 2011. He has been hiding in Pakistan, two hours by road north of the capital. The US operation on Pakistani soil further degrades the two nations’ relations — Washington and Islamabad having long-strained strategic ties in the war against terrorism.
Pakistan wrestles with a tricky web of allegiance and priority with Afghanistan and al Qaeda concerns. Many Pakistanis revere bin Laden.
Pakistan has its own trouble with terrorism. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani cites a death toll of 35,000 Pakistanis, of whom 5,000 are security forces.
Iraq falls within the American establishment’s strike-back policy. A year and a half after 9/11, it begins bombing Baghdad, calling this operation “Shock and Awe”, based on Washington intelligence claiming Iraq is supporting terrorism and has weapons of mass destruction.
Bush calls Iraq part of an Axis of Evil. Europe is split over backing him.
Bush said: “At this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.”
A long and painful war awaits America here, too. Officially, it loses almost four and a half thousand soldiers’ lives in Iraq, most of them in combat. Far more Iraqis die. Eight years after Shock and Awe, there still remain 46,000 active US troops in Iraq.
One estimate of the cost to the Americans of its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq so far is one point three trillion dollars, or 925 billion euros.