The ‘war on terror’ against the Taliban

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States forced President George W. Bush to reappraise his foreign policy. Learn about the tragic day, the Bush Doctrine and the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Attack on the United States

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists, with the support and funding of the renowned terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, attacked the United States. The assault on the nation was unconventional in nature. Instead of a military invasion, terrorists hijacked four aircraft and used them as projectiles.

The first aircraft struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center facility in New York City at 8:45 a.m. Then, just shortly after 9 a.m., a second plane barreled into the World Trade Center’s South Tower. It immediately became apparent that the United States was under attack.Two additional incidents occurred in Washington, D.

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C., and in western Pennsylvania. In Washington, terrorists used a third plane to assault the Pentagon at 9:45 a.

m. In Pennsylvania, hijackers commandeered a fourth plane, but, thanks to a valiant effort from several passengers and crew members, the aircraft crash landed into a field instead of another significant target.By nightfall, both World Trade Center buildings had collapsed, the Pentagon suffered significant damage and the United States was shaken. Over 3,000 Americans perished during the September 11 attacks, including all individuals on board the aircraft, thousands at the World Trade Center and dozens at the Pentagon.

President George W. Bush addressed the nation with a powerful message that reassured the resolve of the American spirit and promised swift justice for those involved.

Bush Doctrine

During the presidential election of 2000, Bush promised to use American military force only to eliminate a potential threat to United States security. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush highlighted his revamped foreign policy.

The Bush Doctrine, as it became known, focused on removing foreign leaders and organizations who threatened the integrity of the United States.The Doctrine included a specific clause that allowed for a unilateral preventative war to occur in an effort to thwart the potential of another significant attack on the nation. This is an important concept to remember because it was the basis for the Bush Administration’s foreign initiatives following the terrorist attacks on the United States.

War in Afghanistan

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, members of the Bush Administration quickly blamed Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the leader of the regime, as the primary culprit in the devastating attack. On September 20, 2001, Bush went before Congress and declared a ‘war on terror’ against the Taliban government in Afghanistan because the Taliban offered refuge and protection to bin Laden and tenets of the Al-Qaeda network. While Bush’s pursuit of bin Laden was largely retaliatory, his quest to eliminate the entirety of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network reflected his doctrine of preventing future attacks on the United States and its international interests.

Bush provided the Taliban government with the option to hand over bin Laden to American officials, but it refused on the basis of the lack of evidence supporting his role in the September 11 attacks. As a result, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, an extensive war in Afghanistan, on October 7, 2001. The United States, combined with support from Britain, France, Germany and Canada, decimated suspected Al-Qaeda networks throughout Afghanistan and systematically eliminated terrorist leaders.The United States also bolstered the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban force, which helped to fight a successful ground war. After quickly eliminating the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan, allied forces elected Hamid Karzai as the interim leader of Afghanistan at the United Nations sponsored Bonn Conference in December 2001 (he became the official leader in 2004). An international security coalition was also established, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to maintain security within Afghanistan.The early allied successes in the war in Afghanistan quickly faded following the beginning of a new pro-Taliban insurgency in 2003.

The insurgents plagued the Bush Administration’s policies within the nation. Crime and corruption ran rampant throughout Afghanistan, and members of the insurgency took advantage of the situation in an effort to eliminate the democratic undertakings in the nation.The ISAF failed to control the situation, and Bush encouraged the security forces to adopt a policy of counterinsurgency coupled with pacification.

This might sound familiar as it was a concept used during the Vietnam War. Notwithstanding, the battles between the ISAF and the insurgency continued throughout the entirety of Bush’s tenure in office without a resolution.

War in Iraq

The war in Iraq complimented the conflict in Afghanistan. Bush, citing his doctrine of preventative action, focused on Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein. Bush was convinced that Hussein had been allegedly developing and storing biological and chemical weapons, known colloquially as weapons of mass destruction.

He also believed that Iraq was a staging ground for terrorist activity.In January 2002, Bush guaranteed that Hussein would not be allowed to continue to create and store these weapons nor be a front for terrorism. He also referred to Iraq, along with North Korea and Iran, as the ‘axis of evil’ in regard to its dangerous, oppressive and inhumane system of government.In October, Bush petitioned Congress for a blank check of authority to address Iraq if it chose not to relinquish the weapons of mass destruction; the measure was overwhelmingly passed. On November 8, Bush championed the United Nations to send weapons inspectors to Iraq; again, the measure was passed. Bush supplied Iraq with an ultimatum of surrendering its weapons by March 2003 or be faced with an invasion.Hussein refused to comply with the demands of the United States and international community.

On March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the coalition movement to eliminate Hussein and capture his weapons of mass destruction, began. American-led coalition forces blitzed Iraq quickly; in May, Bush delivered his ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech.Unfortunately, Bush’s speech was premature as resistance forces launched a protracted insurgency against the provisional Iraqi governments and its allied forces. Bush hoped that the insurgency would fizzle following the capture of Hussein by American forces in December 2003 and his execution in December 2006, but the conflict continued. Between 2004 and 2008, significant urban and rural fighting between American-led allied forces and members of the insurgency occurred.Bush was convinced to continue funding and supplying manpower to the war effort for as long as it took to bring security to Iraq. While Bush successfully invaded Iraq and captured Hussein, the alleged weapons of mass destruction were never located.

The conflict in Iraq continued until President Barack Obama assumed office and terminated the American war effort in 2011.

Lesson Summary

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States led President George W. Bush to reappraise his foreign policy. After the smoke had cleared, Bush unveiled a new foreign policy doctrine that called for preventative war in order to ensure the security of the United States and protect against potential future threats. He applied this doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq.Bush invaded Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom in order to retaliate for the September 11 attacks, as well as dispose of Al-Qaeda, the renowned terrorist organization, and its leader Osama bin Laden.

The invasion was initially successful; however, a pro-Taliban insurgency quickly challenged the United States’ stronghold in the region.Bush’s war in Iraq was a means of eliminating leader Saddam Hussein and the threat of his alleged cache of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. Operation Iraqi Freedom, the code name for the war in Iraq, quickly eliminated pro-Hussein tenets and led to the capture of the leader himself, but, like in Afghanistan, an insurgency plagued the post-war efforts of the Bush Administration. The conflict eventually concluded when President Barack Obama terminated American operations in Iraq in 2011.

Learning Outcomes

You’ll have the ability to do the following after this lesson:

  • Summarize President George W.

    Bush’s initial reactions after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.

  • Describe the actions and outcome of Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Explain what happened during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the consequences that followed
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