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December 30, 2014

U.S. formally ends combat in Afghanistan


The War in Afghanistan, a 13-year mission marking the longest war in American history, came to an end on Sunday.

The war, which has cost the U.S. Treasury $1 trillion, killed 2,200 Americans and wounded 22,000. More than 17,000 Afghan civilians died according to the United Nations.

NATO forces led by the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The operation aimed to topple the Taliban, which provided a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives who masterminded the 9/11 attacks.

The invasion weakened the Taliban’s leadership in Afghanistan, but the group continued guerrilla warfare against Afghan national forces and foreign troops.

The U.N. Security Council created a coalition in late 2001 to train Afghan troops to fight the Taliban. But it’s not certain that Afghan forces are prepared to handle a Taliban resurgence.

Afghan air forces are not as strong as the U.S. and other foreign countries, and the army has problems with logistics and equipment maintenance, according to Sean Carberry, NPR’s former chief Kabul correspondent. The Taliban is “clearly a very substantial force and able to put Afghan forces on their heels in parts of the country,” he said.

Some U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan in counterterrorism or leadership roles. U.S. troops will advise and train Afghan forces and a small number of special forces will conduct combat operations, Carberry explained.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the country was prepared to continue fighting the insurgents. “People of Afghanistan have a unified intention and they will never surrender to terror acts,” he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Afghanistan?
  2. What important event happened on September 11th, 2001? Who was responsible for the attack?
  3. What was the reason for the United States invading Afghanistan?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Who are the Taliban? What are their goals?
  2. What do you think will happen now that the U.S. has pulled most troops from the country? Explain your answer.
  3. What do you think were the positive and negative outcomes of the war in Afghanistan? Does either outweigh the other?
  4. What does the experience in Afghanistan teach us about the decision to go to war? How does it compare to the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea or Iraq?
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