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fighting on two fronts: a chronology

A timeline of key military events and diplomatic maneuvers in the first four months of the campaign against terror, which concluded with the collapse of the Taliban regime and the creation of a new government in Afghanistan.







+ Bush Addresses Nation After Terrorist Attacks
At 8:30 p.m. (EST), President Bush addresses the nation from the White House. "The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts," he says, adding, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."



+ Bush Declares War
Shortly before 11 a.m., at the end of a Cabinet meeting, President Bush announces, "The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war."

+ Beginning of International Coalition Against Terrorism
Bush phones British Prime Minister Tony Blair who pledges his "total support."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf makes a pledge of support for the U.S.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announces that it is prepared to invoke for the first time Article 5 of its charter, which states that an attack against one member would be considered an attack against all. This step will be formally taken at a NATO meeting on Oct. 2.

The U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 1368, which unanimously condemns the attacks and recognizes "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense" under the U.N. charter. It calls on the international community "to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks ... ."


+ Congress Authorizes Military Response
Congress passes resolution authorizing President Bush "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, their sponsors, and those who protected them. The bill passes the Senate by a vote of 98-0 and the House by a vote of 420-1.



+ National Security Team Plans for War
Bush assembles a meeting of the national security principals at Camp David. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argues that it is the perfect time to move against additional state sponsors of terrorism, including Saddam Hussein. The president ultimately decides that the primary focus of the war will be on Afghanistan, and that the question of Iraq will be reconsidered later.

Bush agrees to adopt a plan proposed by CIA Director George Tenet: a covert war in which CIA paramilitary officers would link up with anti-Taliban guerrillas inside Afghanistan. They would later be joined by small special operations forces teams which would call in precision airstrikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The next day, Bush signs the official Memorandum of Notification allowing the plan to proceed.




+ Pakistani Delegation Delivers Ultimatum to Taliban
A Pakistani delegation led by intelligence chief General Mahmood delivers an ultimatum to the Taliban. Mahmood reportedly tells Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, to hand over bin Laden or face a U.S. military attack. Mullah Omar refuses and calls for a panel of Muslim clerics to decide bin Laden's fate. Taliban leaders urge Afghanis to prepare for a holy war with the U.S.



+ France Pledges Solidarity
French President Jacques Chirac visits the White House and pledges "total solidarity" with the U.S., although he expresses concern over the use of the term "war."

+ U.N. Orders Taliban to Surrender Bin Laden
The U.N. Security Council issues a statement demanding that the Taliban "surrender bin Laden to the appropriate authorities and close terrorist training camps."



+ Armitage Visits Russia, Brussels
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visits Moscow and Brussels to discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Russian officials say it is too soon to tell whether they will allow the U.S. to use former Russian military bases in Central Asia, but that they are open to discussion.


+ Bush Addresses Congress
Bush outlines his war plan to a joint session of Congress. Just before he delivers his speech, he instructs the military to begin planning for war.

+ Blair Pledges Allegiance
British Prime Minister Tony Blair attends the joint session and pledges to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the U.S.



+ Taliban Rejects Ultimatums
The Taliban announces that it has rejected ultimatums to hand over bin Laden. Afghan citizens began to flee cities as the country prepared to move closer to war.



+ UAE Cuts Ties With Taliban
Following the Taliban's announcement, the United Arab Emirates, one of three countries that officially recognized the Taliban, announces that it is severing diplomatic ties.

+ Putin Promises Cooperation from Central Asian Republics
Russian President Vladimir Putin calls President Bush to tell him that he has secured the cooperation of several Central Asian republics in the war on terrorism.

+ Sanctions on India and Pakistan Lifted
Bush announces that he is lifting sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan after their 1998 nuclear weapons tests.


+ "Operation Enduring Freedom"
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that the military action against terrorism will be called "Operation Enduring Freedom."

+ Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Taliban
Saudi Arabia, one of two remaining countries recognizing the Taliban, cuts diplomatic ties.



+ Second Pakistani Delegation Meets with Taliban
A delegation of Pakistani religious clerics visits the Taliban to try and persuade them to give up bin Laden. The Taliban again refuse.




+ Afghan Opposition Groups Agree on First Steps Towards a New Government
At the end of a three-day meeting in Rome between the exiled former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah and members of the Northern Alliance, the groups agree to form a loya jirga, or grand council of tribal and military leaders, as a first step towards forming a new government in Afghanistan. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar denounces the opposition's statements as part of a U.S. attempt to impose an outside regime on Afghanistan.



+ Rumsfeld Travels to Middle East
On a three-day trip to shore up support for the coalition against terrorism, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visits Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Turkey.



+ Blair Presents Case Against Bin Laden
Before an emergency meeting of the British parliament, Prime Minister Tony Blair announces new details of the evidence against bin Laden. The British government also publishes a summary of the evidence on the Internet. [Note: The document was updated on Nov. 14.] Following his speech, Blair travels to Russia, Pakistan, and India to shore up support for the coalition.


+ U.S. Troops to Uzbekistan
Shortly after Uzbekistan announces its agreement to allow U.S. troops and aircraft to base humanitarian and search-and-rescue operations there, 1,000 U.S. troops from the 10th Mountain Division are dispatched to the former Soviet republic.



+ Bombing Campaign Begins
U.S. and Britain begin airstrikes against Taliban government installations and Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. For the first several days, the strikes are intensive, but their effectiveness is questioned. The training camps had already been largely abandoned, and much of the Taliban infrastructure targeted by the strikes had been destroyed by decades of war. There were also civilian casualties.




+ Coalition Nations Take Domestic Action
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announces that terrorist suspects have been arrested or detained in 23 countries and that 112 countries have taken steps against terrorist financial assets.



+ Powell Reassures Musharraf
Secretary of State Colin Powell flies to Islamabad to reassure President Musharraf that the U.S. alliance with the Northern Alliance guerrilla forces in battling the Taliban did not mean that the Northern Alliance would lead a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan.



+ Bush attends APEC Summit in Shanghai
At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Bush meets with various world leaders, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the coalition.


+ Karzai Sneaks into Afghanistan
Exiled Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai decides to return in secret to Afghanistan in the hopes of leading an anti-Taliban uprising. He arrives at a small Pashtun village on the outskirts of Kandahar. Within days of his arrival, he finds himself surrounded by Taliban forces, and calls for help. America rushes in an airdrop of weapons. U.S. officials say that at his request, Karzai was airlifted out of Afghanistan with some of his senior supporters. Karzai has since denied that he left Afghanistan.



+ Beginning the Ground War, Special Forces Arrive in Afghanistan
In Operation Rhino--a highly publicized nighttime raid--Army Rangers and Delta Force operatives strike a Taliban compound in Khandahar and an airfield south of the city, and then promptly withdraw.

Meanwhile, two A-teams from the Army's 5th Special Forces Group are helicoptered in to join forces with Northern Alliance. One A-team joins General Rashid Dostum, whose forces are positioned 55 miles outside the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Further south, at Bagram airbase outside Kabul, another team joins General Fahim Kahn.

[Click here for a map.]


+ Taliban Executes Opposition Leader Abdul Haq
Abdul Haq, a Pashtun leader who had fought in the 1980s war against Soviet occupation, is captured and executed by the Taliban after he returns to Afghanistgan from exile in Pakistan. Considered to be one of a handful of Pashtun leaders who could form a unified post-Taliban government, Haq had been leading a small band of Pashtun warriors into the south of Afghanistan, hoping to spark an anti-Taliban rebellion.



+ Rumsfeld Acknowledges Ground Troops
For the first time, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld publicly acknowledges that there are "a very modest number" of ground troops in Afghanistan.





+ Rumsfeld Visits Russia and Central Asia
On a four-day trip to Russia and Central Asia, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visits Moscow to discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He then travels to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, where President Musharraf cautions the U.S. against continuing military action during Ramadan. Rumsfeld wraps up in India, where he praises the country's cooperation in the war and pledges support for India's fight against terrorists in Kashmir.

Early Nov.

+ More Special Forces Arrive
Another A-team from the U.S. Army's 5th Special Forces Group arrives and meets up with Northern Alliance General Mohammed Atta. They plan to join with ODA 595 and General Dostum's forces to wage an assault on the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.



+ U.S. Uses "Daisy Cutter" Bombs
The Pentagon confirms that the U.S. used two "daisy cutter" bombs against Taliban frontlines. These are the largest conventional bombs in the U.S. military arsenal, weighing 15,000 pounds.



+ Fall of Mazar-e-Sharif
In their first major victory, Northern Alliance forces, led by Dostum and Atta with American Special Forces, capture Taliban stronghold Mazar-e-Sharif. Thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda flee east to Kunduz. The fall of Mazar triggers the collapse of Taliban positions throughout the north.

[Click here for a map.]




+ Bush addresses U.N.
Bush tells the U.N. General Assembly, "We must unite in opposing all terrorists... No national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences."

Later that day Bush held his first face-to-face meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.


+ Northern Alliance Takes Kabul and Herat
After weeks of American airstrikes around Bagram airbase, just north of Kabul, have weakened the Taliban's defense of the capital, Northern Alliance commander Fahim Kahn's forces sweep into the city, despite U.S. requests to stop short of the city gates.

Northern Alliance forces led by Ismail Khan also capture the key western city of Herat.

[Click here for a map.]

+ Meeting of "Six-plus-two" at U.N.
On Nov. 12, the foreign ministers of the group of "six-plus-two" -- the six nations surrounding Afghanistan, plus the U.S. and Russia -- meet with Lakhdar Brahimi at the U.N. to discuss Afghanistan's future. Given the situation on the ground in Kabul, the group agrees to accelerate the process of assembling a "multiethnic, politically balanced, freely chosen" government.


+ A-team joins Karzai
Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 574, a Special Forces A-team of eleven soldiers led by Capt. Jason Amerine, arrives in the Oruzgan province to join Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai. They hope to move south to take over Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold. Karzai, his troops, and the A-team move into the regional capital of Tarin Kowt, where the local townspeople had recently overthrown the Taliban.

[Click here for a map.]



+ Bin Laden Lieutenant Believed Killed
U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announces that he has authoritative intelligence reports indicating that Muhammad Atef, a senior deputy of Osama bin Laden, has been killed by U.S. airstrikes near Kabul.

+ Northern Alliance moves into Presidential Palace in Kabul
Afghanistan's former president and Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani makes a triumphal return to Kabul, moving back into the presidential palace. He invites all Afghan groups, excluding the Taliban, to come to Kabul for talks on a new government.

The Bush administration responds by sending diplomat James Dobbins to deliver a message directly to the Northern Alliance: they would not be allowed to keep control of Kabul.

In the following days, Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah agrees to a meeting to discuss a post-Taliban government in a neutral location in Europe rather than Kabul. Negotiators eventually settle on Bonn, Germany as the site for the talks.


+ Battle of Tarin Kowt
The Taliban sends a convoy of 1,000 soldiers north from Kandahar towards Tarin Kowt, where Karzai is based with his few dozen fighters and Special Forces ODA 574. For four hours U.S. warplanes attack the Taliban convoy, with assistance from Special Forces soldiers on the ground. The Taliban eventually retreat back to Kandahar.

[Read accounts of the battle from Special Forces soldiers on the ground.]



+ Pakistan Severs Diplomatic Ties with Taliban
Pakistan, the last country to maintain diplomatic relations with the Taliban, orders the closing of the Taliban's embassy in Islamabad. According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Pakistan had wanted to cut ties with the Taliban much earlier, but maintained them at the request of the U.S., which was concerned over the fate of foreign aid workers, including two U.S. citizens, held by the Taliban.


+ Fall of Kunduz
After a two week siege by Northern Alliance forces and U.S. airstrikes, the Taliban-controlled city of Kunduz falls. It is the last major Taliban stronghold in Northern Afghanistan. Thousands of Taliban are taken prisoner. Those suspected of being Al Qaeda are transferred to American custody, and the remaining are turned over to Dostum and his troops.

[Click here for a map.]

+ Alleged Atrocities
In late August, 2002, Newsweek magazine reported on its investigation of claims that many of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners were killed as they were being transported by the Northern Alliance from Kunduz to the nearby Sheberghan prison. Because U.S. Special Forces were rarely far from Dostum's side, it raises the question of whether they knew or could have prevented these alleged atrocities. The U.S. team with Gen. Dostum denies having any involvement in or knowledge of human rights abuses of prisoners.



+ Hundreds Killed at Prison Uprising
Taliban prisoners revolt at the Qala Jangi prison west of Mazar-e-Sharif. The prisoners gain access to Northern Alliance weapons, and a bloody battle ensues. Johnny "Mike" Spann, a CIA agent sent to question the prisoners, becomes the first American to die in combat in the war in Afghanistan when he is beaten to death. Eventually, U.S. airstrikes are called in to bomb the prison fortress. Hundreds are killed in the three-day uprising, including several Northern Alliance soldiers.



+ Marines Take Airbase
U.S. Marines seize an airstrip southwest of Khandahar which will become the first base in the country for regular U.S. troops.


11/27 - 12/5


+ Bonn Conference
Representatives from four Afghan factions meet under U.N. auspices in Bonn, Germany to establish a broad-based interim government for Afghanistan.

Behind the scenes, the U.S. solicits support from other nations, including Russia and Iran, to promote Hamid Karzai as the new leader of Afghanistan. The U.S. arranges for Karzai to address the conference by telephone from Afghanistan, and he makes an impassioned plea for the factions to set aside their differences for the sake of the country.

The Bonn Conference concludes on Dec. 5, with the election of Hamid Karzai as chairman of the interim administration.

[Read more about the Bonn Conference.]



+ Karzai Moves On Kandahar
Karzai's troops and his Special Forces A-Team begin to advance south towards Kandahar, the Taliban's last holdout. Simultaneously, forces led by commander Gul Agha Sherzai move toward the city from the south.



+ Alliance Leaders Announce Tora Bora Offensive
Commanders Hazrat Ali and Mohammed Zaman announce that the Northern Alliance will begin a ground offensive on the mountainous Tora Bora region, where it is believed Osama bin Laden is hiding, along with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The region has been under fire by heavy U.S. airstrikes for four days.



+ Worst Friendly Fire Incident
As they move south toward Kandahar, Karzai's forces meet strong resistance from the Taliban at the village of Shawali Kowt. U.S. Special Forces call in airstrikes, and a misdirected U.S. bomb explodes near Karzai's position, killing 3 U.S. soldier and at least 23 of Karzai's Afghani fighters. Dozens more, including all the members of A-Team 574 and Karzai himself, were wounded in the worst friendly fire incident of the war. As of September, 2002, an official investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing.

[Read accounts of the incident, and military commanders' responses.]

+ Karzai Elected Interim Leader
Shortly after the friendly fire incident, Hamid Karzai receives a phone call notifying him he had just been elected at the Bonn Conference to lead Afghanistan's new interim administration.


+ Omar Escapes Before Surrender of Kandahar
Marking the final collapse of the Taliban regime, Hamid Karzai, led by U.S. Special Forces, enters Kandahar, the last remaining Taliban stronghold in the country. Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, including Mullah Omar, have fled.

[Read accounts of the push towards Kandahar, and the final surrender, from Special Forces troops who were there.]



+ No Sign of Bin Laden at the End of Tora Bora Offensive
After two weeks of heavy U.S. bombing and ground fighting between Northern Alliance and Taliban forces in Tora Bora, Afghan commanders proclaim victory, as the last Al Qaeda troops retreat from their fortified mountain caves towards Pakistan.

Bin Laden himself remains unaccounted for. Hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives have been killed in the offensive; around 60 are captured and transferred to a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Many, including possibly bin Laden, have slipped across the border into Pakistan.

The bombing at Tora Bora also results in numerous civilian casualties. The U.S. and Afghan governments have made no official casualty estimates; news organizations say they have documented more than 400. Some groups suggest the actual number may be much higher.

[ Read first hand accounts of the Tora Bora offensive and military commanders' assessments of the operation.]




+ Arrival of Peacekeeping Force
As determined at the Bonn Conference, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) begins to arrive in Kabul. The force is spearheaded by British Royal Marines.



+ Hamid Karzai Sworn In
In a three-hour ceremony, Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of the Afghan interim government. "Today we are happy that we can see the sun rising again on our land," Karzai said in a speech. "I think a wave of peace and unity is coming to our country."

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