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The American war in Afghanistan that lasted from 2001-2014 has earned a spot in history as the longest, bloodiest war the United States has fought.

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After the deadly September 11 attacks that took the US – and the rest of the word – by utter surprise, the USA, with the support of NATO, went on the offense in Afghanistan. The aim was clear: take down al-Qaeda, the insurgent group responsible for the attacks and for numerous other terrorist acts globally, by removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Allies such as the UK supported the US in the drawn-out war in its first phase.

In 2001, then-president George Bush demanded that the Taliban turn leader Osama bin Laden over and eject al-Qaeda from the country. The ruling Taliban did not cooperate, provoking Operation Enduring Freedom, which the USA launched in October 2001 in partnership with the UK. Other countries joined in later.

The UN Security Council put the International Security Assistance Force in place to secure Kabul. In 2004, Karzai was elected president of Afghanistan. However, the Taliban refused to concede and continued leading ambushes, raids and suicide missions against the government, the ISAF and the foreign troops stationed in the country.

In a particular example, members of the 82nd Airborne Paratroopers drowned in the muddy waters of the Bala Murghab River while trying to retrieve supplies from an airdrop that had undergone considerable trouble. In turn,  soldiers, assisted by the US Marine Special Operations Team 8222, went on a massive clearing operation. The goal was to break the Taliban’s hold on the Bala Murghab valley and its community. The mission took more than seven months of heavy fighting.

When US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, NATO and the US began withdrawing its forces. As of 2015, the body count has reached tens of thousands, including 4,000 ISAF soldiers and private contractors, 15,000 local Afghan military members, and 20,000 civilians.

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