Talk:Afghanistan War (2001-)

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 Definition Beginning on October 7, 2001, in response to the 9-11 attacks, military operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda by United States and NATO forces [d] [e]
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Thoughts on structure

I'd like to find a way to structure this so that the Phase I-III combat operations can be made an approvable article, while continuing to deal with the continuing security situation. Thoughts? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:00, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

Is this right?

"the al-Qaeda senior leadership, who took responsibility for the attacks"

I don't remember any report to that effect at the time. Not until long after did we get a video of bin Laden claiming responsibility. On the contrary, the reason the Taliban were reported as giving for refusing to hand him over was that they'd been presented with no proof. Peter Jackson 09:48, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

I can't give you references from memory, although check the al-Qaeda article. They do exist. To some extent, the Taliban argument was based on pashtunwali. Alternatively, the Taliban did not effectively participate in diplomatic processes, were recognized by only three nations (one revoked after 9/11). There was much more evidence than videos, and, to start with, the 1998 declaration of war by A-Q. The dance with the Taliban was a kabuki performance for public relations.
In any event, the 9/11 attack planning was done principally in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, admittedly in small cells. The leadership and training moved to Afghanistan for security, just as the Services Office had begun in Pakistan.
Let me add that the matter was not primarily being decided based on public announcements. There was hard intelligence data that some A-Q components were in Afghanistan. While the U.S. might have preferred a diplomatic solution, there was no question that military action was actively being prepared; it might have been avoided had the Taliban handed over A-Q but no one really expected that. Due to U.S. errors at the Battle of Tora Bora, most of the top A-Q leadership escaped to Pakistan toward the end of the main combat phase. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:13, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Well, I have to say I find this puzzling. Of course there's often a disconnect between "public announcements" and reality in politics. In extreme cases, dictatorships, like some Wikipedia editors, can make statements everyone can see are untrue. (A certain Iraqi Minister of Disinformation comes to mind.) But one can expect politicians, particularly in democracies, to act with a modicum of common sense and enlightened self-interest. If you want to persuade your population to support a war and the enemy has admitted this sort of thing, wouldn't you make a lot of it?
As I said, I don't remember anything of the sort. Instead I remember hearing that the FBI had been ordered to shelve all other cases and assign every single agent to this investigation, and that their report had been presented to NATO and unanimously accepted.
According to the detailed account in Wikipedia, bin Laden denied involvement, and a videotape of his admission was only found by US forces in Afghanistan. Of course WP isn't a reliable source (it says so itself so it must be true), but it agrees with my memory of news reports at the time. Peter Jackson 09:23, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
I personally believe there were factions in the U.S. government that was less concerned with A-Q specifically and using it more as a casus belli for broader neoconservative actions. Indeed, there were arguments to hit Iraq first, even though there was very little evidence linking 9/11 and Iraq. "Neoconservative" is really inadequate to include some of the pure political posturing. While you find American politicians saying "they hate us for our freedom", there's an interview with bin Laden, who will never be mistaken for a stand-up comedian, observing "if I hate freedom so much, why don't I attack Sweden?"
The A-Q context is broader than Afghanistan. Their leadership declared war on the U.S. in 1998,[1] although they (or prior organizations) were increasingly associated with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombings in Africa, the USS Cole attack, etc. To look at the 9/11 planning specifically and even broader airliners as weapons, see Khalid Sheikh Mohammed#Airliner attacks.
Please be sure to read the al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden articles to set the larger context. This can't be discussed in pure terms of Afghanistan, any more than Afghan politics can be understood without understanding the complications of pashtunwali and the Durand Line, Pak-Indian relations and the role of Inter-Services Intelligence, and the history of the modern Taliban. Howard C. Berkowitz 10:03, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Certainly the article should give proper context. That doesn't mean it shouldn't give an accurate account and avoid misleading the reader.
Wikipedia claims the US government, on the 10th of September, 2001, was already planning a war against the Taliban. That wouldn't be at all surprising. It's normal practice to decide a war is necessary first and then try to think of moral and/or legal excuses. Just think about 1939. Why did we (UK) declare war on Germany? The official excuse was the invasion of Poland. But Stalin invaded Poland a fortnight later and we didn't declare war on him, and he was left in possession after the war. Nor does it make sense to view it as a moral crusade. That's hindsight. The holocaust didn't start till 1941, and was kept so secret that even rumours didn't leak out till 1943. But Stalin had been well known as a mass murderer ever since a young journalist named Malcolm Muggeridge revealed that the Great Ukrainian Famine was being deliberately caused by the government. (Well known to those who wanted to know, that is. There were plenty who didn't, of course, who wanted to be duped.) This sort of thing should be covered too. Peter Jackson 09:49, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Here's another interesting point. The CZ article says "The operation was also authorized by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373.[1]" The WP article says, on the contrary, "The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) did not authorize the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)." Seems to be an outright contradiction. The text of the resolution, [2], seems to make no mention of Afghanistan. Looks to me like both articles are biased, in opposite directions. Peter Jackson 09:40, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
This article, the CZ one, says that the operation was authorized by the resolution. The actual text of the resolution pertaining to this is 8. Expresses its determination to take all necessary steps in order to ensure the full implementation of this resolution, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter. There seems to be some grey area here - while the resolution expresses a determination to take all necessary steps it does not specify those steps, except that they are in accordance with it's responsibilities. It might be more appropriate to say that those involved took Resolution 1373 to be justification for the war, or something like that, which avoids saying whether it was right or wrong. I believe there was much discussion internationally about how far this resolution could be interpreted at the time, maybe the article should touch on that? David Finn 11:13, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Peter, I am hesitant to get into a "WP says" vs. "CZ says" discussion, unless WP had a real names policy. That being said, "on the 10th of September, 2001, was already planning a war against the Taliban." is a rather ambiguous statement, because the definition of "war" has become very soft, especially involving quasi-state or non-state actors. There have been very, very few declarations of war since WWII. There have been many military and covert actions.
Note that there is an Iraq War, justification (yes, the dreaded comma) subarticle to Iraq War. Would you like to start an equivalent article for Afghanistan?
I am very open to better organization for both Afghanistan and Iraq -- long wars do not really lend themselves to single articles.
"Planning" does not imply intentionality -- any competent military staff has contingency plans, and the distinction also needs to be made between operations to control the territory of Afghanistan operations to destroy the Taliban, and, for that matter, against al-Qaeda. Unquestionably, however, there was US involvement, beyond the planning phase, with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, although covert and not involving US troops. It's not in this article but in others. Better linking, perhaps? Especially in this part of the world, relationships among articles are going to be very complex and I don't know how to explain it in a single article.
David, I'm very open to better text in this area. First, and deserving of its own complex article, not just UN resolutions, but the UN Charter, are rather ambiguous about prohibition of war, although the Charter is fairly clear that only the United Nations Security Council can authorize operations under UN authority. Not to argue the point here, but it is illustrative to compare the strength of the text in the UN Charter with that of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Clearly, the Afghanistan operation was not by the UN. I think it is clear that it was not condemned. There is a much stronger linkage between UNSC resolutions and Afghanistan than there is between Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
Further, if one wants international justification, not a particular priority for neoconservatives and Jacksonian American nationalism, is there much question that NATO agreed to Afghanistan operations as an invocation of the self-defense clause of the NATO treaty? Neither the UN nor NATO is, in customary international law, formally superior to nation-states, although both can try to be, and indeed are believed to be by many.
There actually was much more US intentionality, arguably from 1998 onwards (i.e., Clinton Administration, to attack Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Indeed, some neoconservatives, such as Douglas Feith, in the George W. Bush Administration argued that Iraq should be attacked before Afghanistan. See Douglas Feith#War planning. --Howard C. Berkowitz 18:45, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Of course it wasn't condemned. The UN is effectively incapable of condemning any action of any of the five permanent members. In theory, the Charter provides that such a member involved in a dispute should not vote, but when this was raised against the USSR their response was that it wasn't a dispute, it was a "situation of like nature". Then you come up against the problem that the provisional rules of procedure that the Security Council was still operating under last I heard are in a mess. If the chair gives a ruling and it is challenged, the rules in different official languages differ on whether the ruling or the challenge should be put to a vote. The weighted voting rules mean this is an important difference. So nobody's ever pushed it. Peter Jackson 09:24, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

(undent) Peter, this is turning into a discussion of the UN, which is outside the scope of this article. I'll strengthen my suggestion: write an article, analogous to Iraq War, justification, for Afghanistan. Do include such background issues as the Durand Line and the Soviet invasion.

NATO, however, did accept the decision, and NATO is an international organization with at least some credibility, although it's looking for a new scope. Nevertheless, under customary international law, the UN is not a true world government.

Where are you going with this in terms of content changes or additions? Howard C. Berkowitz 15:29, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

In terms of actual suggestions:
  1. Replace the statement about AQ taking responsibility with one saying the FBI report was accepted by NATO as proving their responsibility.
  2. Replace the statement about the UN by one saying NATO claimed to be acting in self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter. (Again, I don't remember anyone at the time claiming UN authorization.)
Peter Jackson 09:44, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
It's reasonable to add language that the US and NATO operated under the NATO charter, not with language "claiming" to be. Further, it can be clarified that the US policy interpretation of the resolutions involving all necessary measures to stop terrorism were interpreted, by the US, as no prohibition against military action. It was never the position of the George W. Bush Administration, or indeed most of the US political system, that UN authorization was necessary.
It would be incorrect to say NATO accepted an FBI report, although more so to accept US intelligence reporting. Most of the data that has been mentioned would not have been generated by the FBI, and the documents mentioned in news reporting aren't everything that was provided -- and, further, US reporting on A-Q went back at least to 1998.
Again, the FBI was not the lead agency on the international level; it was more properly intergovernmental with contributions from the entire intelligence community. There were also flat statements from some government officials. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:07, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Do you mean the UN Charter? You might like to have a look at the sources cited by Wikipedia. What WP itself says is worth little, but that doesn't contaminate its sources. The main problem with it is not the sources themselves but the fact that people can often get away with selecting the sources that say what they want and suppressing the rest.
In common-sense terms it's obvious we shouldn't need permission from the Chinese dictatorship to take out military bases of those who've attacked us, but the supposition that law agrees with common sense is not borne out by empirical observations. Peter Jackson 10:02, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
No, I meant the NATO Charter for NATO action, which I have read, as well as the UN charter. I see no reason to go to Wikipedia to find primary sources.
I'm really lost about your points here. I believe I adequately pointed out the US and NATO used as the official background for their actions, not the internal decisionmaking. Third party opinion can be whatever it is, but this is getting rather far afield. As a Military and History Editor, it is not clear to me how you want the article to change, or why. Howard C. Berkowitz 10:10, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
I see on checking that you've now changed it in ways that answer what I said above, except I think you should make clear the time sequence: the invasion started before the video was released (or found). Peter Jackson 13:36, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
That has been done. I don't want to suggest, however, that the video was the casus belli. Do note that there had been covert operations targeting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan going back to the Clinton Administration, and 9/11 was not the first al-Qaeda operation against the U.S. There were several strongly suspected operations; the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa were perhaps best documented. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing has a much more loose association, probably more on the level of individuals than organizations. There were more than one aborted and actual operation in 2000. Al-Qaeda had declared war in 1998.
I'm still not happy with the overall organization of Afghanistan issues; my intention was to make this a top-level article. Major combat is indeed a set of subarticles, but I haven't settled on a good way to describe continuing conflict. The Karzai material, and perhaps the last election, needs updating. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:51, 27 August 2010 (UTC)


What is the grammar of this?

  1. the war that began in 2001
  2. the phase beginning in 2001

There was after all a war already going on there. Does our joining in count as starting a new war? Peter Jackson 14:52, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

What war was going on in 2001? Are you referring to the fighting between the Taliban and Northern Alliance? There certainly was no war with outside powers. The Taliban had little world recognition, with a maximum of three countries ever recognizing it. Essentially, there was anarchy.
Sorry, but I've never heard a military professional refer to the period after the Soviet withdrawal and before 9/11 as a "war". Fighting, dominance, ISI manipulation, yes. But very little in terms of large-scale combat or organized militaries.
Is there a point you are trying to make or just arguing grammar? I really would have to see something very substantive and sourced before changing the title.
There were definite phases after 9/11. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:26, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm not putting forward any particular point of view, though I do think the title is grammatically ambiguous.
Whether what went on before 2001 counts as a war is obviously within your editorial authority. Peter Jackson 16:00, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
May I ask, again, you look at the preceding section, where I am asking for help? Howard C. Berkowitz 16:19, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
My comments above are based almost entirely on ordinary news reports. I have no specialist knowledge of the subject. Peter Jackson 15:08, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Howard that the title is adequate. There was much infighting during the intervening time but after the 1996 Taliban offensive that gained them most of Afghanistan I don't think you could characterize proceedings there as a war, more like an internal conflict, albeit, as Howard pointed out, that there may have been support from outside states for both sides.
The invasion in 2001 was a completely different kind of conflict, and while some may have described it as 'supporting the Northern Alliance' that doesn't make what had gone on up to then a war. David Finn 11:40, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
  1. United Nations Security Council (28 September 2001), Resolution 1373