Here's How The Longest War In America's History Unfolded

AfghanistanLucas Jackson/ReutersA U.S. soldier from Dragon Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fires a Javelin missile system during their first training exercise of the new year near operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan January 1, 2015.

The US combat mission in Afghanistan officially concluded last week, putting an end to the longest war in American history. 

The 13-year war, known as Operation Enduring Freedom, saw the deaths of 2,356 American soldiers, along with thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters — as well as Afghan civilians

Roughly 13,000 troops, including 10,000 Americans, will remain in Afghanistan for two years to train and advise Afghan security forces. 

On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3000 people died.

People run from the collapse of World Trade Center Tower Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 in New York.

Although none of the hijackers were Afghan nationals President George W. Bush declared a 'war on terror' that targeted al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, which received shelter and assistance from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Operation Enduring Freedom launched on Oct. 7, 2001 with a bombing campaign against Taliban forces.

A B-52 drops a load of bombs in Afghanistan.

Source: Air Force Historical Support Division

The US and Britain continued the bombing campaign in the run-up to an invasion of the country. Here, pro-Taliban Afghan refugees run toward members of the international press.

A mob tries to attack members of the international press travelling in a convoy of 25 cars in the village of Yarro, near Quetta, October 10, 2001.

In early November 2001, a small number of Special Forces soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Northern Alliance, a loosely knit anti-Taliban coalition.

Source: Special Forces

The Northern Alliance was formed mostly of guerrilla fighters and members of the military who had been ousted by when the Taliban took power in 1996. Despite receiving aid from both Russia and Iran, the alliance was not very well trained or cohesive.

Afghan opposition Northern Alliance soldiers run and jump as they return from a front line position after battle near the town of Charatoy in the north of Afghanistan October 10, 2001.

Source: Global Policy Forum

The US and Britain continued dropping heavy loads of bombs on Taliban troops north of Kabul.

Two Northern Alliance soldiers watch as the dust and smoke rises after explosions in Taliban positions on Kalakata hill, near the village of Ai-Khanum in northern Afghanistan, November 1, 2001

Weakened by airstrikes, the Taliban eventually lost control of Kabul. Many of the city's residents, however, were left starving and homeless. The World Food Programme started its biggest ever food distribution in Kabul on Dec. 8, 2001.

An Afghan guard hits Kabul residents with a tree branch as he tries to maintain order at a World Food Programme WFP distribution point December 8, 2001.

By December Taliban forces had abandoned their last stronghold in Kandahar. The Tora Bora cave complex southeast of Kabul, where Bin Laden was believed to be hiding, was bombarded by US B-52s for two weeks. The Taliban had fallen but Bin Laden escaped along with Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Afghan Eastern Alliance fighters stand next to a tank at the Tora Bora area in northeastern Afghanistan Friday Dec. 28, 2001.

Source: New York Times

An interim government was formed by late December 2001. Hamid Karzai was sworn in as interim administration head on Dec. 22.

Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai gestures to a crowd as he walks to his car just after his swearing-in ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2001.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

In March 2002 Afghan and American troops launched Operation Anaconda -- their first large-scale ground attack since their raid on the Tora Bora caves in December 2001. Troops moved to root out nearly 800 Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Shah-i-Kot Valley.

A United States military Chinook helicopter circles above a dirt runway outside Gardez late afternoon March 5, 2002.

Operation Anaconda was the fiercest and bloodiest battle in Afghanistan up to that point.

American soldiers walk past a body of an al Qaeda or Taliban fighter who lays near an encampment that was hit by U.S. fire March 16, 2002 on the mountain top known as the 'Whale' in the Shah-i-Kot valley region of eastern Afghanistan

By May 2003, then-Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that major combat operations had ended in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush declared 'mission accomplished' in Iraq that same day.

U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (R) addresses the media with Britain's Secretary of Defence Geoff Hoon (L) at London's Heathrow airport May 2, 2003.

The war in Iraq diverted important resources away from Afghanistan, including US Special Operations forces. The Taliban took note, reasserting themselves in a concerted insurgent campaign that lasted for several years.

Afghan former insurgents attend a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2006.

Despite the insurgency, Afghans voted in the country's first free legislative elections in more than 25 years on Sept. 18, 2005.

Afghan women show their inked fingers after they voted during parliamentary elections at a mosque used as a polling station in the Afghan capital Kabul September 18, 2005.

Despite the elections, the Taliban gained in strength and Karzai proved to be a duplicitous and unreliable ally. Afghanistan was backsliding. In February 2009, shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama said he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to the country in a surge that he hoped would 'stabilise a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.'

Afghans speak with a US soldier from First Batallion, 32nd Infantry Regiment 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division on patrol in Kunar on December 12, 2009.

Source: CNN

On Oct. 3, 2009, 300 Taliban insurgents attacked the American Combat Outpost Keating in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Eight Americans and an estimated 150 insurgents were killed in one of the major battles of the war.

Soldiers with the U.S. Army's 6-4 Cavalry walk down a mountain path during a patrol near Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan January 24, 2009.

Source: Foreign Policy

Six months later, in June 2010, Obama fired his top Afghanistan commander, Stanley A. McChrystal, after his aides were anonymously quoted attacking Obama in a Rolling Stone article. He was replaced by General David Petraeus, who would continue with counterinsurgency tactics that had proven successful during the Iraq surge.

General David H. Petraeus (CR) poses with An Afghan police officer in a police training center outskirts os Kandahar on July 19, 2010.

But there was no quick fix to the war effort's problems. The results of Afghanistan's September 2010 parliamentary elections were disputed after reports emerged of ballot stuffing and voter suppression across the country. Recounts were ordered, and final election results were released on Oct. 31.

Candidates for the parliamentary elections and their supporters attend a protest in Kabul November 7, 2010

The most iconic US success of the war was just around the corner though. On May 2, 2011, US forces conducted a raid on a high-walled compound in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. President Obama hailed Bin Laden's death as 'the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda.'

The now-famous photo of the US national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room monitoring the progress of the operation that killed Bin Laden -- Operation Neptune Spear.

Source: New York Times

But the violence in Afghanistan continued. On Aug. 6, 2011, a US Army helicopter was shot down by insurgents in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak. Seven Afghan army soldiers and 22 Navy SEALs were killed.

An U.S. Army Chinook helicopter much like the one shot down takes off from Observation Post Mace in eastern Afghanistan, August 26, 2011.

Source: ABC

In May 2012, Obama met with Hamid Karzai -- then in his 10th year of rule and widely considered to be a liability by decision-makers in Washington -- in Afghanistan and signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. Obama then addressed the nation from Bagram Air Base, pledging to end the war by the end of 2014.

Troops at Bagram Air Base listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak during his visit to Kabul, May 2, 2012.

Source: The White House

Making good on his 2012 re-election campaign promise, President Obama withdrew roughly 34,000 troops from Afghanistan between 2013 and the end of 2014, officially concluding America's combat mission on Dec. 28, 2014.

U.S. General John Campbell (C), commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), folds the flag of the ISAF during the change of mission ceremony in Kabul, December 28, 2014.

NATO's new Resolute Support mission will keep 13,000 troops -- mostly American -- stationed in Afghanistan for two years to train and advise Afghan security forces. Afghan soldiers are currently dying at a rate of about 100 per week at the hands of the Taliban. Much of the country is more stable than it was during the worst years of the war and Karzai peacefully handed over power after a disputed election. But the country's future is far from clear.

Afghan National police officers demonstrate their training during a visit by U.S. Brigadier General Christopher Bentley to an Afghan National police installation in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan December 16, 2014.

Source: NATO

Now take a look inside the demolition of Afghanistan's largest military base...

Russian guns are displayed in front of debris left over from demolished temporary housing.

Inside Bagram Air Field

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

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