In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001, the U.S. vowed to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice.
That hunt immediately led to Afghanistan, the home of the Taliban government harboring the Al Qaeda terror group that carried out the attacks.
Less than a month after 9/11, U.S. Special Forces and CIA operatives were on the ground to link up with Northern Alliance fighters. Dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom, the Afghan campaign would initially be hailed as a rousing success, with the Taliban driven out of power just two months after American boots were on the ground.
But that success morphed into a hard slog for NATO troops, who endured heavy combat, roadside bombs, and an insurgency that enjoyed relative safety in Pakistani tribal lands. Now more than a decade after the war began, the U.S. cannot claim “victory,” but the combat mission will come to an end later this year.
Northern Alliance fighters ride on a T-62 tank past a dead body on the motorway 3 km north of Kabul, as Northern Alliance fighters approached the Afghan capital, November 13, 2001. Forces of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance entered Kabul on Tuesday after Taliban forces fled the capital, and were greeted by civilians.
An Afghan refugee girl in the Kili Faizu UNHCR Camp in Chaman, Pakistan reacts after spotting a jet flying overhead, November 10, 2001. Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance said they swept into four more provinces in the north on Saturday, a day after the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif, despite fierce Taliban resistance in some places.
Paratroopers from Chosen Company of the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry board a waiting CH-47 Chinook helicopter as they begin a helicopter assault mission at Combat Outpost Herrera in Afghanistan's Paktiya Province July 15, 2012. Picture taken July 15.
An Afghan man is detained by U.S. Marines from the First Battalion, Eighth Marines Bravo Company at their base in Talibjan after a battle against Taliban insurgents in Musa Qala district in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province November 7, 2010.
A young Afghan woman shows her face in public for the first time after 5 years of Taliban Sharia law as she waits at a food distribution centre in central Kabul November 14, 2001. Under its strict interpretation of Islam, the Taliban ordered all women hidden behind head-to-toe burqas.
Pakistani soldier Hamed holds a rocket launcher while securing a road in Khar, the main town in Bajaur Agency, located in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border, March 2, 2010.
Graffiti left behind by Taliban fighters remains on the walls of a compound now used as a command center for the U.S Marine Corps's First Battalion, Eighth Marines at Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, November 10, 2010.Musa Qala is an important battleground in the war against Taliban insurgents and the narcotics industry. The town has changed hands several times, most recently in December 2007 when Afghan and international forces retook the town from the Taliban.
Private First Class Brandon Voris, 19, of Lebanon, Ohio, from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company stands in the middle of his camp as a sandstorm hits his remote outpost near Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, October 28, 2010.
1st Sgt Buddy Hartlaub with the US Army's 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division stands before a memorial to Spc 1st Class Brandon King at Combat Outpost Terra Nova in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar, July 20, 2010. King was shot and killed by a suspected Taliban militant while on guard duty at Combat Outpost Nolen on July 14.
U.S. flight medic, SGT Billy Raines from CCO., 1-214 AVN Medevac task force Destiny, treats a wounded Afghan Army soldier during a Medevac flight in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province November 3, 2010.
Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan May 18, 2008. The Marine was not injured.
Afghans walk down a hill in Kabul April 23, 2007.
A Canadian soldier from the NATO-led coalition force turns his back away from a dust cloud kicked up by a Blackhawk helicopter taking off from the forward operating base of Ma'sum Ghar, Afghanistan, July 1, 2007.
An Afghan looks at his inked finger before casting his ballot during parliamentary elections in the outskirts of Kandahar. Haji Kher Muhammed, an Afghan Kuchi nomad, looks at his inked finger before casting his ballot during parliamentary elections in the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan September 18, 2005. Afghans voted in national assembly and provincial elections on Sunday for the first time in decades, an event President Hamid Karzai hailed as a defining moment in the nation's struggle to rebuild after years of conflict.
U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Chris Sanderson, 24, from Flemington, New Jersey shouts as he tries to protect an Afghan man and his child after Taliban fighters opened fire in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, February 13, 2010. U.S.-led NATO troops launched a crucial offensive on Saturday against the Taliban's last big stronghold in Afghanistan's most violent province and were quickly thrown into a firefight with the militants.
A soldier with an injured ankle from the US Army's 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division is assisted past his burning M-ATV armoured vehicle after it struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on a road near Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley in this picture taken July 23, 2010. None of the four soldiers in the vehicle were seriously injured in the explosion. Picture taken July 23, 2010.
U.S. soldier Nicholas Dickhut from 5-20 infantry Regiment attached to 82nd Airborne points his rifle at a doorway after coming under fire by the Taliban while on patrol in Zharay district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan April 26, 2012.
An Afghan Army soldier fires a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) at suspected Taliban militants as US Army soldiers crouch down at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar July 27, 2010.
Michael Kelvington (R), a U.S. Army Captain, commander of the Battle company, 1-508 Parachute Infantry battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and Haji Lala, on of the local elders, sit on a carpet as they share dinner in the town of Senjaray, Zahri district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan June 1, 2012.
Afghan opposition Northern Alliance troops wait for their President Burhanuddin Rabbani at a training camp in the outskirts of Jabal us Seraj, some 60km north of the Afghan capital Kabul, November 5, 2001. Thousands of Afghan opposition troops paraded before their leaders on Monday in a symbolic sign that their army was ready to take on the Taliban and push to the gates of Kabul.
U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.
An armoured vehicle from the Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team is framed by a bolt of lightning during a storm at Combat Outpost Terminator in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province April 19, 2010.
An Afghan girl screams as she is held her father as a sharp aftershock hits the already devasted village of Nahrin March 27, 2002. This village in the Hindu Kush mountainous area of Afghanistan north of Kabul was the center of a major earthquake yesterday which killed at least 2,000 and left some 30,000 people homeless
A woman walks past riot police outside a gathering in Kabul's stadium February 23, 2007. Some thirty thousand Afghans staged a gathering in Kabul on Friday to urge President Hamid Karzai to approve a bill that calls for blank amnesty for the country's 25 years of war criminals.
Afghan boys play on a destroyed car at a hilltop in Kabul October 18, 2012.
Cpl Ryan Belgrave with the Canadian Army's 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, walks through a field of marijuana plants during a patrol near the village of Salavat, in the Panjway district west of Kandahar August 4, 2010.
An Afghan boy swings on a cable high above the city of Kabul September 25, 2002. After more than 23 years of occupation and civil war, Afghan children face severe poverty and poor health due to malnutrition and diseases.
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