Afghanistan: US, NATO Wage World's Largest, Longest War
The US-NATO war in Afghanistan is the largest and longest war in the world.
On October 7 it will enter its ninth calendar year and with the projected deployment of at least 30,000 more American and thousands of more fellow NATO nations' troops this year it promises to go on indefinitely.
It is the second longest war, both on the air and ground fronts, in the United States' history, with only its protracted involvement in Indochina so far exceeding it in length.
The Afghan war is also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first armed conflict outside of Europe and its first ground war in the sixty years of its existence. It has been waged with the participation of armed units from all 26 NATO member states and twelve other European and Caucasus nations linked to NATO through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Partnership for Peace and the Adriatic Charter with the first-ever invocation of the Alliance's Article 5 mutual military assistance provision.
The twelve European NATO partners who have sent troops in varying numbers to assist Washington and the Alliance include the continent's five former neutral nations: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The European NATO and partnership deployments count among their number troops from six former Soviet Republics - with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine tapped for recent reinforcements and the three Baltic states represented disproportionately to their populations - although Western officials and media refrain from using words like invasion, empire and occupation that were tossed around so profligately in the 1980s.
The conflict marks the first time since the Vietnam War that US, Australian, New Zealand and South Korean troops have fought in the same campaign in the same theater. (Although all four also had troops in Iraq after March of 2003, only American forces were engaged in combat. In Afghanistan, however, over 1,000 Australian troops, including special forces, participate in counterinsurgency operations and ten of their soldiers have been killed.)
In all, 42 nations have military contingents ranging from a handful to thousands of troops serving under NATO in a war nearly as far removed from the North Atlantic as could have been imagined and embroiled in an endless engagement because of a 1949 commitment by the major Western powers to render each other military aid in the event of a conflict in Western Europe or North America.
Over a thousand US, NATO and NATO partner nations' soldiers have been killed in the war, including servicemen from all three Baltic States, Australia and South Korea.
From the beginning of the invasion of and war in Afghanistan in early October of 2001 under the aegis of so-called Operation Enduring Freedom, which commenced with US and British air and missile attacks, the model used seventeen months later in Iraq, the conflict has not been limited to Afghanistan itself but rather has exploited the nation's alleged and highly tenuous connections to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington to situate US and other NATO military forces in several neighboring and nearby nations, including airbases and troop and naval deployments in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the Indian Ocean (where the Japanese navy has been assisting Operation Enduring Freedom).
The Russian press wire agency Itar-Tass reported last December that 120,000 US and NATO soldiers passed through the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan in 2008.
2009 has brought the Pentagon and NATO the bad news that the government of Kyrgyzstan may close the base to warplanes used for the war in Afghanistan, a base that since 2001 has hosted military personnel from the United States, Australia, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France and South Korea.
The Pentagon officially defines Operation Enduring Freedom's area of responsibility as encompassing fifteen nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
After the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001, the US and its NATO allies obtained from the United Nations of ever-obliging Secretary-General Kofi Annan (who in 1995 held the posts of Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to the former Yugoslavia and special envoy to NATO and was installed as Secretary-General after the US deposed his predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali and browbeat the other 14 Security Council members in 1997 to accept him) a resolution authorizing the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), initially to oversee Afghanistan's occupation, but later to wage a full-blown counterinsurgency campaign inside the country and across the border into Pakistan.
There was and is nothing international about ISAF. It is a NATO operation entirely.