War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism President McCain Main
Top row, left to right: The World Trade Center hit during the 9/11 attacks; al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before his death in 2001; Taliban insurgents.
Second row: U.S. Soldiers boarding a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda; British soldiers in action in Helmand province; U.S. soldiers during Operation Achilles.
Third row: U.S. soldiers during Operation Phoenix; a car bomb in Baghdad, Iraq detonates in September 2003; U.S. soldiers on a patrol in Baghdad in 2005.
Bottom row: U.S. special forces in Uzbekistan during Operation Operation Phantom Fury; French Legionnaires and U.S. soldiers participate in an exercise in Djibouti; U.S. Special Forces conducts Security Assistance Training for members of the Philippine Army.
DateSeptember 29, 2001 - present
LocationMiddle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Europe, more...

Conflict ongoing

  • Fall of the Taliban government
  • Destruction of al-Qaeda
  • Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri killed
  • Humanitarian reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Legislative elections held in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Taliban insurgency
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • Piracy actions in Somalia
  • OEF Philippines
  • Counter-terrorist operations worldwide

Main participants:

International missions:

  • Logo of ISAF NATO-ISAF
  • Multi-National Force - Iraq Insignia Multi-National Force - Iraq
  • Operation Enduring Liberty Allies

Other major supporters:

Main targets:
  • Flag of al-Qaeda al-Qaeda
  • Flag of Taliban Taliban

Other targets:

  • Flag of Al-Shabaab Al-Shabaab
  • Flag of Jihad Ansar al-Islam
  • Flag of the ICU Islamic Courts Union
  • Flag of Jihad Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
  • Flag of Jihad Mujahideen
  • Flag of Jihad Fatah al-Islam
  • Flag of Jihad Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin
  • Flag of Jihad Lashkar-e-Toiba
  • Flag of Jaishi-e-Mohammed Jaish-e-Mohammed
  • Flag of Jihad Hizbul Mujahideen
  • Islamic Army of Iraq Logo Islamic Army of Iraq
  • Flag of Jihad Jemaah Islamiyah
  • Flag of Jihad Abu Sayyaf
  • Flag of Moro National Liberation Front Moro Islamic Liberation Front
  • Flag of Jihad Moro National Liberation Front
  • Flag of Jihad Muslim Brotherhood
  • Flag of Hezbollah Hizballah
  • Flag of Hamas Hamas
  • Kokbayraq flag East Turkestan Islamic Movement
  • Flag of the PKK Kurdistan Worker's Party
  • Various other groups
Political leadership:
US flag 51 stars John McCain
(U.S. President 2001 – 2009)
US flag 51 stars George W. Bush
(U.S. President 2009 – present)
Flag of the United Kingdom Tony Blair
(UK Prime Minister 1997 – present)
Flag of NATO George Robertson
(NATO Secretary General 1999 – 2004)
Flag of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
(NATO Secretary General 2004 – present)

Military commanders:
US flag 51 stars Gen. Tommy Franks
(CENTCOM commander 2000 – 2003)
US flag 51 stars Gen. John Abizaid
(CENTCOM commander 2003 – 2006)
US flag 51 stars David Petraeus
(CENTCOM commander 2006 – present)
Flag of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Michael Boyce
(Chief of the Defence Staff 2001 – 2003)
Flag of the United Kingdom Gen. Sir Michael Walker
(Chief of the Defence Staff 2003 – 2006)
Flag of the United Kingdom ACM Sir Jock Stirrup
(Chief of the Defence Staff 2006 – present)
Flag of al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden
Flag of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri
Flag of Taliban Mohammed Omar
Flag of Taliban Obaidullah Akhund White flag
Flag of Taliban Mullah Dadullah
Flag of Taliban Mullah Bakht Mohammed White flag
Flag of Taliban Jalaluddin Haqqani
Flag of Jihad Tohir Yo‘ldosh
Flag of Jihad Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Flag of Jihad Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Flag of Jihad Sirajuddin Haqqani
Flag of Jihad Baitullah Mehsud
Flag of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah
Logo of Hamas Khaled Mashaal
Logo of Hamas Ismail Haniyah

Military casualties:
~24,450 dead
~47,600+ injured
Killed in action:
~64,114 to 68,864+ dead

Civilian casualties
Exact number unclear.

The War on Terrorism, or War on Terror, is the common term for the military, political, legal and ideological conflict against terrorism, and specifically used in reference to operations by the United States and their allies in NATO and the League of Democracies, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The stated objectives of the war are to secure the American homeland, break up terror cells within the country, and disrupt the activities of the international network of terrorist organizations made up of a number of terrorist groups under the umbrella of al-Qaeda.


Terrorist organizations -- chiefly al-Qaeda -- carried out attacks on the U.S. and its allies throughout the last few years of the twentieth century. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing by Al-Qaeda was the first of many terrorist attacks upon Americans during this period. Subsequent attacks included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Also in 1998 came the World Islamic Front declaration of 23 February 1998, entitled "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders", which described the actions of Americans as conflicting with "Allah's order", and stated the Front's "ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." Led by Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda formed a large base of operations in Afghanistan, which had been ruled by the Islamic extremist regime of the Taliban since 1996.

Following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in Sudan and Afghanistan against targets associated with al-Qaeda. The strikes failed to kill al-Qaeda'a leaders or their Taliban supporters (targets included a civilian pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that produced 90% of the region's malaria drugs). Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. In October of 2000 the USS Cole bombing occurred, followed by the September 11 attacks. The attacks of 9/11 (on the World Trade Center) created an immediate demand throughout the United States for a decisive response, leading to an invasion of Afghanistan dubbed Operation Enduring Liberty which removed the Taliban from power and ended al-Qaeda's use of the country as a terrorist base.

In 2001 the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1373 which obliges all States to criminalize assistance for terrorist activities, deny financial support and safe haven to terrorists and share information about groups planning terrorist attacks. In 2005 the Security Council also adopted resolution 1624 concerning incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the obligations of countries to comply with international human rights laws. Although both resolutions require mandatory annual reports on counter terrorism activities by adopting nations the United States and Israel have both declined to submit reports.

Historical usage of phrase

The phrase "War on Terrorism" was first widely used by the Western press to refer to the attempts by Russian and European governments, and eventually the U.S. government, to stop attacks by anarchists against international political leaders. (See, for example, New York Times, April 2, 1881.) Many of the anarchists described themselves as "terrorists," and the term had a positive valence for them at the time. When Russian Marxist Vera Zasulich shot and wounded a Russian police commander who was known to torture suspects on 24 January 1878, for example, she threw down her weapon without killing him, announcing, "I am a terrorist, not a killer."

The next time the phrase gained currency was when it was used to describe the efforts by the British colonial government to end a spate of Jewish attacks in the British Mandate of Palestine in the late 1940s. The British proclaimed a "War on Terrorism" and attempted to crack down on Irgun, Lehi and anyone perceived to be co-operating with them. The Jewish attacks, Arab attacks and revolts, and the subsequent British crackdown hastened the British evacuation from Palestine. The phrase was also used frequently by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

On September 17th, 2001, during an address to a joint session of congress and the American people, President John McCain formally declared war on terror when he said, "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

Stated U.S. objectives

The McCain Administration has defined the following objectives in the War on Terrorism:

  1. Defeat terrorists and destroy their organizations.
  2. Identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their organizations.
  3. Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists.
    1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism.
    2. Establish and maintain an international standard of accountability with regard to combating terrorism.
    3. Strengthen and sustain the international effort to fight terrorism.
    4. Working with willing and able states.
    5. Enabling weak states.
    6. Persuading reluctant states.
    7. Compelling unwilling states.
    8. Interdict and disrupt material support for terrorists.
    9. Eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and havens.
  4. Diminishing the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit.
    1. Partner with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism.
    2. Win the war of ideals.
  5. Defend U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad.
    1. Implement the Nation Strategy for Homeland Security.
    2. Attain domain awareness.
    3. Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability and availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad.
    4. Integrate measures to protect U.S. citizens abroad.
    5. Ensure an integrated incident management capability.

Campaigns and theaters of operation

Central Asia/South Asia


Main article: War in Afghanistan (2001-present)

In October 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States, U.S., UK and other NATO forces (with some coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan to remove al-Qaeda forces and oust the Taliban regime which had control of the country. On September 20, 2001 John McCain delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban regime to turn over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leaders operating in the country. The Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden's link to the September 11 attacks and, if such evidence warranted a trial, they offered to handle such a trial in an Islamic Court.

On September 29, 2001, Operation Enduring Liberty was initiated when U.S. bombers and naval vessels began bombing major lines of communication, infrastructure and military bases as well as Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, while U.S special forces units begin slipping into Afghanistan, with the objective of convincing and bribing local chieftains to resist the Taliban regime.

After several days of bombing of major lines of communication, infrastructure and military bases, U.S. and UK special forces supported by the Afghan Northern Alliance captures Mazār-e Sharīf on October 6, thus opening supply routes and providing an important airstrip for U.S. planes and helicopters. On October 8 first U.S. forces enters the southern half of Afghanistan, and on October 10, 100,000 U.S soldiers had been airlifted into Afghanistan, most of them from the captured airport in Mazār-e Sharīf. The main goals of the invasion was to defeat the Taliban, drive al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and capture key Al-Qaeda leaders.

On October 10, the U.S. forces, supported by the Afghan Northern Alliance, launched the ground offensive, and reinforced by the 66th Armor Regiment and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the advance went smoothly. The bombing campaign and ground offensive led to the capture of the Afghan capital of Kabul by U.S. forces and the Northern Alliance on October 22. In December 2001, the Pentagon reported that the Taliban had been defeated but cautioned that the war would go on to continue weakening Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders. Later that month the UN had installed the Afghan Interim Authority chaired by Hamid Karzai.

Initial efforts to kill or capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden succeeded as he was killed on November 26, 2001 in the mountainous region of Tora Bora. However, al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as the leader of the Taliban, Mohammed Omar, remained at large.

Despite the initial success in driving the Taliban from power in Kabul, by early 2003 the Taliban was regrouping, amassing new funds and recruits. In 2006 the Taliban insurgency appeared larger, fiercer, and better organized than expected. However, in 2006 McCain sent 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan while the NATO-mandated ISAF force was deployed in southern Afghanistan. Because of this, along with the appointment of General David Petraeus as the head of Central Command (CENTCOM), large-scale allied offensives such as Operation Mountain Thrust began attaining major successes against both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. On October 28 Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in the mountainous regions around Tora Bora during Operation Phoenix.

Following the elimination of the al-Qaeda leadership and the destruction of al-Qaeda in late 2007 and early 2008, Operation Enduring Liberty was concluded on January 30, 2008. Since then, all units formerly operating in OEL is now an integrated part of ISAF, and the troops were integrated into ISAF, which began focusing on humanitarian efforts to rebuild the country. By January 12, 2009, ISAF has around 102,75 troops from 50 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force. The United States has approximately 70,250 troops in ISAF.

While al-Qaeda has been defeated, threats to Afghanistan's stability still exist due to increased Taliban-led insurgent activity. As the war against the Taliban continues, the Afghan National Army slowly but steady begins taking over the security control of the 34 Afghan provinces. On September 15, free, democratic elections were held in Afghanistan for the second time, strengthening the democratic system in the country. Afghanistan has become a liberal Islamic presidential democracy with close ties to the United States, Europe and other Middle Eastern countries.


Feature article: Operation Phantom Fury
President McCain Operation Phantom Fury

U.S. Army Rangers near the town of Kara-Shuluk, Uzbekistan on May 17, 2007.

On November 10, 2006 U.S. Intelligence sources indicated that the terrorist organisation Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) had regrouped in southern Uzbekistan following their near destruction in 2001 under Tohir Yo‘ldosh. This was confirmed in another report on December 4, 2006 which indicated that the organisation had been in contact with al-Qaeda operatives. Noticing the increased contact between the two organisations, the CIA began a substantial surveillance effort to track them and detect what the reasons of the contacts were. On February 7, 2007 intelligence sources reported that the IMU might have acquired a former Soviet nuclear device, possibly from the black market. When reports on February 10 and 15 confirmed their suspicions, U.S. President John McCain was informed of the threat of the IMU.

President McCain decided to act quick and swiftly by authorizing a Special Operations mission the same day to secure the warhead and destroy the terrorist organisation. As the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta was dispatched to Northern Afghanistan, the McCain administration negotiated with the Uzbek government (whose relations had been strained since the in 2005), and after an agreement was reached on April 16, Operation Phantom Fury was launched on May 12, 2007.

The operation was successful after the combined force of U.S. Army Rangers, U.S. Special Forces and Delta Force secured the ex-Soviet nuclear warhead during an intense firefight outside the Uzbek town of Kara-Shuluk with terrorists of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). While suffering some casualties, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as an organisation was destroyed, and its leader, Tohir Yo‘ldosh, killed.

The operation was praised by both close U.S. allies around the world and Russia, and the action is seen as a major success in the War on Terror.


In August of 2008 the US and the UK invaded Pakistan to stop fleeing terrorist from entering the Far East.


See also