War on terror
Clockwise from top left: Aftermath of the 11 September attacks; U.S. servicemen boarding an aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; an American soldier and Afghan interpreter in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; explosion of a car bomb in Baghdad

Photographs, clockwise from top left: Aftermath of the September 11 attacks; U.S. servicemen boarding an aircraft at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan; a U.S. soldier and Afghan interpreter in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; explosion of an Iraqi car bomb in Baghdad.
Map: Countries with major military operations of the war on terror.
DateMain phase: 14 September 2001[12]30 August 2021[note 2]
(19 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)[note 3]

Major wars ended and heavy fighting mostly ceased

  • Low-level fighting continues in some places
  • Many terrorist groups disbanded or are heavily weakened

Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen (since 1998):[note 4]

War in Afghanistan (2001–2021):

Iraqi conflict (since 2003):

American-led intervention in the Syrian civil war (2014–present)

Insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2004–present):


Main countries:

(note: most contributing nations are included in the international operations)
Main opponents:

Former groups:
Commanders and leaders
Joe Biden
(President 2021–present)

Rishi Sunak
(Prime Minister 2022–present)

Emmanuel Macron
(President 2017–present)
Élisabeth Borne
(Prime Minister 2022–present)
Vladimir Putin
(President 2000–2008, 2012–present,
Prime Minister 2008–2012)

Mikhail Mishustin
(Prime Minister 2020–present)

Former leaders
Other leaders
Other former leaders
Al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden 
(Founder and first Emir of al-Qaeda)
Ayman al-Zawahiri 
(2nd Emir of al-Qaeda)
Saif al-Adel
(al-Qaeda Military Chief)
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 
(Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq)
Ilyas Kashmiri 
(Commander of Lashkar al-Zil)
Qasim al-Raymi 
(Emir of AQAP)
Abdelmalek Droukdel 
(Emir of AQIM)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar
(Emir of AQWA)
Asim Umar 
(Emir of AQIS)
Iraqi Ba'ath Party
Islamic State
Haqqani Network
East Turkestan Islamic Movement
Casualties and losses

4.5-4.6 million+ people killed[a]
(937,000+ direct deaths, 3.6-3.7 million indirect deaths)[b]

At least 38 million people displaced
(Per Costs of War)[c]

The war on terror, officially the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), is a global counterterrorism military campaign initiated by the United States following the September 11 attacks and is also the most recent global conflict spanning multiple wars. The main targets of the campaign were militant Islamist and Salafi jihadist armed organisations such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their international affiliates, which were waging military insurgencies to overthrow governments of various Muslim-majority countries. Other major targets included the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, which was deposed in an invasion in 2003, and various militant factions that fought during the ensuing insurgency.

The "war on terror" uses war as a metaphor to describe a variety of actions which fall outside the traditional definition of war. 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush first used the term "war on terrorism" on 16 September 2001,[27][28] and then "war on terror" a few days later in a formal speech to Congress.[29][30] Bush indicated the enemy of the war on terror as "a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them."[30][31] The initial conflict was aimed at al-Qaeda, with the main theater in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a region that would later be referred to as "AfPak".[32] The term "war on terror" was immediately criticized by individuals including Richard Myers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and eventually more nuanced terms came to be used by the Bush administration to define the campaign.[33] While "war on terror" was never used as a formal designation of U.S. operations,[34] a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal was and is issued by the U.S. Armed Forces.

With the major wars over and only low-level combat operations in some places, end of the war in Afghanistan in August 2021 symbolizes the visible ending of the war, or at least its main phase, for many in the West. The U.S. military ceased awarding the National Defense Service Medal for the Global War on Terrorism on 31 December 2022. As of 2023, various operations in the campaign are ongoing, including an ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in Somalia.[35][36] According to the Costs of War Project, the post-9/11 wars of the campaign have displaced 38 million people, the second largest number of forced displacements of any conflict since 1900,[37] and caused at least 4.5 million deaths (direct and indirect) in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Philippines, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. They also estimate that it has cost over $8 trillion for the US Treasury.[38][39][40][41]

Controversy over the war has focused on its morality, casualties and continuity; with critics questioning government measures to infringe civil liberties and human rights.[42] Controversial practices of Coalition military forces have been condemned; including drone warfare, surveillance, torture, extraordinary rendition and various war-crimes.[43][44][45] The participating governments have been criticized for implementing authoritarian measures, repressing minorities,[46][47] for fomenting Islamophobia globally,[48] and for causing negative impacts to health and environment.[49][50][51] Security analysts assert that there is no military solution to the conflict, pointing out that terrorism is not an identifiable enemy, and have emphasized the importance of negotiations and political solutions to resolve the underlying roots of the crises.[52]


The phrase war on terror was used to specifically refer to the military campaign led by the United States, United Kingdom, and allied countries against organizations and regimes identified by them as a terrorist, and usually excludes other independent counter-terrorist operations and campaigns such as those by Russia and India. The conflict has also been referred to by names other than the War on Terror. It has also been known as:

Use of phrase and its development

The phrase "war against terrorism" existed in North American popular culture and U.S. political parlance prior to the War on Terror.[62][63] But it was not until the 11 September attacks that it emerged as a globally recognizable phrase and part of everyday lexicon. Tom Brokaw, having just witnessed the collapse of one of the towers of the World Trade Center, declared "Terrorists have declared war on [America]."[64] On 16 September 2001, at Camp David, U.S. president George W. Bush used the phrase war on terrorism in an ostensibly unscripted comment when answering a journalist's question about the impact of enhanced law enforcement authority given to the U.S. surveillance agencies on Americans' civil liberties:

"This is a new kind of—a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I'm going to be patient."[27][65]

The reference to Crusades became subject to heavy criticism due to its controversial connotations in the Muslim World and historical Muslim-Christian relations.[66] On 20 September 2001, during a televised address to a joint session of Congress, George Bush 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."[67][30]

Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preventive war, human rights abuses and other violations of international law.[68][69] The political theorist Richard Jackson has argued that "the 'war on terrorism,' therefore, is simultaneously a set of actual practices—wars, covert operations, agencies, and institutions—and an accompanying series of assumptions, beliefs, justifications, and narratives—it is an entire language or discourse."[70] Jackson cites among many examples a statement by John Ashcroft that "the attacks of September 11 drew a bright line of demarcation between the civil and the savage".[71] Administration officials also described "terrorists" as hateful, treacherous, barbarous, mad, twisted, perverted, without faith, parasitical, inhuman, and, most commonly, evil.[72] Americans, in contrast, were described as brave, loving, generous, strong, resourceful, heroic, and respectful of human rights.[73]

Decline of phrase's usage by U.S. government

In April 2007, the British government announced publicly that it was abandoning the use of the phrase "war on terror" as they found it to be less than helpful.[74] This was explained more recently by Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller. In her 2011 Reith lecture, the former head of MI5 said that the 9/11 attacks were "a crime, not an act of war. So I never felt it helpful to refer to a war on terror."[75]

Letter from Barack Obama indicating appropriation of Congressional funds for "Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism"

U.S. president Barack Obama rarely used the term, but in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009, he stated: "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred."[76] In March 2009 the Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from "Global War on Terror" to "Overseas Contingency Operation" (OCO).[77] In March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid the use of the term and instead to use "Overseas Contingency Operation".[77] Basic objectives of the Bush administration "war on terror", such as targeting al Qaeda and building international counterterrorism alliances, remain in place.[78][79]

Abandonment of phrase

In May 2010, the Obama administration published a report outlining its National Security Strategy. The document dropped the Bush-era phrase "global war on terror" and reference to "Islamic extremism," and stated, "This is not a global war against a tactic—terrorism, or a religion—Islam. We are at war with a specific network, al-Qaeda, and its terrorist affiliates who support efforts to attack the United States, our allies, and partners."[80]

Usage of the term "war on terror" was initially discontinued in May 2010[80] and again in May 2013.[81] On 23 May 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the "war on terrorism" was over,[82][83] saying that the U.S. would not wage war against a tactic but would instead focus on a specific group of terrorist networks.[84][85] Other American military campaigns during the 2010s have also been considered part of the "war on terror" by individuals and the media.[86] The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria during 2014-2015 led to the global Operation Inherent Resolve, and an international campaign to destroy the terrorist organization. This was considered to be another campaign of the "war on terror".[86]

In December 2012, Jeh Johnson, the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, speaking at Oxford University, stated that the war against al-Qaeda would end when the terrorist group had been weakened so that it was no longer capable of "strategic attacks" and had been "effectively destroyed." At that point, the war would no longer be an armed conflict under international law,[87] and the military fight could be replaced by a law enforcement operation.[88]

In May 2013, two years after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama delivered a speech that employed the term global war on terror put in quotation marks (as officially transcribed by the White House): "Now, make no mistake, terrorists still threaten our nation. ... In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country's security. ... Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless "global war on terror," but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries." Nevertheless, in the same speech, in a bid to emphasize the legality of military actions undertaken by the U.S., noting that Congress had authorised the use of force, he went on to say, "Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense."[81][89]

Nonetheless, the use of the phrase "war on terror" persists in U.S. politics. In 2017, for example, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing "the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since—the global war on terror."[90]


Precursor to the 11 September attacks

See also: Islamic terrorism and List of Islamist terrorist attacks

In May 1996 the group World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (WIFJAJC), sponsored by Osama bin Laden (and later re-formed as al-Qaeda),[91][92] started forming a large base of operations in Afghanistan, where the Islamist extremist regime of the Taliban had seized power earlier in the year.[93] In August 1996, Bin Laden declared jihad against the United States.[94] In February 1998, Osama bin Laden signed a fatwa, as head of al-Qaeda, declaring war on the West and Israel;[95][96] in May al-Qaeda released a video declaring war on the U.S. and the West.[97][98]

On 7 August 1998, al-Qaeda struck the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans.[99] In retaliation, U.S. President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in Sudan and Afghanistan against targets the U.S. asserted were associated with WIFJAJC,[100][101] although others have questioned whether a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was used as a chemical warfare facility. The plant produced much of the region's antimalarial drugs[102] and around 50% of Sudan's pharmaceutical needs.[103] The strikes failed to kill any leaders of WIFJAJC or the Taliban.[102]

Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots, which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. On 12 October 2000, the USS Cole bombing occurred near the port of Yemen, and 17 U.S. Navy sailors were killed.[104]

11 September attacks

Main article: September 11 attacks

On the morning of 11 September 2001, nineteen men hijacked four jet airliners, all of them bound for California. Once the hijackers assumed control of the jet airliners, they told the passengers that they had a bomb on board and would spare the lives of passengers and crew once their demands were met – no passenger and crew actually suspected that they would use the jet airliners as suicide weapons since it had never happened before in history, and many previous hijacking attempts had been resolved with the passengers and crew escaping unharmed after obeying the hijackers.[105][106] The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell[107] – intentionally crashed two jet airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from fire damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third jet airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth jet airliner crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the jet airliners, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C., to target the White House or the U.S. Capitol. None of the flights had any survivors. A total of 2,977 victims and the 19 hijackers perished in the attacks.[108] Fifteen of the nineteen were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt, and Lebanon.[109]

On 13 September, for the first time ever, NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state to be an armed attack against them all.[110] The invocation of Article 5 led to Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavour. On 18 September 2001, President Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists passed by Congress a few days prior; the authorization is still active to this day and has been used to justify numerous military actions.

U.S. objectives

  Major military operations (as of 2011) (AfghanistanPakistanIraqSomaliaYemen)
  Other allies involved in major operations
Major terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups: (as of 2011) 1. 1998 United States embassy bombings • 2. September 11 attacks • 3. Bali bombings 2002• 4. Madrid bombings 2004 • 5. London bombings 2005 • 6. Mumbai attacks 2008

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists or "AUMF" was made law on 14 September 2001, to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the 11 September attacks. It authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on 11 September 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or individuals. Congress declares this is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The George W. Bush administration defined the following objectives in the War on Terror:[111]

  1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroy their organizations
  2. Identify, locate and demolish terrorists along with their organizations
  3. Reject sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists
    1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism
    2. Establish and maintain an international standard of responsibility concerning combating terrorism
    3. Strengthen and maintain the international effort to combat terrorism
    4. Function with willing and able states
    5. Enable weak states
    6. Persuade reluctant states
    7. Compel unwilling states
    8. Intervene and dismantle material support for terrorists
    9. Abolish terrorist sanctuaries and havens
  4. Reduce the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit
    1. Establish partnerships with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism
    2. Win the war of ideals
  5. Protect U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad
    1. Integrate the National 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. Implement measures to protect U.S. citizens abroad
    5. Ensure an integrated incident management capacity

The 2001 AUMF has authorized US President to launch military operations across the world without any congressional oversight or transparency. Between 2018 and 2020 alone, US forces initiated what it labelled "counter-terror" activities in 85 countries. Of these, the 2001 AUMF has been used to launch classified military campaigns in at least 22 countries.[112][113] The 2001 AUMF has been widely perceived as a bill that grants the President powers to unilaterally wage perpetual "world wide wars".[114][115]


For a chronological guide, see timeline of the War on Terror.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Main article: Operation Enduring Freedom

Campaign streamer awarded to units who have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the Bush administration for the War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions, under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. These global operations are intended to seek out and destroy any al-Qaeda fighters or affiliates. Originally, the campaign was named "Eternal Justice" but due to widespread controversy and condemnation in the Muslim World, the phrasing was changed to "Enduring Freedom".[66]


Main article: War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)

See also: List of military operations in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021)

On 20 September 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban government of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, to turn over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leaders operating in the country or face attack.[30] The Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden's link to the 11 September attacks and, if such evidence warranted a trial, they offered to handle such a trial in an Islamic Court.[116]

U.S. Army soldier of the 10th Mountain Division in Nuristan Province, June 2007
An American soldier in Afghanistan's Khost Province

Subsequently, in October 2001, U.S. forces (with UK and coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. On 7 October 2001, the official invasion began with British and U.S. forces conducting airstrike campaigns over enemy targets. Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, fell by mid-November. The remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants fell back to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, mainly Tora Bora. In December, Coalition forces (the U.S. and its allies) fought within that region. It is believed that Osama bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the battle.[117][118]

In March 2002, the U.S. and other NATO and non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda with the goal of destroying any remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-i-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban suffered heavy casualties and evacuated the region.[119]

The Taliban regrouped in western Pakistan and began to unleash an insurgent-style offensive against Coalition forces in late 2002.[120] Throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan, firefights broke out between the surging Taliban and Coalition forces. Coalition forces responded with a series of military offensives and an increase of troops in Afghanistan. In February 2010, Coalition forces launched Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan along with other military offensives in the hopes that they would destroy the Taliban insurgency once and for all.[121] Peace talks were also underway between Taliban affiliated fighters and Coalition forces.[122]

In September 2014, Afghanistan and the United States signed a security agreement, which allowed the United States and NATO forces to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024.[123] However, on 29 February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed a conditional peace deal in Doha which required that US troops withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months so long as the Taliban cooperated with the terms of the agreement not to "allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies".[124][125] The Afghan government was not a party to the deal and rejected its terms regarding release of prisoners.[126] After Joe Biden became president, he moved back the target withdrawal date to 31 August 2021.[127] On 15 August 2021, the Afghan capital Kabul fell to a surprisingly effective Taliban offensive, ending the war in Afghanistan. The US military and NATO troops took control of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport for use in Operation Allies Refuge and the large-scale evacuation of foreign citizens and certain vulnerable Afghans, executed in cooperation with the Taliban.[128][129][130][131][132]

On 30 August 2021, the United States completed its hasty withdrawal of its military from Afghanistan. The withdrawal was heavily criticized both domestically and abroad for being chaotic and haphazard,[133][134] as well as for lending more momentum to the Taliban offensive.[135] However, many European countries followed suit, including Britain, Germany, Italy, and Poland.[136][137] Despite evacuating over 120,000 people, the large-scale evacuation has also been criticized for leaving behind hundreds of American citizens, residents, and family members.[138]

International Security Assistance Force

Main article: International Security Assistance Force

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers and joined by military representatives from 29 countries of the worldwide coalition on the war against terrorism, at The Pentagon, 11 March 2002
Map of countries contributing troops to ISAF as of 5 March 2010. Major contributors (over 1000 troops) in dark green, other contributors in light green, and former contributors in magenta.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was created in December 2001 to assist the Afghan Transitional Administration and the first post-Taliban elected government. With a renewed Taliban insurgency, it was announced in 2006 that ISAF would replace the U.S. troops in the province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force in southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,000 Canadian, 1,400 from the Netherlands and 240 from Australia, along with special forces from Denmark and Estonia and small contingents from other nations. The monthly supply of cargo containers through Pakistani route to ISAF in Afghanistan is over 4,000 costing around 12 billion in Pakistani Rupees.[139][140][141][142][143]


Main article: Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines

U.S. Special Forces soldier and infantrymen of the Philippine Army

In January 2002, the United States Special Operations Command, Pacific deployed to the Philippines to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating Filipino Islamist groups.[144] The operations were mainly focused on removing the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) from their stronghold on the island of Basilan.[citation needed] The second portion of the operation was conducted as a humanitarian program called "Operation Smiles". The goal of the program was to provide medical care and services to the region of Basilan as part of a "Hearts and Minds" program.[145]

Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines disbanded in June 2014,[146] ending a successful 12-year mission.[147] After JSOTF-P had disbanded, as late as November 2014, American forces continued to operate in the Philippines under the name "PACOM Augmentation Team", until 24 February 2015.[148][149] On 1 September 2017, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis designated Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines (OPE-P) as a contingency operation to support the Philippine government and the military in their efforts to isolate, degrade, and defeat the affiliates of ISIL (collectively referred to as ISIL-Philippines or ISIL-P) and other terrorist organisations in the Philippines.[150] By 2018, American operations within the Philippines against terrorist groups involved as many as 300 advisers.[151]

Trans-Sahara (Northern Africa)

Main article: Operation Juniper Shield

A map of the conflict in northern Mali

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS), now Operation Juniper Shield, is the name of the military operation conducted by the U.S. and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of counter-terrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa.

The conflict in northern Mali began in January 2012 with radical Islamists (affiliated to al-Qaeda) advancing into northern Mali. The Malian government had a hard time maintaining full control over their country. The fledgling government requested support from the international community on combating the Islamic militants. In January 2013, France intervened on behalf of the Malian government's request and deployed troops into the region. They launched Operation Serval on 11 January 2013, with the hopes of dislodging the al-Qaeda affiliated groups from northern Mali.[152]

Horn of Africa and the Red Sea

Main article: Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa

Further information: Somalia War (2006–2009), Somali Civil War (2009–present), and American military intervention in Somalia (2007–present)

Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa is an extension of Operation Enduring Freedom. Unlike other operations contained in Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF-HOA does not have a specific organization as a target. OEF-HOA instead focuses its efforts to disrupt and detect militant activities in the region and to work with willing governments to prevent the reemergence of militant cells and activities.[153]

In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier.[154] It contains approximately 2,000 personnel including U.S. military and special operations forces (SOF) and coalition force members, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150).

Task Force 150 consists of ships from a shifting group of nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The primary goal of the coalition forces is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and affecting the United States' Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Included in the operation is the training of selected armed forces units of the countries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics. Humanitarian efforts conducted by CJTF-HOA include rebuilding of schools and medical clinics and providing medical services to those countries whose forces are being trained.

The program expands as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative as CJTF personnel also assist in training the armed forces of Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali. However, the War on Terror does not include Sudan, where over 400,000 have died in an ongoing civil war.

On 1 July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western governments that the al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there.[155]

The Prime Minister of Somalia claimed that three "terror suspects" from the 1998 United States embassy bombings are being sheltered in Kismayo.[156] On 30 December 2006, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called upon Muslims worldwide to fight against Ethiopia and the TFG in Somalia.[157]

On 8 January 2007, the U.S. launched the Battle of Ras Kamboni by bombing Ras Kamboni using AC-130 gunships.[158]

On 14 September 2009, U.S. Special Forces killed two men and wounded and captured two others near the Somali village of Baarawe. Witnesses claim that helicopters used for the operation launched from French-flagged warships, but that could not be confirmed. A Somali-based al-Qaida affiliated group, the Al-Shabaab, has verified the death of "sheik commander" Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of militants.[159] Nabhan, a Kenyan, was wanted in connection with the 2002 Mombasa attacks.[160]

Iraq War

Main article: Iraq War

Further information: Iraq War and the War on Terror

2002 State of the Union Address

Main article: Axis of evil

During his 2002 State of the Union Address, George W. Bush accused North Korea, Iran and Iraq of propping up state-sponsored terrorism and pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction. These countries were portrayed as a global threat and categorised under the terminology referred to as "Axis of Evil".[161] Regarding Iraq, Bush alleged:

"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world."[162]


Further information: Preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq and Saddam–al-Qaeda conspiracy theory

In October 2002, United States Congress passed the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002", which empowered the U.S. president to order military attack against Iraq.[163][164] On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made a presentation before the UN Security Council which claimed to implicate Iraq in building a secret WMD program and having ties to Al-Qaeda.[165]

On 17 March 2003, Bush issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his two sons to flee Iraq within a 48-hour deadline or else face "military conflict".[166] Justifying his policy Bush declared:

"Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations - and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."[166]

Invasion of Iraq

Main article: 2003 invasion of Iraq

A British C-130J Hercules aircraft launches flare countermeasures before being the first coalition aircraft to land on the newly reopened military runway at Baghdad International Airport.

The Iraq War began in March 2003 with an air campaign, which was immediately followed by a U.S.-led ground invasion.[167][168] The Bush administration cited UNSC Resolution 1441, which warned of "serious consequences" for violations such as Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration also stated the Iraq War was part of the War on Terror, a claim later questioned and contested. Iraq had been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. since 1990,[169] when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

The first ground attack came at the Battle of Umm Qasr on 21 March 2003, when a combined force of British, U.S. and Polish forces seized control of the port city of Umm Qasr.[170] Baghdad, Iraq's capital city, fell to U.S. troops in April 2003 and Saddam Hussein's government quickly dissolved.[171] On 1 May 2003, Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.[172]

Iraqi Insurgency (2003–11)

Main article: Iraqi Insurgency

However, an insurgency arose against the U.S.-led coalition and the newly developing Iraqi military and post-Saddam government. The rebellion, which included al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, led to many coalition casualties. Other elements of the insurgency were led by fugitive members of President Hussein's Ba'ath regime, which included Iraqi nationalists and pan-Arabists. Many insurgency leaders were Islamists and claimed to be fighting a religious war to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate of centuries past.[173] Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003 and was executed in 2006.

In 2004, the insurgent forces grew stronger. The U.S. launched offensives on insurgent strongholds in cities like Najaf and Fallujah.

In January 2007, President Bush presented a new strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom based upon counter-insurgency theories and tactics developed by General David Petraeus. The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was part of this "new way forward", which along with U.S. backing of Sunni groups it had previously sought to defeat has been credited with a widely recognized dramatic decrease in violence by up to 80%.[citation needed]

The war entered a new phase on 1 September 2010,[174] with the official end of U.S. combat operations.

War in Iraq (2013–2017)

Main article: War in Iraq (2013–2017)

President Obama ordered the withdrawal of most troops in 2011, but began redeploying forces in 2014 to fight the Islamic State group.[175] As of July 2021, there were approximately 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, who continue to assist in the mission to combat the remnants of IS.[176]


Main articles: Pakistan's role in the War on Terror, Insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism

See also: Drone strikes in Pakistan, List of drone strikes in Pakistan, Killing of Osama bin Laden, and Pakistan–United States relations

Following the 11 September attacks, former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf sided with the U.S. against the Taliban government in Afghanistan after an ultimatum by then U.S. President George W. Bush. Musharraf agreed to give the U.S. the use of three airbases for Operation Enduring Freedom. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. administration officials met with Musharraf. On 19 September 2001, Musharraf addressed the people of Pakistan and stated that, while he opposed military tactics against the Taliban, Pakistan risked being endangered by an alliance of India and the U.S. if it did not cooperate. In 2006, Musharraf testified that this stance was pressured by threats from the U.S., and revealed in his memoirs that he had "war-gamed" the United States as an adversary and decided that it would end in a loss for Pakistan.[177]

On 12 January 2002, Musharraf gave a speech against Islamic extremism. He unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism and pledged to combat Islamic extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan itself. He stated that his government was committed to rooting out extremism and made it clear that the banned militant organizations would not be allowed to resurface under any new name. He said, "the recent decision to ban extremist groups promoting militancy was taken in the national interest after thorough consultations. It was not taken under any foreign influence".[178]

In 2002, the Musharraf-led government took a firm stand against the jihadi organizations and groups promoting extremism, and arrested Maulana Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and took dozens of activists into custody. An official ban was imposed on the groups on 12 January.[179] Later that year, the Saudi born Zayn al-Abidn Muhammed Hasayn Abu Zubaydah was arrested by Pakistani officials during a series of joint U.S.–Pakistan raids. Zubaydah is said to have been a high-ranking al-Qaeda official with the title of operations chief and in charge of running al-Qaeda training camps.[180] Other prominent al-Qaeda members were arrested in the following two years, namely Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is known to have been a financial backer of al-Qaeda operations, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who at the time of his capture was the third highest-ranking official in al-Qaeda and had been directly in charge of the planning for the 11 September attacks.

In 2004, the Pakistan Army launched a campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan's Waziristan region, sending in 80,000 troops. The goal of the conflict was to remove the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the area.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, many members of the Taliban resistance fled to the Northern border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pakistani army had previously little control. With the logistics and air support of the United States, the Pakistani Army captured or killed numerous al-Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wanted for his involvement in the USS Cole bombing, the Bojinka plot, and the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The United States has carried out a campaign of drone attacks on targets all over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, the Pakistani Taliban still operates there. To this day it is estimated that 15 U.S. soldiers were killed while fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants in Pakistan since the War on Terror began.[181]

Osama bin Laden, his wife, and son, were all killed on 2 May 2011, during a raid conducted by the United States special operations forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.[182]

The use of drones by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan to carry out operations associated with the Global War on Terror sparks debate over sovereignty and the laws of war. The U.S. Government uses the CIA rather than the U.S. Air Force for strikes in Pakistan to avoid breaching sovereignty through military invasion. The United States was criticized by[according to whom?] a report on drone warfare and aerial sovereignty for abusing the term 'Global War on Terror' to carry out military operations through government agencies without formally declaring war.

After the 11 September attacks, U.S. economic and security aid to Pakistan spiked considerably. With the authorization of the Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act, Pakistan was granted US$7.5 billion over five years from FY2010-FY2014.[183]


Main articles: Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen and Drone strikes in Yemen

The United States has also conducted a series of military strikes on al-Qaeda militants in Yemen since the War on Terror began.[184] Yemen has a weak central government and a powerful tribal system that leaves large lawless areas open for militant training and operations. Al-Qaeda has a strong presence in the country.[185] On 31 March 2011, AQAP declared the Al-Qaeda Emirate in Yemen after its captured most of Abyan Governorate.[186]

The U.S., in an effort to support Yemeni counter-terrorism efforts, has increased their military aid package to Yemen from less than $11 million in 2006 to more than $70 million in 2009, as well as providing up to $121 million for development over the next three years.[187]

Other military operations

Operation Inherent Resolve (Syria and Iraq)

Main articles: Operation Inherent Resolve, Military intervention against ISIL, and List of wars and battles involving ISIL

Further information: American-led intervention in Iraq, Spillover of the Syrian Civil War, American-led intervention in Syria, and American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–2021)

U.S. soldiers in Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve

The Obama administration began to re-engage in Iraq with a series of airstrikes aimed at ISIL starting on 10 August 2014.[188] On 9 September 2014, President Obama said that he had the authority he needed to take action to destroy the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, citing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, and thus did not require additional approval from Congress.[189] The following day on 10 September 2014 President Barack Obama made a televised speech about ISIL, which he stated: "Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy".[190] Obama has authorized the deployment of additional U.S. Forces into Iraq, as well as authorizing direct military operations against ISIL within Syria.[190] On the night of 21/22 September the United States, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Qatar started air attacks against ISIL in Syria.[191]

In October 2014, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Defense considers military operations against ISIL as being under Operation Enduring Freedom in regards to campaign medal awarding.[192] On 15 October, the military intervention became known as "Operation Inherent Resolve".[193]

Islamic State of Lanao and the Battle of Marawi

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), jihadist offshoots sprung up in regions around the world, including the Philippines. The Maute group, composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and foreign fighters led by Omar Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, declared loyalty to ISIL and began clashing with Philippine security forces and staging bombings. On 23 May 2017, the group attacked the city of Marawi, resulting in the bloody Battle of Marawi that lasted 5 months. After the decisive battle, remnants of the group were reportedly still recruiting in 2017 and 2018.[194][195]

Libyan War

Main articles: Factional violence in Libya (2011–2014), Libyan Civil War (2014–2020), and American intervention in Libya (2015–2019)

An AV-8B Harrier takes off from the flight deck of USS Wasp during Operation Odyssey Lightning, 8 August 2016.

NBC News reported that in mid-2014, ISIL had about 1,000 fighters in Libya. Taking advantage of a power vacuum in the center of the country, far from the major cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, ISIL expanded rapidly ov