In November 2006, the U.N. Security Council warned that Afghanistan may become a failed state due to increased Taliban violence, growing illegal drug production, and fragile state institutions.
In 2006, Afghanistan was rated 10th on the failed states index, up from 11th in 2005.
From 2005 to 2006, the number of suicide attacks, direct fire attacks, and improvised explosive devices all increased. Intelligence documents declassified in 2006 suggested that Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami sanctuaries had by then increased fourfold in Afghanistan.
The campaign in Afghanistan successfully unseated the Taliban from power, but has been significantly less successful at achieving the primary policy goal of ensuring that Al-Qaeda can no longer operate in Afghanistan.
In January and February 2007, British Royal Marines mounted Operation Volcano to clear insurgents from firing-points in the village of Barikju, north of Kajaki. Other major operations during this period included Operation Achilles (March–May) and Operation Lastay Kulang. The UK Ministry of Defence announced its intention to bring British troop levels in the country up to 7,700 (committed until 2009). Further operations, such as Operation Silver and Operation Silicon, took place to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in the hope of blunting their expected spring offensive.
On 4 March 2007 U.S. Marines killed at least 12 civilians and injured 33 in Shinwar district, Nangrahar, in a U.S. marine response to a bomb ambush. The event became known as the Shinwar Massacre. The 120 member Marine unit responsible for the attack was asked[by whom?] to leave the country, because the incident damaged the unit's relations with the local Afghan population.
Later in March 2007, the US added more than 3,500 troops.
On 12 May 2007, ISAF forces killed Mullah Dadullah. Eleven other Taliban fighters died in the same firefight.
During the summer, NATO forces achieved tactical victories at the Battle of Chora in Orūzgn, where Dutch and Australian ISAF forces were deployed.
US Army paratroopers navigate to Observation Post Chuck Norris in Dangam.
On 16 August, eight civilians including a pregnant woman and a baby died when Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel, Paktika Province. Seven soldiers have been charged with war crimes.
On 28 October about 80 Taliban fighters were killed in a 24 hour battle in Helmand.
Western officials and analysts estimated the strength of Taliban forces at about 10,000 fighters fielded at any given time. Of that number, only 2,000 to 3,000 were highly motivated, full-time insurgents. The rest were part-timers, made up of alienated, young Afghans, angered by bombing raids or responding to payment. In 2007, more foreign fighters came than ever before, according to officials. Approximately 100 to 300 full-time combatants are foreigners, usually from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps even Turkey and western China. They were reportedly more fanatical and violent, often bringing superior video-production or bombmaking expertise.
On 2 November security forces killed a top-ranking militant, Mawlawi Abdul Manan, after he was caught crossing the border. The Taliban confirmed his death. On 10 November the Taliban ambushed a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. This attack brought the U.S. death toll for 2007 to 100, making it the Americans' deadliest year in Afghanistan.
The Battle of Musa Qala took place in December. Afghan units were the principal fighting force, supported by British forces. Taliban forces were forced out of the town.
2008: Reassessment and renewed commitment
A U.S. Army Special Forces medic in Kandahar Province in September 2008.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while the situation in Afghanistan is "precarious and urgent", the 10,000 additional troops needed there would be unavailable "in any significant manner" unless withdrawals from Iraq are made. However, Mullen stated that "my priorities . . . given to me by the commander in chief are: Focus on Iraq first. It's been that way for some time. Focus on Afghanistan second."
In the first five months of 2008, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased by over 80% with a surge of 21,643 more troops, bringing the total from 26,607 in January to 48,250 in June. In September 2008, President Bush announced the withdrawal of over 8,000 from Iraq and a further increase of up to 4,500 in Afghanistan.
In June 2008, British prime minister Gordon Brown announced the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan would increase to 8,030 – a rise of 230. The same month, the UK lost its 100th serviceman.
US troops burn a suspected Taliban safe house
On 13 June, Taliban fighters demonstrated their ongoing strength, liberating all prisoners in Kandahar jail. The operation freed 1200 prisoners, 400 of whom were Taliban prisoners of war, causing a major embarrassment for NATO.
On 13 July 2008, a coordinated Taliban attack was launched on a remote NATO base at Wanat in Kunar province. On 19 August, French troops suffered their worst losses in Afghanistan in an ambush. Later in the month, an airstrike targeted a Taliban commander in Herat province and killed 90 civilians.
Late August saw one of NATO's largest operations in Helmand, Operation Eagle's Summit, aiming to bring electricity to the region.
On 3 September, the war spilled onto Pakistani territory for the first time when heavily armed commandos, believed to be U.S. Army Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses close to a known enemy stronghold. The attack killed between seven and twenty people. Local residents claimed that most of the dead were civilians. Pakistan condemned the attack, calling the incursion "a gross violation of Pakistan's territory".
On 6 September, in an apparent reaction, Pakistan announced an indefinite disconnection of supply lines.
On 11 September, militants killed two U.S. troops in the east. This brought the total number of U.S. losses to 113, more than in any prior year. Several European countries set their own records, particularly the UK, who suffered 108 casualties.
Taliban attacks on supply lines
In November and December 2008, multiple incidents of major theft, robbery, and arson attacks afflicted NATO supply convoys in Pakistan. Transport companies south of Kabul were extorted for money by the Taliban. These incidents included the hijacking of a NATO convoy carrying supplies in Peshawar, the torching of cargo trucks and Humvees east of the Khyber pass and a half-dozen raids on NATO supply depots near Peshawar that destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees in December 2008.
Issues with Pakistan
Barack Obama with Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, 6 May 2009
An unnamed senior Pentagon official told the BBC that at some point between 12 July and 12 September 2008, President Bush issued a classified order authorizing raids against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan said it would not allow foreign forces onto its territory and that it would vigorously protect its sovereignty. In September, the Pakistan military stated that it had issued orders to "open fire" on U.S. soldiers who crossed the border in pursuit of militant forces.
On 25 September 2008, Pakistani troops fired on ISAF helicopters. This caused confusion and anger in the Pentagon, which asked for a full explanation into the incident and denied that U.S. helicopters were in Pakistani airspace.
A further split occurred when U.S. troops apparently landed on Pakistani soil to carry out an operation against militants in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. 'Pakistan reacted angrily to the action, saying 20 innocent villagers had been killed by US troops'. However, despite tensions, the U.S. increased the use of remotely piloted drone aircraft in Pakistan's border regions, in particular the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) and Balochistan; as of early 2009, drone attacks were up 183% since 2006.
By the end of 2008, the Taliban apparently had severed remaining ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, perhaps fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan.
In a meeting with General Stanley McChrystal, Pakistani military officials urged international forces to remain on the Afghan side of the border and prevent militants from fleeing into Pakistan. Pakistan noted that it had deployed 140,000 soldiers on its side of the border to address militant activities, while the coalition had only 100,000 soldiers to police the Afghanistan side.
2009: Southern Afghanistan
Northern Distribution Network
In response to the increased risk of sending supplies through Pakistan, work began on the establishment of a Northern Distribution Network (NDN) through Russia and Central Asian republics. Initial permission to move supplies through the region was given on 20 January 2009, after a visit to the region by General David Petraeus. The first shipment along the NDN route left on 20 February from Riga, Latvia, then traveled 5,169 km (3,212 mi) to the Uzbek town of Termez on the Afghanistan border. In addition to Riga, other European ports included Poti, Georgia and Vladivostok, Russia. U.S. commanders hoped that 100 containers a day would be shipped along the NDN. By comparison, 140 containers a day were typically shipped through the Khyber Pass. By 2011, the NDN handled about 40% of Afghanistan-bound traffic, versus 30% through Pakistan.
On 11 May 2009, Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov announced that the airport in Navoi (Uzbekistan) was being used to transport non-lethal cargo into Afghanistan. Due to the still unsettled relationship between Uzbekistan and the U.S. following the 2005 Andijon massacre and subsequent expulsion of U.S. forces from Karshi-Khanabad airbase, U.S. forces were not involved in the shipments. Instead, South Korea's Korean Air, which overhauled Navoi's airport, officially handled logistics.
Originally only non-lethal resources were allowed on the NDN. In July 2009, however, shortly before a visit by new President Barack Obama to Moscow, Russian authorities announced that U.S. troops and weapons could use the country's airspace to reach Afghanistan.
Human rights advocates were (as of 2009) concerned that the U.S. was again working with the government of Uzbekistan, which is often accused of violating human rights. U.S. officials promised increased cooperation with Uzbekistan, including further assistance to turn Navoi into a regional distribution center for both military and civilian ventures.
Azerbaijan, which sent peacekeeping forces as part of ISAF, also provided airspace and airports. Over one-third of all of the nonlethal equipment including fuel, clothing, and food used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku at one point.
Increase in U.S. troops
In January, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak. Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside them. The troops were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.
In mid-February, it was announced that 17,000 additional troops would be deployed in two brigades and support troops; the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade of about 3,500 and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade with about 4,000. U.S. commander General McKiernan had called for as many as 30,000 additional troops, effectively doubling the number of troops.
On 23 September, a classified assessment by General McChrystal included his conclusion that a successful counterinsurgency strategy would require 500,000 troops and five years.
In November, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry sent two classified cables to Washington expressing concerns about sending more troops before the Afghan government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise. Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who in 2006–2007 commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, also expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for development and reconstruction. In subsequent cables, Eikenberry repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in "astronomical costs" – tens of billions of dollars – and would only deepen the Afghan government's dependence on the United States.
On 26 November, Karzai made a public plea for direct negotiations with the Taliban leadership. Karzai said there is an "urgent need" for negotiations and made it clear that the Obama administration had opposed such talks. There was no formal US response.
On 1 December, Obama announced at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point that the U.S. would send 30,000 more troops. Antiwar organizations in the U.S. responded quickly, and cities throughout the U.S. saw protests on 2 December. Many protesters compared the decision to deploy more troops in Afghanistan to the expansion of the Vietnam War under the Johnson administration.
On 4 September, during the Kunduz Province Campaign a devastating NATO air raid was conducted 7 kilometres southwest of Kunduz where Taliban fighters had hijacked civilian supply trucks, killing up to 179 people, including over 100 civilians.
Operation Khanjar and Operation Panther's Claw
On 25 June US officials announced the launch of Operation Khanjar ("strike of the sword"). About 4000 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and 650 Afghan soldiers participated. Khanjar followed a British-led operation named Operation Panther's Claw in the same region. Officials called it the Marines' largest operation since the 2004 invasion of Fallujah, Iraq. Operation Panther's Claw was aimed to secure various canal and river crossings to establish a long-term ISAF presence.
Initially, Afghan and American soldiers moved into towns and villages along the Helmand River to protect the civilian population. The main objective was to push into insurgent strongholds along the river. A secondary aim was to bring security to the Helmand Valley in time for presidential elections, set to take place on 20 August.
According to a 22 December briefing by Major General Michael T. Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan, "The Taliban retains [the] required partnerships to sustain support, fuel legitimacy and bolster capacity." The 23-page briefing states that "Security incidents [are] projected to be higher in 2010." Those incidents were already up by 300 percent since 2007 and by 60 percent since 2008, according to the briefing. NATO intelligence at the time indicated that the Taliban had as many as 25,000 dedicated soldiers, almost as many as before 9/11 and more than in 2005.
On 10 August McChrystal, newly appointed as U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban had gained the upper hand. In a continuation of the Taliban's usual strategy of summer offensives, the militants aggressively spread their influence into north and west Afghanistan and stepped up their attack in an attempt to disrupt presidential polls. Calling the Taliban a "very aggressive enemy", he added that the U.S. strategy was to stop their momentum and focus on protecting and safeguarding Afghan civilians, calling it "hard work".
The Taliban's claim that the over 135 violet incidents disrupting elections was largely disputed. However, the media was asked to not report on any violent incidents. Some estimates reported voter turn out as much less than the expected 70 percent. In southern Afghanistan where the Taliban held the most power, voter turnout was low and sporadic violence was directed at voters and security personnel. The chief observer of the European Union election mission, General Philippe Morillon, said the election was "generally fair" but "not free".
Western election observers had difficulty accessing southern regions, where at least 9 Afghan civilians and 14 security forces were killed in attacks intended to intimidate voters. The Taliban released a video days after the elections, filming on the road between Kabul and Kandahar, stopping vehicles and asking to see their fingers. The video went showed ten men who had voted, listening to a Taliban militant. The Taliban pardoned the voters because of Ramadan. The Taliban attacked towns with rockets and other indirect fire. Amid claims of widespread fraud, both top contenders, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory. Reports suggested that turnout was lower than in the prior election.
After Karzai's alleged win of 54 per cent, which would prevent a runoff, over 400,000 Karzai votes had to be disallowed after accusations of fraud. Some nations criticized the elections as "free but not fair".
In December, an attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman, used by the CIA to gather information and to coordinate drone attacks against Taliban leaders, killed at least six CIA officers.