Operation Enduring Freedom is an American-led combat operation which supports the Global War on Terror (GWOT) active in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and parts of Africa. People often use “Operation Enduring Freedom” just to describe American combat operations in Afghanistan. Together with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the operation is intended to bring stability to Afghanistan and to prevent the emergence of terrorist cells in the region.
Combat operations in Afghanistan began on 7 October 2001, in the wake of terrorist attacks on the United States which were believed to have originated from Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization active in Afghanistan. Under the Bush Doctrine, the United States indicated that it would aggressively pursue nations which harbored terrorists or allowed terrorist cells to exist, a departure from traditional anti-terrorism policies, which usually distinguished between terrorists and the governments which harbored them. Arguing that Afghanistan and its ruling Taliban regime were contributing directly to terrorism, the United States launched an air assault and ground invasion with the support of a coalition of nations.
The primary goal of Operation Enduring Freedom was to capture Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist believed to be responsible for the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks which felled the World Trade Center and caused significant damage to the Pentagon. In this goal, the operation was unsuccessful, but the American-led coalition of forces did manage to overthrow the Taliban and temporarily stabilize the country. Unfortunately, the 2003 invasion of Iraq led the United States to pull troops away from Afghanistan, resulting in an uptick in insurgency in the region.
In addition to combating terrorism, troops associated with Operation Enduring Freedom also provided training to Afghan military and police forces, with the goal of passing the nation's security over to its people. Troops also participated in the war on drugs in Afghanistan, attempting to control the cultivation of opium poppies and the sale of opium and its derivatives. In 2006, NATO began to assume control of combat operations in Iraq, with the United States providing a huge percentage of total forces in the area.
The War in Afghanistan attracted a great deal of international criticism from a variety of perspectives. One of the largest problems faced by the architects of Operation Enduring Freedom was the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Taliban. The concern of organizers was that by leaving Iraq, the coalition forces would leave the country vulnerable to invasion by neighboring countries, or inadvertently contribute to the emergence of a dictatorship. As a result, troops were forced to stay in Afghanistan to provide support while the ISAF worked to create a secure and stable state.