The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is the closest thing to an official name for the variety of small to large scale conflicts around the world that involve various terrorist groups. Though many of these groups and issues have been around before 2000, the GWOT officially started on September, 11, 2001 with the attacks on the world trade center in New York. Since then the middle east , Africa, and a few small pockets scattered around other areas have become huge war zones with heavy N.A.T.O involvement. This ongoing conflict is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths across the world. It also has a direct effect on the U.S. economy as well as lives of service members and their families. The GWOT started in 2001, though events that led up to this now 18 year long war can be traced back to the mid 1980’s.
Global terrorism spawned out of a combination of religious fundamentalism, political beliefs, and western hatred. The start of the GWOT can be traced back to the significant acts of one man, Osama Bin Laden. In the 1980’s the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The Mujahideen were the primary combatants fighting the Soviets. The Mujahideen had a support group known as the Afghan Arabs who supported in combat and financial roles. The CIA was also had a huge financial impact as they had launched “Operation Cyclone”. An operation that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Mujahideen through Pakistan. One of the most significant members of the Afghan Arabs was a wealthy Saudi man who provided financial support with his own money and gained financial support from other wealthy Gulf Arabs. This man went by the name of Osama Bin Laden. The CIA assisted Bin Laden in building a training camp for the Mujahideen. This training camp was named Al Qaeda, which directly translates to “the foundation” in English. The organization Al Qaeda officially started on August, 11, 1988 between Bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several Egyptian Jihadist leaders. Al Qaeda started as an Islamist faction supporting the Mujahideen fight the Soviets. Nearing the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, members of the would be Al Qaeda wanted to expand their operations out of Afghanistan. To support other Islamist struggles throughout the world (History.com).
Bin Laden often spoke out against the Saudi Government for taking so much support from the U.S. In 1992 Bin Laden and Al Qaeda based themselves in Sudan, during this time Bin Laden was disowned by his family and had his Saudi citizenship revoked for speaking out against them. After the fall of the Afghan Communist Regime, the country was ungoverned for 4 years until the establishment of the Taliban. The Taliban was composed of educated leaders and mostly former Mujahideen members. The Taliban established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, though it was only acknowledged as an official government by a few other countries. During this time Al Qaeda were organizing themselves with protection from the taliban, though they were not officially affiliated. In 1998, Bin Laden issued a Fatwa authorizing the killing of Americans and their allies, leading up to September, 11. On September, 11, 2001 Osama Bin Laden orchestrated a direct attack on the U.S. 19 Saudi Arabian men hijacked four planes and flew them into the world trade center in New York, the Pentagon, and the last one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. This resulted in over 3,000 casualties at the time and many later deaths from side effects that took on survivors of the attack.
In December, 2001 the United States Invaded Afghanistan with the goal of dismantling Al Qaeda and finding Bin Laden. The battle of Tora Bora took place in an operation conducted by members of U.S. Special Forces Operations Detachment – Delta (SFOD-D). As well as members of the British Special Boat Service (SBS). They were moving with and assisted by U.S. funded Afghans who were hired to fight the Taliban. The operation went from December 6 – 17. For about 11 days U.S. and British Special Operations members hiked through the mountains of Afghanistan, getting in constant engagements with the Taliban with the goal of capturing or killing Bin Laden. The SFOD-D members found themselves roughly 300 yards away from Bin Laden’s Location, when they were ordered to return home because George Bush wanted an excuse to stay in Afghanistan.
In March 2002, Operation Anaconda was launched. This was the largest on the ground battle in the GWOT that involved U.S. Forces. Navy SEAL’s, SFOD-D, and Army Infantry members fought a force of about 1,300 Taliban and Al Qaeda members between March 2-16. The U.S. suffered 7 casualties while about 800 Taliban were killed. Since then the Taliban government was dismantled and the U.S. established its own official Afghan Government. Though the Taliban still remain an active terrorist group to this day (Army University Press.mil).
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In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq, claiming the goal was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s). The invasion quickly turned the Iraq military into an insurgency. During this time Al Qaeda moved into Iraq to fight the U.S. (as was there long term mission). This is what caused the flooding of Al Qaeda in Iraq. After this the U.S. occupied Iraq in mass until the withdraw in 2011. In early 2014 a group by the name of The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) launched a large scale attack on the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. They established a Caliphate and controlled Mosul until the city was taken back by the Iraq military along with the needed help of U.S. Special Operations and Air Support. Iraq is still in conflict with ISIS to this day.
ISIS sprang out from Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Many or most members of ISIS are former Al Qaeda members and affiliates. They came on the rise when they became active in Syria in 2011 were they fought the Syrian government. Though they made a big name for themselves with the invasion of Mosul. Thousands of ISIS members assaulted the city, running out all government forces and remained in control until October 2017. Around the time of the Mosul attack many Islamic fundamentalist organizations around the world pledged to ISIS. These groups spanned from Africa, to the middle east, all the way to the Philippines. These groups set out with similar goals as ISIS, to establish a caliphate. A caliphate is an Islamic state that follows old Islamic law. A government based purely off of Islamic fundamentals. Even after they were taken out of power in Iraq and lost their main Caliphate, they still held a large territory in Syria. It was not until early 2019 wen ISIS lost most if not all their territory in Syria.
On the night of May 1, 2011 two helicopters full of Navy SEAL’s flew over the Pakistani border. Possibly the most high profile operation of the past 10 years conducted by the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG) to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. As expected, for the past 10 years Bin Laden had been hiding in Pakistan. What was unexpected was that he was living in the middle of a city, down the street from a military base. Bin Laden Never left his house. He was living in a large compound with multiple houses with 4 men, at least 10 women, and at least 10 children. He lived his last 10 years very strategically. He never directly exposed himself to the sky in fear of drones, he only paced in his backyard with a grape vine canopy to distort his image. The CIA located him through one of his messengers who was followed back to his house. Once the CIA had enough reason to believe Bin Laden was a resident of this compound, an operation was planned. One NSWDG platoon was tasked with getting him. On the night of May 1, 2011 the team flew over his house via helicopter. The first helicopter crashed in a large courtyard when the propellers failed because the tall surrounding buildings prevented the helicopter from picking up enough wind to stay in flight. The second one landed just outside the compound. The team exited the helicopter and continued to move in on the main 3 story house. The team began taking fire as they approached the front door. They moved in and got in multiple gun fights on there way up to the 3rd floor. On the second floor stairwell the team stopped when they heard the loading of a rifle. They knew Bin Laden’s son Khalid was living on the 2nd floor. They silently whispered his name, he then peeked his head around the corner, and was shot. They then continued to advance to the 3rd floor. While in the 3rd flood stairwell a man was seen peeking around a corner, and was shot in the face. Upon close examination of the body and questioning the other residents, the 3rd floor man turned out to be Osama Bin Laden (No Easy Day written by “Mark Owen”).
In 2010 Obama increased the budget for foreign military funding spending specifically for Africa. By more than 300 percent. The Islamic State of West Africa, commonly known as Boko Haram is currently an Islamic fundamentalist group and ISIS affiliate in Nigeria. The group had been around since 2002, but until 2009 there actions were non violent. April 2014 is when the group made a name for themselves when they kidnapped 276 children from school in Chibok, Nigeria. The groups primary goal is to establish a Caliphate in Nigeria. Though there home base is Nigeria, they have a heavy presence in neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Niger, and Mali. Since 2009 the group has been conducting bombings, kidnappings, mass shooting, and launching organized assaults on their local military. Since they started there violent campaing, over 2.3 million people have been displaced and thousands killed. On January, 3, 2015 Boko Haram launched an attack on a town named Baga and also ran out the local military. The attack resulted in 150 civilian deaths as well as the loss of a military base.
One of there most known Boko Haram incidents was an engagement with 35 members of the Niger military, as well as 8 members of the U.S. SFOD-A, 2 U.S. support personel and 1 intelligence contractor. The U.S. Special Forces unit was conducting an operation in Northern Niger, when they arrived at there target there were no hostiles in the area as expected. The next morning as they were driving away from the village, the team came under fire from the Boko Haram militants they were looking for the night before. The convoy of U.S. and Niger soldiers stopped to engage the militants. After a brief engagement the Boko Haram force grew significantly in numbers as more of them emerged from close by neighborhoods. At some point, there was a major mistake in communication because when the unit decided to move to a better position to the south, 3 U.S. soldiers were left behind. The 3 soldiers eventually died as they were left to fight a force of possibly hundreds of Boko Haram fighters. As the rest of the team moved south, they were confronted by an even larger group of militants. There was a standoff for an unknown amount of time before they realized they had left the 3 men behind. The team got in there vehicles and started heading back for them. Except for Staff Sergeant Ladavid Johnson and 2 Niger soldiers. These 3 men were unable to get in there vehicle and fled on foot. They were chased about 400 meters before both Niger soldiers were killed. SSGT Ladavid Johnson was killed after running another 500 yards when he took his final stand behind a small tree. He was overwhelmed with enemy small arms fire and died eventually. Though U.S. Special operations have been in the front lines in Africa for decades now, this is one of the only known events in recent years. Most of their work goes unknown, the only time there work gets media attention is on the occasional U.S. hostage rescue, or if an American gets killed. Overall 4 Americans were killed, 3+ Niger soldiers, and over 21 Boko Haram members. U.S. activity in Africa is on a rise and will likely continue for at least another decade (militarytimes.com).
This war has a direct effect on the U.S. and world economy in multiple ways. It has increased the U.S. defense budget as needed to fight the war. Which means we do not have enough money to fund other important things. It has also increased the demand for military hardware and is responsible for all the new advancements in weapons and tactical gear. Over the past 18 years the U.S. military has been in a constant engagement with various terrorist groups around the world. The U.S. is still to this day losing people to this war and spending millions of dollars on it. The fight against Islamic and Christian extremism is a complex war that is difficult to fight because most terrorist groups use insurgent tactics. This is an everlasting war that will probably not end any time soon.