Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan began with the deaths of over 3,000 civilians, including many Canadians, on September 11, 2001. That day, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners flying in the United States, aiming to destroy significant American landmarks by crashing the planes into buildings. Three of these hijackings succeeded, colliding into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Passengers of the fourth plane heroically prevented their hijackers from reaching their destination, losing their lives in the process when they crash-landed in a field in Pennsylvania. This event would become known as “9/11”.
It was soon learned that the extremist Islamic group Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, was behind the attacks. Since the 1990s, they had been using Afghanistan as their base of operations as “guests” of the Taliban regime that controlled the country since 1995. A few weeks later on September 28, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 1373. This resolution in effect demanded the countries of the world to stop providing safe havens for terrorists (Operative clause 2c) and that UN member states may use all necessary measures to ensure this would be the case (Operative clause 8). Essentially, then, it was an ultimatum to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan: hand over bin Laden or face military action. The Taliban refused.
On October 7, the United States initiated Operation Enduring Freedom. This was a military effort to eliminate the Al-Qaeda network (and bring to justice bin Laden) and to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. The day after, Canada offered its land, sea, and air forces to contribute to the effort.
The Canadian Forces’ role in the War in Afghanistan can be separated into two distinct military operations: Operation Athena and Operation Apollo. (To learn more, see Athena and Apollo)
To learn more about Canada’s Lessons Learned in Afghanistan, see:
Kimberley Unterganschnigg, “Canada’s Whole of Government Mission in Afghanistan – Lessons Learned,” Canadian Military Journal Vol. 13 no. 2, Spring 2013, 8-16. (PDF HERE)
Photo: Master Bombardier Rob Penny, left, and Martin Brousseau, right, fire at a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan using a 155 mm-Howitzer, August 2008. (Credit: Joe Bryska, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Winnipeg Free Press)
For a brief timeline of Canada’s relationship with Afghanistan, please see the official Canadian Government website.