Below is a brief overview of the first days of the war in Afghanistan. During this time, fighting occurred, the Taliban fled Kabul and the city of Kandahar was captured.
The Taliban Flee Kabul
On November 9, 2001, soldiers of the US Special Forces mounted on horses led the Northern Alliance into the city of Mazar-i-Sharif assisted by close-air support. What ensued was 90 minutes of brutal fighting.
The team then moved south reaching Kabul on November 13th only to discover the Taliban had already evacuated the city the evening before. Once Kabul was forced to surrender, all remaining Afghan provinces on the Iranian border fell within 24 hours. Northeast Afghanistan was taken over by warlords and local Pashtun commanders. Some Taliban holdouts remained in the northern area in the city of Kondoz where they attempted to take a stand. Within three days, they also were taken over by the Northern Alliance.
Taliban forces in Afghanistan split up into three separate groups:
- One group was in Kondoz
- A second stayed in their heartland close to Kandahar
- A third group (which included bin Laden) was thought to be among the maze of complex caves in the Tora Bora Mountains.
Fighting intensified and for nine days, American bombers with the assistance of British bombers battered the city of Kondoz. Bombing was also taking place simultaneously in the Tora Bora Mountains. Special Forces were already enlisting the assistance of local warlords and paying them to join in the fight and plan the attack on the over 2,000 members of the al-Qaida and Taliban troops who were defending the Tora Bora complex.
During this time, additional US troops began to arrive. On November 25, a Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit established Camp Rhino out in the desert just south of Kandahar. This camp became the first strategic American foothold in Afghanistan. The following day, combat erupted – involving US troops – when the Taliban began to approach Camp Rhino in 15 armored vehicles. Marine helicopter gunships were able to destroy the majority of the approaching vehicles.
While Taliban positions were being pounded with air strikes, positions were being targeted inside Kandahar. At this point Taliban leader – Mullah Omar – was only in control of four of the 30 provinces in Afghan. He remained defiant beckoning his troops to fight even if it meant death.
Kandahar Is Captured
Kandahar was the Taliban’s last real stronghold, but the city was surrounded. Close to 3,000 tribal fighters – led by Hamid Karzai – guarded the east and also cut off Kandahar’s supply routes in the northern region. US Marines took up positions south and west of the city. On December 7, Mullah Omar fled Kandahar when his offer to surrender was rejected by President Bush. Karzai’s tribal forces were able to seize the city and US Marines took control of the Kandahar Airport.
Both the Taliban fleeing Kabul and the capturing of Kandahar were considered beneficial. These two incidences were the first of many battles and only the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.