In the years that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the world has seen a number of conflicts that have changed the lives of millions of people. Explore some of the key events of the wars that followed 9/11. 


  • 1996: Taliban seize control in Afghanistan

    This ends a seven year civil war which followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989. They impose an extreme version of Islamic law.

    The terrorist group Al-Qaeda relocate to Afghanistan and operate under the protection of the Taliban regime.

  • 1999

    The Taliban government refuses to extradite Osama bin Laden. He is wanted for organising a series of embassy bombings carried out by Al Qaeda the previous year.


  • September

    Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the Northern Alliance – the main opposition to the Taliban - is assassinated.

  • Section of twisted and rusted steelwork from the collapsed World Trade Center

    September 11: Terrorist attacks on America

    Two planes are flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing both towers to collapse. A third plane crashes into the Pentagon, just outside Washington, DC. The fourth plane crashes in rural Pennsylvania after the crew and passengers attacked the terrorists on board, preventing it from hitting another target in the US capital.

    3,000 people are killed in the attacks.

  • Flanked by a Guard of Honour mounted by the Queen's Colour Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment, President George W Bush and Mrs Laura Bush of the United States disembark from Air Force One at RAF Brize Norton on their first official visit to Britain, 18 July 2001.
    © IWM HU 98747


    US President George W Bush demands that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and expel Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. When they refuse, Bush declares a 'War on Terror'.

  • A marine from 40 Commando, Royal Marines patrols at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, February 2002
    © IWM LAND-02-012-0760

    October: Op Enduring Freedom begins

    American, British and Afghan United Front (Northern Alliance) forces are deployed to destroy al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban regime.The first British troops are deployed to Afghanistan. 40 Commando Royal Marines secure Bagram airfield.

  • November

    Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul is captured by Afghan forces known as the ‘Northern Alliance’. Taliban leaders flee to Pakistan or to the north of the country.

    President Bush calls for a return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

  • mage of scene at Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Kandahar, Afghanistan during Operation Herrick XIX (H19). Taken during a visit by members of the War Story project team. Detail of the external wall of the Commander KAF (COMKAF) headquarters and passenger arrivals terminal buildings colloquially known as 'Taliban's Last Stand' (TLS). Detail of the roof area damaged by bombs dropped by coalition forces in 2001 when the area was under Taliban control.
    © IWM DC 4097


    US forces and their allies attempt to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden in a network of caves in eastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden evades capture and escapes to Pakistan.

    Taliban lose control of the city of Kandahar, their final stronghold.

    International Conference on Afghanistan is held in Bonn, Germany. Plans for a transitional government are agreed and Hamid Karzai is appointed head of the Afghan Interim Authority. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is established with a UN mandate to help secure Kabul and assist the new administration.


  • January-February:

    16 Air Assault Brigade lead first ISAF deployment to Afghanistan

    Op Fingal. Troops from 2 Para are deployed to Kabul. They help train Afghan forces and carry out peacekeeping duties in the city.

  • January: US State of the Union

    President Bush declares an ‘axis of evil’ during his State of the Union address.

  • April: Op Jacana begins

    A series of operations (Ptarmigan, Snipe, Condor and Buzzard) by coalition forces including 45 Commando Royal Marines to clear any remaining Al Qaida and Taliban forces from Khost and Paktia provinces.

  • ISAF commanders Major General Zorla and Major General McColl inspecting British troops in Kabul with President Karzai, June 2002.
    © IWM HU 99490

    June: A New President

    Loya Jirga elects Hamid Karzai as president of the Afghan Transitional Administration for a two year period.

  • November:

    The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1441, giving Saddam Hussein a final opportunity to comply with disarmament obligations.


  • A metal badge with a metal pin fastening, showing white text on a green background, text reading :'Don't Attack Iraq'
    © IWM Art.IWM EPHEM 00445


    Anti-war protests are held across the world against the invasion of Iraq.

  • Soldiers of 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment Battle Group, listening to an address by their CO, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, about the forthcoming campaign in Iraq - Operation 'TELIC', 5 March 2003.
    © IWM OP-TELIC 03-010-18-099

    March: Invasion of Iraq begins

    More than 40,000 British troops are committed in support of the invasion.

  • April

    Baghdad and Basra are taken by US and UK forces in Iraq.

  • May

    President Bush declares “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

  • July

    UK establishes a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province in the north of Afghanistan.

  • International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was formed in 2002 and based in Kabul. This badge was issued in 2002 but later replaced that year by a bi-lingual badge.
    © IWM INS 7836


    NATO takes command of ISAF.  In December NATO announces expansion into the north of Afghanistan, part one of a four stage plan which will ultimately see ISAF assume responsibility across the whole of Afghanistan.

  • December

    Operation Red Dawn. US forces capture Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit.


  • March

    Ambush of four US security contractors sparks unrest in Fallujah, Iraq.

  • April: Abu Ghraib

    Photographs are published showing prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

  • October: Op Herrick 1 begins

    Herrick is the new formal name for all British operations in Afghanistan.

  • November: Presidential elections in Afghanistan

    Hamid Karzai is elected president.


  • Camp Bastion Joint Operating Base sign.
    © IWM FEQ 1832


    Work begins on Camp Bastion, a British base located in the desert west of Gereshk, Helmand Province.

  • Colonel Gordon Messenger and military team at the Preliminary Operations Headquarters in Kandahar, Afghanistan
    © IWM DC 5542

    November: Preparing for Helmand

    A British Preliminary Operations (Prelim Ops) team arrives in Afghanistan to prepare for the move into Helmand.


  • The Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP poses with British troops of 216 Signals Squadron and 21 Air Assault Battery in Laskar Gah during a visit to the Helmand Task Force in Afghanistan.
    © IWM HTF-2006-005-107


    Defence Secretary John Reid formally announces that 3,150 UK troops will deploy to Helmand in May.

  • Brigadier Ed Butler (second left) looks on as Defence Secretary John Reid (centre) is briefed about forthcoming operations in Helmand, May 2006
    © IWM HTF-2006-005-038

    April-May: Op Herrick 4 begins

    16 Air Assault Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Ed Butler, deploy as Task Force Helmand. Troops arrive throughout May.

  • A bugle being played at the official ceremony to hand over responsibility of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based at Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province from an American to a British team, May 2006.
    © IWM HTF-2006-006-008


    A British team takes over the US-led PRT in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province

  • British troops on patrol in Nowzad, Helmand, Afghanistan, July 2006.
    © IWM HTF-2006-043-398


    Fighting erupts in Now Zad during an operation to locate a local Taliban leader.

  • The Sangin District Centre, summer 2006
    © IWM DC 38049


    Rocket attack on the Sangin District Centre manned by British troops.

  • British troops approach the town of Musa Qala during an operation to allow the withdrawal of Danish soldiers from the town, August 2006
    © IWM HTF-2006-047-289


    Danish troops withdraw from Musa Qala.

  • September

    Op Sinbad begins in Basra to root out corrupt police and aid reconstruction.

  • Vehicles carrying soldiers from E Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment during the withdrawal from Musa Qala, October 2006
    © IWM DC 38213

    September: Siege of Musa Qala ends

    A ceasefire deal is negotiated by local elders and UK forces leave the following month in a convoy of local vehicles.The Taliban re-establish control of the town in early 2007.


  • January

    President Bush announces the US “surge” in Iraq.

  • A Medical Emergency Response Team, comprising a doctor, specialist nurse and two air paramedics, work to stabilise a casualty on board an RAF Chinook helicopter during a flight from the Sangin area to Camp Bastion Field Hospital, Helmand, Afghanistan.
    © IWM 12BDE-2007-006-072

    April: Operation Silver

    Op Silver. A British operation to clear Sangin of insurgents, part of the larger US led Operation Achilles.

  • Lieutenant General John Lorimer, Deputy Commander (DCOM) ISAF, being interviewed
    © IWM DC 3801


    Op Herrick 6.  Led by 12 Mechanised Brigade under Brigadier John Lorimer.

  • Captain David Broomfield during Operation Silicon, April 2007
    © IWM DC 42003


    Op Silicon, a large Task Force wide operation in the Upper Gereshk Valley. The first of a series of such operations in the coming months.

  • Troops moving from FOB Edinburgh in Musa Qala to Now Zad during Herrick 7
    © IWM 52X-007-2008-075

    October: Op Herrick 7

    Led by 52 (Lowland) Infantry Brigade under Brigadier Andrew Mackay.

  • November: Op Mar Karadad (Snakebite)

    Start of a large scale operation recapture Musa Qala from Taliban control. It ends in January 2008.


  • View of the new hospital at Camp Bastion
    © IWM 52X-014-2008-011


    New hospital building opens at Camp Bastion, replacing an earlier tented structure.

  • Brigadier Andrew Mackay handing over to Brig Mark Carleton-Smith at the start of Operation Herrick 8 in spring 2008
    © IWM HQUKTF-2008-211-0013

    April: Op Herrick 8

    Led by 16 Air Assault Brigade under Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith.

  • The Kajaki dam and power plant
    © IWM DC 37798

    August: Op Oqab Tsuka (eagle’s summit)

    A large scale operation to transport a new turbine to the Kajaki dam. This involves most of Task Force Helmand’s infantry soldiers together with Danish and Canadian troops and some Afghan forces.

  • October: Op Herrick 9

    Led by 3 Commando Brigade under Brigadier Gordon Messenger.

    Taliban launch a major assault against Lashkar Gah, almost over-running the provincial capital.


  • January: Op Entirety

    Initiated by General David Richards, Commander-in Chief Land Forces, this formally puts the British Army on a ‘war footing’ and the Helmand campaign is designated the MoD’s ‘main effort.’

  • April: Op Herrick 10

    Led by 19 Light Brigade under Brigadier Tim Radford.

  • April

    Britain ends combat operations in Iraq.

  • British troops take cover during Operation Panchai Palang (panther’s claw) in 2009
    © IWM HQUKTF-2009-063-0110


    Op Panchai Palang (panther’s claw). A large operation involving over 3,000 troops aimed at securing the area north of Lashkar Gah. The operation formally ends on 25 July.

  • June

    Mastiff 2 - a heavily armoured, six-wheel-drive patrol vehicle arrives in Afghanistan. It provides greater protection from IED strikes for its occupants.

  • August: Elections in Afghanistan

    Afghan presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamid Karzai is re-elected despite low turnout across the country and evidence of electoral fraud.

  • Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, working the ground and developing the defences along the perimeter of the Restrepo outpost in the Korengal Valley, September 2007.
    © IWM DC 49226_1 Photograph: Tim Hetherington


    US President Barack Obama announces a surge in US forces in Afghanistan, bringing total number deployed to 100,000. He also announces plans to start withdrawing from Afghanistan in summer 2011.


  • February: Op Moshtarak (Together)

    A large operation to clear the final Taliban stronghold in central Helmand. It involves 15,000 British, American and Afghan troops. This proves to be the last large scale operation undertaken by UK forces.

  • April: Op Herrick 12

    Led by 4 Mechanised Brigade under Brigadier Richard Felton.

  • June

    US Marines take responsibility for overall command of NATO operations in Helmand with creation of new ISAF Regional Command – Southwest.

    General David Petraeus takes over from General Stanley McChrystal as Commander of ISAF forces.

  • September

    Sangin is handed over to the US Marines.

  • October: Op Herrick 13

    Led by 16 Air Assault Brigade under Brig James Chiswell.

  • November: NATO conference in Lisbon

    NATO conference in Lisbon. Discussions centre on the withdrawal of NATO forces. ISAF heads of state and the Afghan government sign an enduring partnership agreement.


  • April: Op Herrick 14

    Led by 3 Commando Brigade under Brigadier Ed Davis.

  • May: Death of Osama Bin Laden

    Osama Bin Laden is killed in Pakistan by American Special Forces.

  • May

    Departure of the last UK naval training team from Iraq.

  • June

    President Obama announces the planned withdrawal of 30,000 US troops by the following summer.

  • July: Handover

    British had over responsibility for security in Lashkar Gah to Afghan forces.

  • October: Op Herrick 15

    Led by 20 Armoured Brigade under Brigadier Patrick Sanders.


  • Exterior of Lashkar Gah Task Force Headquarters, 2012
    © IWM DC 1671 Lashkar Gah Task Force Headquarters, 2012

    April: Op Herrick 16

    12 Mechanised Brigade under Brigadier David Chalmers.

  • May: NATO Summit at Chicago

    Confirms that ISAF troops will withdraw by the end of 2014.

  • Foxhound vehicles at Camp Souter, Kabul, 2014
    © IWM DC 3718

    June: Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle arrives in Afghanistan

    The vehicle provides unprecedented levels of blast protection for its size and weight. It is the eventual successor to the lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover and Vector vehicles.

  • Image of scene at Camp Viking, the Danish Army camp, part of Camp Bastion, the principal British base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
    © IWM DC 2659


    Denmark ends its combat operations in Afghanistan.

  • General view of Camp Bastion showing double height blast walls and sandbags.
    © IWM DC 3675

    September: Camp Bastion is attacked

    Two US Marines are killed and several aircraft damaged.

  • October: Op Herrick 17

    Led by 4 Mechanised Brigade under Brigadier Bob Bruce.


  • A soldier sits at the rear of a vehicle, making preparations for Combat Logistic Patrol, Camp Bastion.
    © IWM DC 2790

    April: Op Herrick 18

    Led by 1 Mechanised Brigade under Brigadier Rupert Jones.

  • June

    The Afghan National Army takes over responsibility for all military and security operations in the country from ISAF.


  • March

    Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) closes.

  • April

    Afghan Presidential election, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani is elected President.

  • October

    UK ends combat operations in Afghanistan


  • 2015

    After NATO formally ends its 13 year combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014, the Resolute Support Mission begins in January 2015 to provide continued training and support of the Afghan security forces. It includes troops from 36 NATO allies and partners.

  • September 2016

    A peace agreement is signed between the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul and Hezb-i Islami Gulbuddin, the second largest domestic militant group after the Taliban.

  • December 2016

    500 British service personnel remain in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

  • 29 February 2020

    The United States and the Taliban sign a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar. The provisions include the withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control, and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

  • September

    Talks begin between the Afghan government and the Taliban.


  • April

    US President Joe Biden announces that he will withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan on 11 September 2021, twenty years since the 9/11 attacks.

  • May

    The remainder of NATO forces begin leaving Afghanistan.

  • 2 July

    All US and NATO troops leave Bagram airbase, which has been the main base for US operations since 2001.

  • July

    The Taliban switch their focus from border crossings and rural districts to attacks on major towns and cities.

  • 13 August

    The city of Kandahar falls to the Taliban. 

  • 15 August

    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani leaves Afghanistan for Tajikistan.

    The Taliban enter Kabul. 

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