During the United States’ longest war, more than 800,000 members of the United States military served in Afghanistan, a multigenerational struggle against a stubborn insurgency.
For troops on the front line, this sometimes meant holding a distant outpost as mortars, rockets, or artillery fire struck almost daily. This meant patrolling through orchards in search of hidden Taliban, on roads covered with explosive devices. They took on missions in the villages, trying to build support among the residents. Raids targeting militant commanders turned into shootings.
With the wave that began in 2009, troops recaptured Taliban territory in the group’s southern strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, only for the insurgents to retake it years later when the wave died down. . In strategic valleys, like Korengal in the high mountains near the Pakistani border or Aurangdal to the south protecting the approaches to Kandahar, cycles of troops over the years have entrenched themselves, fought and attempted to expand their control.
The Americans’ combat role was declared nearly seven years ago, but troops continued to train Afghan forces and hunt down terrorist groups. On Friday, the last troops left Bagram airfield, north of Kabul, their main base throughout the conflict, to hand it over to the Afghan army, a sign that the total withdrawal from the country was nearing completion.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, more than 2,400 US servicemen have been killed and over 20,000 have been injured.