October 2001–March 2014
On 11 September 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States. The Taliban government in Afghanistan sheltered the terrorist group. A multinational military mission, including Canada and led by the United States, invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban government and attack Al-Qaeda. Canada’s involvement included efforts to provide security to Afghanistan’s new government, and aid reconstruction in a country riven by a generation of war. Later, Canadians contributed to the war against a growing Taliban insurgency. Canada concluded combat operations in 2011 and left Afghanistan in 2014. The country remains at war.
Beginning in late 2001, Canada joined a United States-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan. Canadians then joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, in 2003-2005.
Later that year, Canadian Armed Forces personnel contributed a Provincial Reconstruction Team and a battle group to serve in Kandahar province to combat an insurgency. This mission expanded to include an Afghanistan Air Wing in 2008. In July 2011, Canada ended its combat commitment, but continued training Afghan National Security Forces until 2014.
After the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the first Canadian battle group went to Kandahar on 7 October 2001. In this deployment, the Canadians protected Kandahar Airfield and supported American operations.
Starting in 2003, Canada provided security in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, as part of the International Security Assistance Force, a UN sponsored, NATO-led force.
Canada returned to Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, in 2005. Canadian soldiers fought alongside NATO and Afghan partners to secure key areas from the Taliban. Over six years, they were engaged in large-scale battles and daily firefights, braved roads seeded with improvised bombs, protected development projects, and tried to win the trust of the local population.
The end of Canada’s contribution to the mission brought personal and national reflection on what had been accomplished, and what had been lost.
The Afghanistan War was Canada’s longest war. More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the 12-year campaign. 158 Canadian soldiers died during the Afghanistan mission. Thousands of other veterans of the war were wounded, physically and psychologically, leading to additional deaths by suicide.
During and after the war, Canadians have debated the scale and scope of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. While some have questioned the war and its costs, others have expressed support for the soldiers and civilians involved.
Canada’s military forces played a key role in fighting the insurgency, aiding the Afghanistan people, and attempting to restore some normality to the shattered country.
Canadian soldiers pause in a grapefield during Operation Medusa, part of the September 2006 Battle of Panjwaii in Kandahar.
Courtesy of the Department of National Defence, AR2006-P005-0031