The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 set into motion a response from the United States and eventually a range of coalition allies that coalesced nearly a month later when the UK under the leadership of Tony Blair supported the United States under the leadership of George W. Bush to begin airstrikes in Afghanistan.
50 countries would eventually participate in the War in Afghanistan with around 130,000 troops at its peak in 2010-2011. Throughout its history the War in Afghanistan has been divided into several missions that help to explain how troop participation by country is organized:
- September 14, 2001 – Australian Prime Minister John Howard invokes the mutual protection clause of the the ANZUS Treaty
- October 2, 2001 – NATO confirms invocation of the Article V mutual defense pact
- October 7, 2001 – US and UK begin military operations in Afghanistan, known as Operation Enduring Freedom
- December 20, 2001 – UN establishes ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, to secure Kabul
- August 11, 2003 – NATO takes command of ISAF
- October 13, 2003 – The UN expands ISAF’s mission to cover all of Afghanistan
- December 8, 2014 – NATO’s combat mission officially ends; just prior to this ISAF ceases operations and disbands
- December 12, 2014 – The UN establishes a new NATO-led non-combat train, advise, and assist mission for Afghanistan, called Operation Resolute Support or Resolute Support Mission
- December 28, 2014 – US announces the end of Operation Enduring Freedom
- January 1, 2015 – Operation Resolute Support begins, a NATO-led UN mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan troops; this operations continues to the present day
- January 1, 2015 – US continues operations in Afghanistan under the name Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which includes participation in the NATO-led UN Resolute Support Mission; this operation continues to the present day
NATO, comprising 19 member states in 2001, plus the rest of the world with UN involvement meant troop deployments to Afghanistan were a truly global affair. Many countries contributed supplies or allowed coalition armed forces to use their bases or airspace.
The Different Missions in Afghanistan
The opening volley of the War in Afghanistan was launched by the US with support from the UK under the name Operation Enduring Freedom.
A month-and-a-half later the UN passed Security Council Resolution 1386 establishing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF’s original mission only pertained to providing security and stability in the capital Kabul. In its inception it was comprised of troops and equipment from 19 countries and was commanded by the UK.
Under the original ISAF charter, leadership changed every six months. This was modified to full NATO control of ISAF in 2003. Shortly after the United Nations expanded ISAF’s role to include operations throughout all of Afghanistan with the passage of Security Council Resolution 1510.
NATO led the UN-backed ISAF mission until it was disbanded at the end of 2014. At this time the UN passed Security Council Resolution 2189 establishing a NATO-led non-combat mission in Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist Afghan troops. This new mission was launched on the first day of 2015 and continues to the present.
While the United States plays a leading role in the UN-authorized, NATO-led missions (including ISAF missions until then end of 2014), it also operates its own missions separately in its Operation Freedom’s Sentinel campaign. Even though combat missions officially ended in 2014, US troops still participate in counter-terrorism raids, force protection, and logistical support up to the present.
Map of Countries That Deployed Troops to Afghanistan
50 countries have contributed troops to the War in Afghanistan.
List of Countries By the Numbers of Troops Deployed in Afghanistan
While the War in Afghanistan started in 2001, searching through NATO’s ISAF and RSM Placemats Archive reveals troop level statistics beginning in 2007 through the present, peaking in 2011 and 2012. These numbers are for the ISAF and Operation Resolute Support missions; the US participates in these, however it also has additional troops for its own missions (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel) listed in another section below.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||0||55||79||55||63||0|
|United Arab Emirates||0||0||35||35||0||0||0|
Based on the above figures the top-15 contributors of troops to the War in Afghanistan are, in order:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
Military Times reports these numbers for US troop deployments to Afghanistan through 2015: