War on Terrorism

National Geographic News
Updated on October 9, 2001
Photo gallery of the first images of the strikes against Afghanistan
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Scroll to the bottom of this story for a comprehensive list of links to follow the war in both the Middle East and the United States.

The United States and Great Britain began strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Sunday.

The targeted actions were designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime, Bush said. He was addressing the nation from the Treaty Room in the White House less than an hour after explosions were reported in Kabul and other places in Afghanistan.

Blair confirmed that Great Britain was taking part in the offensive, deploying missile-firing submarines in the initial round of attacks. The two leaders said that France, Germany, Australia, and Canada also pledged forces as the operation unfolds.

"More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights," Bush said. "Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world." Read the President's full statement.

"These brutal attacks are horrendous, terrorist acts, as inhuman as any in the world," the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, was reported by CNN to have said in a statement shortly after the Allied strikes began. "America will never achieve its political goals by launching bestial attacks on the Muslim people of Afghanistan," he added.

In a statement believed to have been taped before Sunday's air strikes on Afghanistan, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appeared to be endorsing the September 11 attacks on the United States. "God has guided a bunch of Muslims to be at the forefront and destroyed America, a big destruction, I wish God would lift their position," reads the transcript provided by Al-Jazeera television, an Arabic satellite service which aired the tape.

"I swear by God the Great, America will never dream nor those who live in America will never taste security and safety unless we feel security and safety in our land and in Palestine," the transcript says. Read the transcript of Osama bin Laden's statement.

Operation Enduring Freedom

The Allied military action, called "Operation Enduring Freedom," came 26 days after terrorists killed more than 6,000 people in attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and a wing of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Terrorists believed to be part of the al Qaeda network hijacked four airliners and flew three of them into the buildings. The fourth aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania in an apparent bid by the passengers to wrest the controls from the hijackers. It is believed that the hijackers were intending to fly that aircraft into a target in Washington.

In his statement on Sunday, Bush said Taliban leaders had failed to meet his demands to close terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the al Qaeda network and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens detained in Afghanistan. "None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price," Bush said. "By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans."

"It is now almost a month since the atrocity occurred," Blair said. "It is more than two weeks since an ultimatum was delivered to the Taliban to yield up the terrorists or face the consequences. It is clear beyond doubt that they will not do this. They were given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror and they chose to side with terror." Read the Prime Minister's full statement.

Food, Medicine Dropped for Afghan "Friends"

While striking military targets,. the U.S. also began dropping food, medicine, and supplies to the "starving and suffering men and women and children" of Afghanistan, Bush said. "The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name."

Both Bush and Blair stressed that the military action was only part of an overall strategy that included diplomacy, the freezing of financial assets, and humanitarian assistance.

"Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader," Bush said. "Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers, themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril."

"This, of course, is a moment of the utmost gravity for the world," Blair said. "None of the leaders involved in this action want war. None of our nations want it. We are a peaceful people. But we know that sometimes to safeguard peace we have to fight."

Monitor the Developments in the War on Terrorism

Afghanistan Country Facts

Use National Geographic's MapMachine to view maps of Afghanistan and other countries in the region.

The White House

Read the President's statement announcing Operation Enduring Freedom

Statement by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld

U.S. Department of Defense (for regular briefings and updates)

British Prime Minister's Office (updates and statements)

Read the Prime Minister's statement on Enduring Freedom

U.S. State Department (briefings, statements, travel advisories)

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (latest news on air safety)

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (news on the investigation of the 9/11 terrorism attacks)

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency War on Terrorism Site (terrorism FAQs, related links, information about potential bioterrorism, and more)

CIA World Fact Book 2001 (profiles of Afghanistan and all other countries of the world)

Inside Al-Qaeda (Jane's Security look at the world of militant Islam)

National Geographic News Coverage of the 9/11 Attacks on America and Related Stories

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After Terrorist Attack, Afghans in U.S. Challenge Cultural Stereotype
The tragedy of the terrorist attack on the United States has drawn together, but also splintered, the global family. As people around the world unite in grief and efforts to recover, there is a desperate urge for greater understanding of differences in cultures and religions.

Koran a Book of Peace, Not War, Scholars Say
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Geographic Veteran Reflects on Fear Captured in Photographs
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Commentary: Historically, D.C. No Stranger to Attacks
In putting into perspective the September 11 terrorist attack on America, historian Edward C. Smith recalls how the British burned down the White House and the Capitol and how Washington could so easily have been invaded by the Confederacy after the first battle of the Civil War. The world wars of the last century turned Washington into a world capital. It is, Smith writes, a city defined by war.

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Inferno Heat, Not Impact, Brought Down Towers, Experts Say
Not long after two hijacked jets crashed into the upper floors of the World Trade Center last week, millions of people watched in horror as the buildings collapsed to the ground like stacks of pancakes. Experts told the TV news show National Geographic Today that had it not been for the raging inferno caused by the jet fuel fires, the buildings might still be standing.

Search-and-Rescue Tested at New York Disaster Site
Three experimental robots, each about the size of a shoebox, are being used to search for victims in the mountain of rubble that was once the World Trade Center in New York City. The TV news show National Geographic Today looked at the development of these new search-and-rescue tools.

After the Attacks: Regrouping, Recovering, Rebuilding
As a traumatized nation began resuming the routine motions of daily life on Thursday, expressions of sympathy came from millions of people around the world, and other nations vowed to support America in the monumental task of healing and recovery after Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Team from National Geographic Killed in Pentagon Crash
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