KABUL – With the stroke of midnight last night marking the end of NATO's joint combat mission in Afghanistan, Duffel Blog looks back on 13 roller-coaster years of history that gripped a nation and forged a generation of American heroes and FOBBITs:
November 2001: Aided by US Special Forces and a coalition bombing campaign, Northern Alliance fighters sweep Afghanistan and uproot the Taliban from Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamiyan, Herat, Kabul, and Jalalabad – so basically nowhere we’ve ever heard of.
December 2001: Osama Bin Laden located in Tora Bora, which clears that up.
March 2002: The coalition scores a net victory with Operation Anaconda, but that’s not cheering anyone up when Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring suffers a harrowing defeat at the 74th Oscars to that Russell Crowe suckfest, A Beautiful Mind.
March 2003: Troops shocked and awed at how shitty the food around here’s gotten all of a sudden.
May 2003: From Kabul, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declares an end to “major combat” operations, which is embarrassing, because that speech was meant for Baghdad.
October 2004: Afghans flock to the polls for the first time since that hazy summer of 1969. Says one nostalgic voter, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
2005: No news is good news, so that thing in Afganistan (sp?) must be going great.
May 2007: The top Taliban commander for Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, is killed in Helmand Province, demonstrating once and for all the indomitable might of coalition air superiority and top-of-the-line weapons technology over a man with one leg.
Mid-2008: With civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes mounting, Afghan President Hamid Karzai implores American officials that his people have endured enough freedom.
November 11, 2008: Taylor Swift drops Fearless, and we’re in love.
2009: Under a new counterinsurgency strategy, troop levels surge to an all-time high for the war. That's 142,000 problems for the folks in J-6, who will spend deployment asking, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
November 2009: With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision brings real Afghan action to living rooms everywhere. So grab a remote and hup two, soldier! There’s a war on!
June 2010: US Army golden boy and future City University of New York professor Gen. David Petraeus replaces "Runaway" Gen. Stanley McChrystal amid scandal.
May 1, 2011: Gah!! He was in Pakistan?! All this time?!? Our Garmins were way off …
2012: Attacks on coalition forces by Afghan military counterparts — so-called "green on blue" attacks — emerge as a prominent and alarming Taliban tactic. "Which is weird," says a Pentagon representative, "because that's not what we trained them to do."
February 2012: US troops at Bagram burn some Qurans, but who will notice? Oh, no, wait. A bunch of fucking people die for this one.
March 2012: Preliminary peace talks between United States and Taliban representatives in Qatar are suspended suddenly, when Taliban representatives learn they’re involved in preliminary peace talks with the United States.
2013: We’re new here, but can someone please explain all this construction on base? Are those stairs made of fucking marble?!
Mid-2013: As Afghans officially take the lead on nationwide security, ISAF gifts state-of-the-art command centers to local police and military forces. Swell news for the Afghans, who were really hurting for some copper wire and a few good corners to shit in.
April 5, 2014: Blood, sweat, and some $700 billion USD spent in Afghanistan since 2001 have all set the conditions for a make-or-break presidential election between who and who, again? Now keep it down. We're watching Game Of Thrones.
December 28, 2014: The NATO ceremony bringing a formal end to 13 years of war is carried out in secret, due to the threat of Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital. We are not making this up; 2014 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001. Womp womp.
December 28, 2014: President Obama hails the “responsible conclusion" to America's longest war. “Responsible, like calling a cab when you've had to much to drink,” he explains. The President assures veterans and their families that our country is safer for their sacrifices and offers everyone listening a coupon to Denny’s.
January 1, 2015: Approximately 10,800 American troops remain in Afghanistan, roughly the same number as in parts of 2002, 2003, and 2004, when we were at war. Happy New Year, and welcome home.