Originally published in the New York Times Lens Blog on August 22, Rod Nordland
KABUL, Afghanistan — Soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States military’s attention turned to Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda’s leaders were based. The world awaited an invasion that many knew was sure to come.
What nobody knew was that the invasion to rout the Taliban and Al Qaeda would turn into a war that has now stretched into its 16th year — America’s longest.
It has vexed three American presidencies and outlasted a dozen American military commanders.
The war also opened a window into a country where modernity clashed with tribal customs and religious edicts.
On Monday night, President Trump announced a new strategy for the war, bringing with it a possible increase in troop levels and a seemingly open-ended commitment to American involvement.
Here in reverse-chronological order are images that depict the arc of the war, as seen through the eyes of New York Times photographers who shadowed the soldiers of the United States and its allies.
Members of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, tending to a wounded comrade in Kundunz
A view of the outskirts of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province in 2016.
The aftermath of an accidental American airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz in 2015.
Afghan National Army soldiers, left, and American soldiers blew up a Taliban firing position in the village of Layadira, Kandahar Province, in 2013.
Members of the 101st Airborne Division in Paktia Province in 2013.
Soldiers boarded a helicopter in Kunduz in 2013.
Marines on patrol looking for homemade bombs in Marja, Helmand Province, in 2010.
Afghan soldiers rushed a wounded Afghan National Police officer to a United States Army medevac helicopter in Kunar Province in 2010.
An American soldier looking over the Pech Valley, in Kunar Province, in 2010.
An American troop transport preparing to land in Mazar-i-Sharif in April 2010.
A suicide car bomber struck near a hotel in Kabul, killing at least eight people and wounding 40, in 2009.
Soldiers from the First Infantry Division on a foot patrol in Hutal, Kandahar Province, in 2009.
President George W. Bush, with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, during a visit to Kabul in 2008.
Wounded soldiers in the Korengal Valley in 2007.
American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division took cover and yelled to others to get out of the line of fire after being ambushed in a valley by Taliban fighters while patrolling the village of Hazarbuz in southern Afghanistan in 2006.
American soldiers at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, in 2002.
An Eastern Alliance fighter watched as an American B-52 bomber circled above Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains in 2001.
Northern Alliance fighters on the way into Kabul in 2001 found a Taliban fighter in a ditch and killed him despite his pleas.
Northern Alliance troops walked to the front lines at Bangi, outside the besieged Taliban stronghold of Kunduz in 2001.