The International Fight Against Terrorism

  • Grades 9 to 12
  • Lesson Duration: One class period
  • Theme: Repercussions of 9/11

Essential Question: How did other nations assist the United States in the immediate search for Osama bin Laden?

Learning Goals

Students will examine the United States’ immediate response to the 9/11 attacks.

Students will discuss the importance of international cooperation when fighting terrorism.


al-Qaeda: This international Islamist extremist terrorist network is responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks since its founding in the 1980s by Osama bin Laden and others who were involved in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Their aim has been to overthrow governments in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, which do not strictly enforce a narrow, fundamentalist version of Islam.

CIA: This is an abbreviation for the Central Intelligence Agency. 

NATO: This is an abbreviation for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Taliban: This Islamist fundamentalist group ran Afghanistan and allowed al-Qaeda to operate in return for money and troops. 


1.  Show the video below, America’s Response, that outlines the actions of some of the first U.S. Operations personnel arriving in Afghanistan after 9/11.


02-Americas-Response-AD fight

2.  After viewing the video, ask students to read the section overview below and answer the following questions:

  • What does Jawbreaker refer to? What were they doing in Afghanistan?
  • Why were Afghan militias important allies for the U.S. military and intelligence communities?

On September 17, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to launch operations in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and its ally, the ruling Taliban government. Nine days later, a small unit of CIA personnel arrived to strengthen alliances with Afghan militias and gather intelligence. 

The U.S. military began operations in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. By early November, approximately 100 CIA officers and 300 U.S. Special Forces were on the ground. International partners also provided troops.

By December 2001, intelligence and military forces had tracked Osama bin Laden to the Tora Bora cave complex in Afghanistan’s Spīn Ghar mountain range. During a weeks-long battle with al-Qaeda, bin Laden escaped. 

3.  Review student answers and ask them to read International Community Responds and consider the following questions:

  • When did NATO meet? What does this date tell you about the importance of this meeting?
  • What does Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty state? Why was the invocation of Article 5 historic? 
  • How did United States’ allies in NATO support America’s response to 9/11?

4.  Review student answers and conclude with a brainstorming activity. As a full class or in small groups, ask students to brainstorm what these early operations in Afghanistan teach us about the importance of international cooperation when fighting terrorism.