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The Afghanistan Invasion from an International Law Perspective

Afghanistan, the longest war the world's superpower, America, has ever seen against an ally of the group who toppled the towers. We recently saw the Americans end the war, leaving the Taliban Government back in power and women’s and minority’s freedoms in question. We all know the justification the Americans gave for the invasion; Osama bin Laden wasn’t being extradited by the Taliban, but was it a valid legal reason? Was the American invasion of Afghanistan legal under International Law?

To answer this question, we must look at the laws concerning aggression, as well as the events directly following 9/11 and before the US invasion. Directly following the attacks, the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the attacks and, in accordance with their responsibilities under the UN Charter, vowed to do whatever was necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice. The NATO organization quickly declared that the September attacks amounted to aggression against one of their member countries and so their members were allowed to complete any course of action the organization thought necessary, yet there is no legal reason for this authority. The UN and various treaties completely ban any form of aggression to destabilize or compromise the territorial integrity of another state. This is, by definition, what the United States and many NATO states were planning to do. There is no Terror Attack Clause in the UN Charter. The UN Charter allows force in only 2 instances; when UN-controlled force is used in the interest of the International Community or force is authorized by the UN and used in self-defence. Do any of these justifications work?

It could be argued that the Terrorists of Al Qaeda were a threat to the international community. They had just attacked the most powerful nation on earth and were in a jihad against all the West. This justification has 1 requirement, however. NATO would have had to have approached the UN with their evidence to try and get their support for any action, but they simply acted without UN Support. Therefore, this justification doesn’t excuse the Invasion. Perhaps the second justification works?

This clause is the one often used by defenders of the United States’ actions, but this is not entirely correct either. The right of Self-defense requires that the complaint be given over to the UN for deliberation before any action can be undertaken. As referred to above, NATO didn’t refer the case to the Security Council. They threatened Afghanistan with force should they not comply with their demands. This is a blatant breach of the right of Self-defense, and so this justification doesn’t work either.

If both justifications for force do not work, then how can the American Invasion be legal under International Law?

This is the central question of this work, and here is its answer. It simply cannot be legal. The invasion of Afghanistan was a blatantly aggressive move against another country, which is prohibited under the UN Charter, and so America breached its Treaty Obligations to the UN and to the world.


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