Dangerous Precedent: America’s Illegal War in Afghanistan

49 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2011 Last revised: 16 Apr 2016

Date Written: September 1, 2011


Osama bin Laden’s death has lead many to question the efficacy of America’s continued fighting in Afghanistan. Too often dismissed is any meaningful discussion of the legality of the war on terror in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has promised to keep fighting until at least 2014. The use of force in international law is generally forbidden, except under three circumstances: in self-defense, pursuant to a United Nations Security Council resolution, or with consent from the leader of an invaded state. After a careful examination of all three, it is apparent that America’s continued fighting in Afghanistan, more than a decade after 9/11, does not fall under any category. By continuing to fight this illegal war, America loses a significant amount of moral high ground and tangible international leverage. Worse still, by relying on an illegitimate leader’s consent as justification for the war, America unwittingly establishes a precarious blueprint for future states to follow. Whatever sound (or unsound) reasons America has for continuing the war, its illegality foreshadows a more dangerous future.

Keywords: terror, terrorism, terrorist, security, national security, Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, September 11, War on Terror

Suggested Citation

Williams, Ryan T., Dangerous Precedent: America’s Illegal War in Afghanistan (September 1, 2011). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1923956 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1923956

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