A letter sent to the NY Times and not published:
Paul Theroux [website here] writes (“Pardon the American Taliban“, Oct. 23) that “after Sept. 11, the United States invaded Afghanistan on a punitive mission.” That is repeating a myth unfortunately but firmly fixed in most people’s minds.
After Sept. 11 the Afghan Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban did receive American air support and assistance from special forces, both U.S. and British; that, however, is no invasion as the term is commonly understood (e.g. the Soviet attack on Hungary in 1956).
It was not until after the fall of Kabul to troops of the Northern Alliance in mid-November 2001, and the subsequent collapse of the Taliban regime, that there was any continuing regular U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan. That began with a force of over 1,000 Marines which arrived near Kandahar in late November with the agreement of the Northern Alliance (which was still the UN-recognized government of the country).
In fact the support given in October and November 2001 to the Northern Alliance is a very close analogy to NATO’s support of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya with air power. Yet no one refers to an invasion of Libya–while the myth of the invasion of Afghanistan lives on.