Lesson Plan

How the Military Response to 9/11 Led to Two Decades of War in Afghanistan


This 12-minute video and lesson plan examine how within weeks of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to attack Taliban strongholds. By the end of the year, the mission’s main goal was accomplished. But shifting objectives led to the expansion of a war that became the longest in U.S. history, and is ending in chaos. This lesson asks students to engage in a “Structured Academic Controversy.” The goal of the activity is for students to analyze sources, classify arguments, and engage in discussion.


Students will:

  • Prioritize and describe key events in the War in Afghanistan.
  • Analyze multiple media sources, including film and news articles, in order to distinguish between public policy arguments.
  • Synthesize arguments from a particular point of view and work collaboratively to reconcile differing points of view and advocate for a resolution to the Structured Academic Controversy.
  • Social Studies
  • Civics & Government
  • World History
  • U.S. History
  • America as a World Power
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Terrorism
  • September 11th
  • 9/11
  • World History
  • Civics and Government
  • U.S. History
  • George W. Bush
  • The Modern Era (1980-Present)
  • AP U.S. History
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • Should the United States have withdrawn from Afghanistan?
  • What key events took place during the twenty year period that U.S. forces were in Afghanistan?
  • What are the arguments for and against removing U.S. forces?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "How the Military Response to 9/11 Led to Two Decades of War in Afghanistan"Retro Report 
As Afghanistan Collapses, a Lament for ‘Repeating the Same Mistakes’Retro Report 
For Afghan Women, Elusive Gains in Rights Are at RiskRetro Report 
Structured Academic Controversy (SAC)Teaching History 
Structured Academic Controversy: What Should We Do?: Northwest Association for Biomedical Research 
Structured Academic ControversyPedagogy in Action 
Move Over Debate, It’s Time to DeliberateTeaching Channel 
The Benefits of Implementing a Structured Academic Controversy in the ClassroomedCircuit 
Education Strategies for Structured DiscussionNorthwest Association for Biomedical Research 

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.

Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Analyze multiple and complex causes and effect of events in the past.

Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com