Iraq War

War which started on 20 March 2003
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Iraqi Freedom
Invasion of Iraq
Iraq Invasion
Occupation of Iraq
War in Iraq
Second Gulf War
Gulf War II
Gulf War 2/battle of Ramadi/battle of Faluya
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March 20, 2003
end time
December 15, 2011
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The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the first three to four years of conflict. US troops were officially withdrawn in 2009 but are still fighting in Iraq, most of them having been redeployed following the spread of the Syrian Civil War and the territorial gains of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Many former soldiers are employed by defence contractors and private military companies. The U.S. became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition; the insurgency and many dimensions of the civil armed conflict continue. The invasion occurred as part of the George W. Bush administration's War on Terror, following the September 11 attacks. In October 2002, Congress authorized President Bush to use military force against Iraq should he choose to. The Iraq War began on 20 March 2003, when the U.S., joined by the U.K. and several coalition allies, launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S.-led forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba'athist government; Saddam Hussein was captured during Operation Red Dawn in December of that same year and executed three years later. The power vacuum following Saddam's demise and the mismanagement of the Coalition Provisional Authority led to widespread civil war between Shias and Sunnis, as well as a lengthy insurgency against coalition forces. Many of the violent insurgent groups were supported by Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq. The United States responded with a build-up of 170,000 troops in 2007. This build-up gave greater control to Iraq's government and military, and was judged a success by many. The winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq accelerated under President Barack Obama. The U.S. formally withdrew all combat troops from Iraq by December 2011. The Bush administration based its rationale for the Iraq War principally on the assertion that Iraq, which had been viewed by the U.S. as a "rogue state" since the 1990–1991 Gulf War, supposedly possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) program, and that the Iraqi government posed a threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Some U.S. officials falsely accused Saddam of harbouring and supporting al-Qaeda, while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission said there was no evidence of an operational relationship between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda. No stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD program were ever found in Iraq. Bush administration officials made numerous assertions about a purported Saddam-Al-Qaeda relationship and WMDs that were based on sketchy evidence, and which intelligence officials rejected. The rationale of U.S. pre-war intelligence faced heavy criticism both domestically and internationally. The Chilcot Report, a British inquiry into its decision to go to war, was published in 2016 and concluded military action may have been necessary but was not the last resort at the time and that the consequences of invasion were underestimated. When interrogated by the FBI, Saddam Hussein admitted to having kept up the appearance of possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to appear strong in front of Iran. He also confirmed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion. In the aftermath of the invasion, Iraq held multi-party elections in 2005. Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006 and remained in office until 2014. The al-Maliki government enacted policies that were widely seen as having the effect of alienating the country's previously dominant Sunni minority and worsening sectarian tensions. In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a military offensive in northern Iraq and declared a worldwide Islamic caliphate, leading to Operation Inherent Resolve, another military response from the United States and its allies. The Iraq War caused at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths, as well as tens of thousands of military deaths (see estimates below). The majority of deaths occurred as a result of the insurgency and civil conflicts between 2004 and 2007. Subsequently, the Iraqi Civil War, which is considered a domino effect of the invasion, caused at least 67,000 civilian deaths, in addition to the displacement of five million people within the country.
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