This article presents a brief overview of the United States Involvement in the Iraq War.
Prior to the US Invasion
Prior to invading Iraq in March of 2003, the UN Security Council had passed a resolution requiring Iraq to give their full cooperation to UN weapon inspectors, who would be investigating claims that Iraq still housed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Though the UN Monitoring Verifications and Inspection Commission did not uncover any hidden WMD, they were unable to verify the accuracy of a declaration by Iraq as far as what specific weapons they possessed. It was determined by the survey group that Iraq had discontinued both their chemical and biological programs ten years earlier, but it was the intention of Iraq to resume production should the sanctions be lifted.
During this time, some US officials accused Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq, of harboring and giving support to the al-Queda. Additional accusations stated Iraq was financially supporting the families of Palestinian bombers. Four days prior to the attack, the US instructed the inspectors – work unfinished - to leave Iraq.
US Troops Attack Iraq
On March 20, 2003, a United States coalition entered into Iraq launching a surprise attack without first declaring war. The invasion was comprised of 250,000 US military troops, with support from an estimated 45,000 British forces, close to 2,000 Australian forces and about 200 Polish forces.
By May 1st of that same year, President Bush declared the invasion a success. He stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and announced that major combat operations had ceased and the US, along with her allies, was successful in removing an ally of al Qaida. Despite the encouraging news, fighting continued within various pockets of resistance and Saddam Hussein still remained at large. President Bush gave no specific date for withdrawal of US troops.
Iraq 2005 - 2008
By 2005, the US was assisting with a sequence of elections. The Iraqis voted along cultural and sectarian lines, which further reinforced the widening societal differences that had already occurred under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration was greatly disappointed though when the Iraqis votes were overwhelmingly conservative and religious. As a result, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was Iraqi’s most powerful Shiite cleric, won the majority of votes in both elections and took control of the government. This further angered the Sunni Arab insurgency and created new concerns for the US government.
From the beginning, the war in Iraq had a devastating effect over much of the Middle East. Some felt Iran gained the most from this situation, being ruled by Shiite Persians and having a close connection with Iraq’s Shiite leaders. During the summer of 2007, violence erupted in Iraq – both in the central and western regions, which included Baghdad. Further escalation of fighting continued and resulted in President Bush’s decision to increase the number of troops in Iraq.
In June of the following summer, officials from the US Department of Defense felt both security as well as economic indicators began to display signs of improvement. They listed the gains as significant, but fragile. Public opinion favored withdrawal of troops once the forces in Iraq began to take control and member nations of the Coalition began withdrawing their troops. By late 2008, both the US and Iraqi governments accepted the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement, which was to remain in effect until January 1, 2012. Iraq’s Parliament also set forth a Strategic Framework Agreement with the United States showing intent to ensure cooperation in constitutional rights, education, energy development and a number of other areas.
The War Ends
By late February of 2009, President Obama (newly elected US president) announced a plan to withdraw combat forces. The evacuation would take place over an 18 month period with an estimated 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq to assisting with advising and training of Iraq’s security forces. They would further provide intelligence and surveillance. On December 15, 2011, the war in Iraq was officially declared over. Three days later, on December 18, the last of the US troops were evacuated from the Iraqi territory.