The Iraq War, also known as the Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom, was a conflict that began on March 20, 2003, and lasted until December 18, 2011. It involved a U.S.-led coalition of nations invading Iraq with the primary objectives of dismantling the regime of Saddam Hussein and eliminating the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
In the aftermath of the [[September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks]], the United States focused on combating global terrorism and addressing perceived threats from countries like Iraq. The administration of President [[George W. Bush]] accused the Iraqi government of possessing WMDs and having links to terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda who had been responsible for the events of 9/11. Despite international opposition and inconclusive evidence, the United States and its allies, primarily the United Kingdom, decided to invade Iraq, asserting that military action was necessary to protect global security.
## Invasion and initial occupation
The invasion began on March 20, 2003, with coalition forces quickly advancing towards the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. On April 9, 2003, U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, and on May 1, President Bush declared the end of major combat operations. He famously landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet, and gave a speech in front of a banne reading, "Mission Accomplished." However, the conflict was far from over, as a violent insurgency against the occupying forces began to emerge.
## Insurgency and civil war
From 2003 to 2007, Iraq experienced a period of intense violence marked by sectarian conflicts, insurgency, and acts of terrorism. The U.S.-led coalition struggled to maintain security and stabilize the country while simultaneously trying to establish a functioning Iraqi government. The situation was exacerbated by the disbanding of the Iraqi military and the de-Baathification policy, which left many former regime members unemployed and resentful.
## The Surge
In 2007, the United States implemented a new strategy known as "the surge," which involved the deployment of an additional 20,000 to 30,000 American troops to Iraq in order to provide security to Baghdad and Al Anbar Governorate. The surge was developed under the working title "The New Way Forward" and was announced in January 2007 by Bush during a televised speech on January 10.
This strategy, along with a shift in tactics and the cooperation of Sunni tribes in the Anbar Awakening, led to a reduction in violence and improved security in many parts of the country.
## Withdrawal and aftermath
In December 2008, the United States and Iraq signed the Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulated that all U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. The last American combat troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011, officially ending the Iraq War. However, the withdrawal left a power vacuum and a fragile political situation that contributed to the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.
The Iraq War remains a controversial and divisive conflict, with critics arguing that it was based on false pretenses and mismanaged from the start. The war resulted in significant loss of life, with estimates ranging from 100,000 to over 600,000 deaths, including civilians and military personnel. Additionally, it caused massive displacement, destruction of infrastructure, and long-lasting consequences for the Iraqi people and the broader Middle East region.