13 years and $1 trillion wasted: A timeline of the US Iraq War

Published November 1st, 2015 - 11:09 GMT

In addition to airstrikes, the US is now conducting ground raids in Iraq as part of its effort to uproot ISIS. It’s clear to many that the war to secure Iraq -- which was supposed to have ended in 2011 -- has entered an ugly new phase. After nearly 13 years of fighting and over $1 trillion spent, with over 200,000 killed, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has pushed a country of 32 million into chaos. Here’s a quick look back at how we got here.  

View as a slider
View as a list
saddam statue firdos square

The US begins bombing Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction, and soon sends in ground forces, who overwhelm the Iraqi Army within weeks. Bush gives his now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on board the USS Abraham Lincoln.

US troops fighting iraq

That summer, US troops kill Saddam’s son’s Uday and Qusay in Mosul, and a few months later capture Saddam himself, who is found hiding in a hole on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. US military officials believe they have won the war.

abu ghraib hood man

In March 2004, in an ominous sign for America, 4 US contractors are slain and hung from a bridge above the Euphrates. A month later, photos of torture at Abu Ghraib prison are made public, turning the tide of public opinion in Iraq against America. Crucial regions of the country fall to insurgents.

iraqis voting in elections

Violence in Iraq escalates in 2005, but the political situation moves forward nevertheless. The first free elections in Iraq in 50 years are held that year, and a new constitution is written. Millions of Iraqis elect a new parliament. Meanwhile, Saddam goes on trial in Baghdad for the killing of 148 people in 1992.

saddam execution hanging

In 2006, Iraq spirals into chaos. Sunni militants blow up an important Shia shrine in Samarra, setting off a vicious cycle of violence. In July ‘06 alone, between 1,000 and 3,500 Iraqi civilians are killed. US deaths in Iraq reach 3,000 that year. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigns, and Saddam is hanged in Baghdad.

US iraq sunni awakening

Violence in Iraq continues through the 2006-2007 winter, with suicide bombings killing thousands more people. In summer 2007, the US begins its “Sunni Awakening” program, where Sunni tribesmen are recruited to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s precursor. Later that year, Blackwater guards kill 17 civilians at a traffic circle in Baghdad.

US signs anbar province to iraq 2008

The next year, 2008, sees Baghdad and Basra erupt in fighting as Shiite militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr attack US soldiers and US-supported Iraqi forces. Nevertheless, things seem to be improving in other parts of the country: the US hands over control of Anbar Province to the Iraqi Army, and announces that it will leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

iraqis celebrate after us withdrawal

In 2009, living up to his campaign promises, Obama withdraws most US troops from Iraqi towns and cities. Iraqis celebrate in the streets, shooting off fireworks and declaring a national holiday. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declares the withdrawal “a great victory.”

obama iraq war

The following year, parliamentary elections are held in Iraq. Voter turnout, though strong, is down 13 percent from previous elections as Iraqis fearing violence stay away from the ballot boxes. Obama declares a formal end to the war, saying the US needs to focus on problems at home.

tareq hashemi iraq vice president

In 2012, Iraq’s fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians, is sentenced to death in absentia for running death squads. The death sentence of a prominent Sunni politician deepens divisions in Iraq. Millions of Sunnis across the country stage demonstrations against the Shia-dominated government.

car bomb iraq

The following year, sectarian violence in Iraq increases. In April 2013, Shia government forces raid a Sunni encampment near Kirkuk, killing over 50 people. That summer, at least 500 prisoners, most of whom are Al Qaeda fighters, escape from two major Iraqi prisoners.

isis black flag

In early 2014, Sunni militants led by ISIS capture major cities in Anbar Province, including Ramadi and Falluja. That summer, they make a blitz across Iraq, capturing numerous Iraqi villages and cities, including Mosul, the second largest city in the whole country. The US begins airstrikes to repel them.

haidar abadi iraq

In the fall of 2014, ISIS cements its grip on large swaths of territory in northern Iraq. Kurdish, Iranian and US forces combine strengths to root them out, but to little avail. Meanwhile, Shia politician Haidar al-Abadi becomes Prime Minister, replacing Nouri al-Maliki (also a Shia).

iraqi soldiers battle for ramadi

So far, 2015 has been a mixed year for the battle against insurgents in Iraq. The Iraqi government has had some victories (retaking Tikrit and the Baiji oil plant from ISIS) but ISIS racks up its own wins, most notably by seizing Ramadi, and further entrenches itself in Anbar Province.

US fighter jet iraq

As 2015 draws to a close, the US finds itself further tied down in Iraq. Although Obama maintains there will be “no US boots on the ground,” he authorizes more ground raids on ISIS locations in Iraq. One such raid last week marked a grim milestone: the first death of a US soldier in Iraq since 2011.

saddam statue firdos square
US troops fighting iraq
abu ghraib hood man
iraqis voting in elections
saddam execution hanging
US iraq sunni awakening
US signs anbar province to iraq 2008
iraqis celebrate after us withdrawal
obama iraq war
tareq hashemi iraq vice president
car bomb iraq
isis black flag
haidar abadi iraq
iraqi soldiers battle for ramadi
US fighter jet iraq
saddam statue firdos square
The US begins bombing Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction, and soon sends in ground forces, who overwhelm the Iraqi Army within weeks. Bush gives his now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on board the USS Abraham Lincoln.
US troops fighting iraq
That summer, US troops kill Saddam’s son’s Uday and Qusay in Mosul, and a few months later capture Saddam himself, who is found hiding in a hole on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. US military officials believe they have won the war.
abu ghraib hood man
In March 2004, in an ominous sign for America, 4 US contractors are slain and hung from a bridge above the Euphrates. A month later, photos of torture at Abu Ghraib prison are made public, turning the tide of public opinion in Iraq against America. Crucial regions of the country fall to insurgents.
iraqis voting in elections
Violence in Iraq escalates in 2005, but the political situation moves forward nevertheless. The first free elections in Iraq in 50 years are held that year, and a new constitution is written. Millions of Iraqis elect a new parliament. Meanwhile, Saddam goes on trial in Baghdad for the killing of 148 people in 1992.
saddam execution hanging
In 2006, Iraq spirals into chaos. Sunni militants blow up an important Shia shrine in Samarra, setting off a vicious cycle of violence. In July ‘06 alone, between 1,000 and 3,500 Iraqi civilians are killed. US deaths in Iraq reach 3,000 that year. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigns, and Saddam is hanged in Baghdad.
US iraq sunni awakening
Violence in Iraq continues through the 2006-2007 winter, with suicide bombings killing thousands more people. In summer 2007, the US begins its “Sunni Awakening” program, where Sunni tribesmen are recruited to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s precursor. Later that year, Blackwater guards kill 17 civilians at a traffic circle in Baghdad.
US signs anbar province to iraq 2008
The next year, 2008, sees Baghdad and Basra erupt in fighting as Shiite militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr attack US soldiers and US-supported Iraqi forces. Nevertheless, things seem to be improving in other parts of the country: the US hands over control of Anbar Province to the Iraqi Army, and announces that it will leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
iraqis celebrate after us withdrawal
In 2009, living up to his campaign promises, Obama withdraws most US troops from Iraqi towns and cities. Iraqis celebrate in the streets, shooting off fireworks and declaring a national holiday. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declares the withdrawal “a great victory.”
obama iraq war
The following year, parliamentary elections are held in Iraq. Voter turnout, though strong, is down 13 percent from previous elections as Iraqis fearing violence stay away from the ballot boxes. Obama declares a formal end to the war, saying the US needs to focus on problems at home.
tareq hashemi iraq vice president
In 2012, Iraq’s fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians, is sentenced to death in absentia for running death squads. The death sentence of a prominent Sunni politician deepens divisions in Iraq. Millions of Sunnis across the country stage demonstrations against the Shia-dominated government.
car bomb iraq
The following year, sectarian violence in Iraq increases. In April 2013, Shia government forces raid a Sunni encampment near Kirkuk, killing over 50 people. That summer, at least 500 prisoners, most of whom are Al Qaeda fighters, escape from two major Iraqi prisoners.
isis black flag
In early 2014, Sunni militants led by ISIS capture major cities in Anbar Province, including Ramadi and Falluja. That summer, they make a blitz across Iraq, capturing numerous Iraqi villages and cities, including Mosul, the second largest city in the whole country. The US begins airstrikes to repel them.
haidar abadi iraq
In the fall of 2014, ISIS cements its grip on large swaths of territory in northern Iraq. Kurdish, Iranian and US forces combine strengths to root them out, but to little avail. Meanwhile, Shia politician Haidar al-Abadi becomes Prime Minister, replacing Nouri al-Maliki (also a Shia).
iraqi soldiers battle for ramadi
So far, 2015 has been a mixed year for the battle against insurgents in Iraq. The Iraqi government has had some victories (retaking Tikrit and the Baiji oil plant from ISIS) but ISIS racks up its own wins, most notably by seizing Ramadi, and further entrenches itself in Anbar Province.
US fighter jet iraq
As 2015 draws to a close, the US finds itself further tied down in Iraq. Although Obama maintains there will be “no US boots on the ground,” he authorizes more ground raids on ISIS locations in Iraq. One such raid last week marked a grim milestone: the first death of a US soldier in Iraq since 2011.