The Iraq War
2003 – 2011

The Iraq War

In March 2003, U.S. forces invaded Iraq vowing to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and end the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. When WMD intelligence proved illusory and a violent insurgency arose, the war lost public support. Saddam was captured, tried, and hanged and democratic elections were held. In the years since, there have been over 4,700 U.S. and allied troop deaths, and more than one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed. Meanwhile, questions linger over Iraq’s fractious political situation.

March 20, 2003

War Begins

An explosion rocks one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad during air strikes.
An explosion rocks one of the palaces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad during air strikes. Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

President George W. Bush announces that U.S. forces have begun a military operation into Iraq. “These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign,” the president says. That initial effort to “decapitate” Iraq’s leadership with air strikes fails, clearing the way for a ground invasion.

April 9, 2003

A Regime Crumbles

Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in downtown Baghdad
We Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Jerome Delay/AP Photo

U.S., British, and other coalition forces quickly overwhelm the Iraqi Army, though elements loyal to Saddam who will form the core of a postwar insurgency fight on. Three weeks after the invasion, Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam in Baghdad’s Firdos Square.

May 1, 2003

Mission Accomplished

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
U.S. President George W. Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast. J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

President Bush declares the end of major combat operations in Iraq from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Lawlessness and some skirmishing in the country are written off as the desperate acts of “dead-enders” by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

May 23, 2003

Iraqi Army Disbanded

Sacked Iraqi soldiers from the disbanded Iraqi army protest in front of U.S. soldiers next to the headquarters of the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad.
Soldiers from the disbanded Iraqi army protest their dismissal near the headquarters of the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad. Andrea Comas/Reuters

After two weeks on the job, L. Paul Bremer III, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, signs an order disbanding the Iraqi army and intelligence services, sending hundreds of thousands of well-armed men into the streets. The order, coupled with an earlier decision to purge Baathists from the government, has lasting repercussions.

June 22, 2003

Aces Fall

Saddam Hussein poses with his sons Uday and Qusay (R) in a photo from the private archive of an official photographer for the regime.
Saddam poses with his sons Uday and Qusay. Reuters

With violence beginning to coalesce into organized resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay, are killed by U.S. troops during a raid in the northern city of Mosul. The manhunt that led to their demise had yet to find Saddam himself or many of his top aides.

August 19, 2003

Mello Murdered

Officials, including Paul Bremer and Ahmed Chalabi, stand before the coffin of slain UN envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello during a ceremony, before the coffin was put on a Brazilian airforce jet.
U.S. and UN officials pay respects before the casket of slain UN envoy to Iraq Sérgio Vieira de Mello. Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images

A suicide bomber driving an explosives-filled cement mixer destroys the UN headquarters in Iraq, killing in the process Sérgio Vieira de Mello, UN special representative to Iraq, and twenty-two members of his staff. The United Nations immediately withdraws all nonessential employees.

December 14, 2003

Saddam Captured

Saddam Hussein in video footage after his capture.
Saddam is filmed after his capture. Reuters

Acting on tips from the dictator’s bodyguard and family members, U.S. troops find Saddam hiding out in a one-man hole near his boyhood home in Tikrit. The capture is heralded by military officials as a possible turning point, and Washington expresses hope that rising violence will abate.

January 24, 2004

WMD Search Aborted

Former top US weapons inspector David Kay testifies before the US Senate Armed Services committee 28 January 2004 on Capitol Hill.
Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay testifies before the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

The Bush administration concedes its prewar arguments about extensive stockpiles of chemical, biological, and even nuclear weaponry in Saddam’s Iraq appear to have been mistaken. In January 2004, David Kay, the former top U.S. weapons inspector, tells Congress: We were almost all wrong. A presidential commission concludes in March 2005 that not one bit of prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction panned out.

March 31, 2004

Mutilation in Fallujah

A US Marine of the 1st Division writes the words "Dark Horse" on a beam of the bridge western Fallujah, Iraq, where the bodies of two American contractors killed by militants were strung.
A U.S. marine writes a tribute on a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq, where the bodies of murdered American contractors were hung. Anja Niedringhaus/AP Photo

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) mounts a wave of suicide bombings, striking against Shiite Muslim holy sites in Baghdad and Karbala. The attacks kill hundreds, stoking sectarian resentment. In Fallujah, meanwhile, four U.S. contractors are killed, burned, and hung from a bridge, with video of the slaughter beamed around the world.

April 28, 2004

Abu Ghraib

A U.S. soldiers threatens a Iraqi detainee with a dog.
Sergeant Michael Smith and his dog intimidate a detainee at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. AP Photo

Evidence of prisoner abuse inside the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison becomes public. Backed by photographic evidence, the conviction of seven soldiers for the torture and humiliation of detainees brings jail sentences. Critics, including some of the convicted, complain that senior officers and officials are spared.

May 11, 2004


Family members of slain American Nicholas Berg consoles each other as they walk to a memorial service for him in West Chester, Pa., Friday, May 14, 2004.
Family members of slain American Nicholas Berg stand at his memorial service in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Chris Gardner/AP Photo

The kidnappers of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, citing Abu Ghraib, videotape his beheading and post it on a jihadi website. The U.S. government later claims Berg was killed at the hands of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of AQI.

September 8, 2004

Battle for Fallujah

Marines use explosives and machine guns to open a metal gate to a house, as they search houses for insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq.
U.S. marines blast open a metal gate during a house-to-house search for insurgents in Fallujah in November 2004. Scott Peterson/Getty Images

With Iraq’s national elections approaching, fifteen thousand U.S. and Iraqi service members assault the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in central Iraq. The urban fighting is successful but costly. Thirty-eight U.S. troops die, along with six Iraqi soldiers. The Pentagon estimates 1,200 insurgents are killed, and the Red Cross says eight hundred Iraqi civilians are also among the dead.

October 15, 2005

Signs of Democracy

Iraqis show their ink-stained fingers and raise pictures of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and late Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim as they jubilate in Baghdad's poor Sadr city neighborhood.
Iraqis show their ink-stained fingers and raise pictures of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the late Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim after voting in Baghdad. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Despite violent outbursts, 2005 is an election year for Iraq, and a sign of hope for Washington. In the fall, Shiites flash victory signs—with ink-stained fingers—in front of an image of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani after voting in Iraq’s constitution referendum. Two months later, Iraqis vote for their first, full-term government, giving Shiites majority control of parliament.

February 22, 2006

Sparks in Samarra

 Iraqi Shiite men brandish their weapons as they protest the bombing of a Shiite holy shrine.
Shiite Muslims brandish weapons as they protest the bombing of a Shiite holy shrine in Baghdad. Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

Sunni Muslim extremists destroy the gilded Shiite shrine in Samarra. The attack unleashes waves of sectarian violence in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City that spread across the country. Analysts later point to the Samarra strike as the start of sectarian bloodletting.

April 22, 2006

Maliki Named Prime Minister

Iraqi politician Jawad al-Maliki (C) stands with embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (L) and Sunni leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim during a news conference in Baghdad .
Iraqi politician Nouri al-Maliki is flanked by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on his left and Sunni Muslim leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on his right at a news conference. Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

December 2005 elections bring the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance into power, and in April 2006, the party names Nouri al-Maliki prime minister. Maliki is a longtime Iraqi politician with close ties to Iran. He forms a unity government with Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis the next month.

June 8, 2006

Zarqawi Killed

Spokesman of Multi-National Force-Iraq Major General Bill Caldwell speaks during a press conference as satellite images are being shown of a U.S air strike in which the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawii.
Major General Bill Caldwell presents satellite images of the U.S air strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

AQI leader Zarqawi is killed in a U.S.-led air strike near Baquba. His bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings was deplored by American and Iraqis alike. Washington expresses measured optimism that his death will dampen the insurgency.

July 9, 2006

The Human Toll

A wounded Iraqi woman  helped by a man walks amid debris from a bomb attack in Baghdad.
A man helps a wounded woman in the aftermath of bombings in central Baghdad. Mohammed Ameen/Reuters

It is widely agreed upon that Iraqi civilian deaths peak in July. But estimates, which hover between 1,000 and 3,500 for that month, vary greatly. The Pentagon declines to keep such statistics. Independent analyses diverge greatly.

November 5, 2006

Saddam's Day in Court

President Saddam Hussein gestures and yells as the court as a bailiff attempts to silence him as the verdict is delivered during his trial.
Saddam reacts to the court’s verdict. David Furst/AP Photo

The trial of Iraq’s former dictator ends with a sentence of death by hanging. In the south, Shiites take to the streets celebrating. Sunni militants north of Baghdad vow revenge. In the courtroom, a bailiff attempts to silence Saddam as the verdict “guilty of crimes against humanity” is dispensed.

November 8, 2006

Rumsfeld Exits

 Close up of Donald Rumsfeld looks looking on while Robert Gates speaks.
Former CIA Director Robert Gates speaks during the announcement that he will replace Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. secretary of defense. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Bush accepts the resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who had become a lightning rod for criticism of the conduct of the war. Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert M. Gates, assumes office the same day.

December 30, 2006

Saddam Executed

Iraqi Shiites cheer after hearing watching the official footage on TV of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's execution
Iraqi Shiites cheer televised footage of Saddam’s execution. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Saddam, clutching a Quran, goes to the gallows after a quarter-century of brutal, dictatorial rule. Bush says Saddam received the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime. A widely circulated video capturing his abuse at the hands of his executioners, however, taints an already controversial verdict in some eyes.

January 10, 2007

The Surge

A crowd of newly naturalized U.S. soldiers raise their hands during a ceremony at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq.
Newly naturalized U.S. soldiers attend a ceremony at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Ali al-Saadi/Pool/AP Photo

Bush announces a “new way forward” in Iraq, vowing to commit an additional twenty thousand troops to bring stability in and around Baghdad. The Pentagon steps up its recruiting efforts in response, including the signing of newly naturalized soldiers like those, pictured here, who joined the fight during a ceremony at Camp Victory in July 2007.

February 10, 2007

A General Takes Charge

 US General David Petraeus (C), accompanied by his translator and entourage, eats a pastry he bought in the Shorja market area while on foot patrol to meet shopkeepers and other Iraqis.
U.S. General David Petraeus and his entourage visit Baghdad’s Shorja market. Chris Hondros/Getty Images

General David H. Petraeus, fresh from leading a rewriting of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, assumes command of U.S. forces. The West Point graduate takes over a tenuous security situation in Iraq amid allegations that neighboring Iran is supplying deadly roadside bombs to Shiite militants.

June 1, 2007

The Awakening

Former Iraqi insurgents, members of the Sunni Anbar Awakening, sit in the back of a pickup truck.
Former insurgents guard a meeting between Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders and clerics in al-Duwanem, southwest of Baghdad, in September 2007. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. forces begin recruiting Sunni tribe members, many former insurgents, to take up arms against militants working with AQI. The so-called Awakening begins in Anbar Province but spreads to other parts of Iraq. The tactic is credited by General Petraeus and others with helping diminish insurgent violence in the second half of 2007.

August 19, 2007

Day of Death

Men stand in rubble at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the village of Kahtaniya, Iraq.
Men survey the site of a suicide bombing in Til Ezer, also known as Qahtaniya, one of two Yazidi villages attacked on August 14, 2007. Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

As security in Iraq’s central provinces improves, hopes for calm in northern Iraq are shattered when coordinated suicide truck bombings decimate villages of minority Yazidis, west of Mosul. Hundreds are killed and wounded in the deadliest strike since the beginning of the war.

September 14, 2007

Targeting U.S. Allies

Iraqi Sunni tribesmen bury their leader, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha and three of his bodyguards.
Sunni tribesmen bury their leader, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, and three of his bodyguards in the city of Ramadi. AFP/Getty Images

With U.S.-assisted “Awakening Councils” making headway, insurgents target Sunnis now working with the United States. Ten days after meeting with Bush in Anbar Province, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the most prominent figure in the revolt, is killed in an explosion near his home.

December 16, 2007

Iraqis Out Front

Iraqi soldiers drive tanks during a handover ceremony in Basra.
Iraqi soldiers drive tanks during a handover ceremony in the city of Basra. Atef Hassan/Reuters

British forces relinquish control of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, to Iraqi forces. The training and equipping of Iraqi security forces to take over security duties is a major coalition goal. In spite of some progress in relatively quiet provinces, more than a year after Britain's handover in Basra, the city continues to be overrun by militants and criminal gangs.

December 30, 2007

The Human Costs

 A military honor guard carries a casket of a U.S. soldier during a funeral ceremony at Arlington national Cemetery.
A military honor guard carries the casket of Army Sergeant Michael C. Hardegree during his funeral in Arlington, Virginia. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

U.S. war casualties total nine hundred in 2007, making the year of the “surge” the deadliest yet for U.S. soldiers. As the five-year anniversary approaches, nearly four thousand U.S. troops have died in the fighting, and an additional thirty thousand have been wounded.

January 13, 2008

Signs of Political Progress

Women chant slogans as they demonstrate against Baath party in Najaf.
Women protest against the Arab Socialist Baath Party in Najaf, Iraq. Abu Shish/Reuters

A new law reverses elements of the 2003 “de-Baathification” policy and allows some to return to government. But progress lags on achieving other “benchmarks” created by Washington, including an oil revenue-sharing law and new provincial elections.

March 3, 2008

Old Foes, New Friends

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon his arrival in Baghdad.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, right, shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon the latter’s arrival in Baghdad. Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad, marking the first time since the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s that an Iranian president has visited.

March 24, 2008

Crackdown on Shiite Militias

Mehdi Army fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hold their weapons while flashing the "V" sign.
In Basra, fighters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr flash the victory sign in Basra. Atef Hassan/Reuters

Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra erupt in violence as loyalists to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr attack U.S. and Iraqi security forces. In response, Prime Minister Maliki launches a crackdown on Sadrists, convincing some—though not all—that he is a national leader above sectarianism.

April 23, 2008

A Change of Leadership

General David Petraeus (L) sits beside General Ray Odierno during a Change of Command ceremony at Camp Victory in Baghdad.
General Petraeus, left, sits beside General Raymond Odierno during a change-of-command ceremony at Camp Victory on September 16, 2008. Dusan Vranic/Pool/Reuters

Bush taps Petraeus to lead U.S. Central Command, placing him in operational control of both the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts. Petraeus’s former No. 2, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, succeeds him as the new commanding general in Iraq.

September 1, 2008

Handover in Anbar

Iraqi security forces carry Iraqi flags as they parade during a handover ceremony.
Security forces parade with Iraqi flags during a handover ceremony at the government headquarters in Ramadi. Wathiq Khuzaie/Pool/Reuters

In Anbar, once the country’s most restive province, the U.S. military hands over security responsibilities to the Iraqis. The move is seen as a symbolic first step toward eventual U.S. withdrawal. Later the same month, Iraq’s parliament passes a provincial elections law, clearing the way for voting in most of Iraq’s provinces by January 31, 2009.

November 4, 2008

Obama Wins the White House

A U.S. soldier and an embassy official watch U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on television.
U.S. personnel watch President-Elect Barack Obama on television at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Petros Giannakouris/Pool/Reuters

Barack Obama, campaigning on a vow to withdraw combat troops in Iraq within sixteen months of taking office, is elected the forty-fourth president of the United States on November 4. Three weeks later, the Iraqi parliament approves a pair of agreements outlining future military and civilian relations between Washington and Baghdad, confirming U.S. forces aim to withdraw by 2011.

December 1, 2008

Old Hand for New Approach

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates step off Marine One to board Air Force One.
Obama and Defense Secretary Gates prepare to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in February 2009. Jim Young/Reuters

President-Elect Obama asks incumbent Defense Secretary Gates to stay on. Gates insists his previous opposition to a withdrawal timetable was made irrelevant by the security agreement approved by parliament in November calling for a U.S. withdrawal by 2011.

February 1, 2009

The Drawdown Begins

A U.S. soldier  stands guard in a street market in Mosul.
A U.S. soldier conducts a patrol in Mosul, Iraq. Erik de Castro/Reuters

Making good on a campaign pledge, President Obama announces plans to remove combat brigades from Iraq by August 2010. His plan will leave a transitional force of 35,000–50,000 soldiers and marines to train, equip, and advise Iraqi security forces until the end of 2011. Seen by many as the beginning of the end of the war, some experts express concern over the pacing, and Gates says Washington should be prepared to maintain a “modest-sized presence” after the 2011 deadline if the Iraqis request it.

June 30, 2009

U.S. Troops Withdraw from Cities

Iraqis police and soldiers celebrate on the streets of the southern city of Basra as US troops withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities.
Iraqi police and soldiers celebrate on the streets of Basra after U.S. troops withdraw towns and cities across Iraq. Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. combat troops withdraw from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in accordance with a Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States. More than 150 U.S. bases and outposts in Iraqi cities were shut down ahead of the June 30 deadline. Maliki calls the withdrawal a “great victory,” declaring a national holiday, while some Iraqis are skeptical about domestic forces’ capabilities. Prior to the withdrawal, some U.S. military officers also expressed concerns about Iraqi security forces’ dependence on U.S. troop support and political leaders’ overconfidence. Some exceptions to the withdrawal from cities had been negotiated, particularly in the troubled northern city of Mosul and certain areas of Baghdad. The SOFA, which set the June 30 deadline for withdrawal from cities, also sets a date for U.S. forces to fully withdraw from the country by 2011.

December 2009

U.S. Casualties at Record Low

Photo showing the US flag and the shadows of onlookers viewing crosses to commemorate the 4,237 US soldiers killed so far during the war in Iraq.
In Los Angeles, a temporary memorial created by a veterans group commemorates U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed during the war. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

December 2009 marks the first full month in which there are no U.S. combat deaths since the beginning of the war. May was the deadliest month of 2009, with seventeen combat-related casualties and an additional eight noncombat deaths. In 2009, 149 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, the lowest annual rate of U.S. military fatalities since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

March 7, 2010

Iraqi Parliamentary Elections

An elderly man with an inked finger flashes a victory sign after he voted at a polling station in Sadr City.
An elderly man flashes the victory sign after voting in Sadr City, a district of Baghdad. Kahtan al-Mesiary/Reuters

Parliamentary elections are held on March 7 under stringent security by Iraqi forces. Dozens of explosions rock Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, but voter turnout is over 62 percent. Voter participation is down from 75 percent in the 2005 general elections, as some voters are deterred by fear of violence and doubts about democracy. U.S. officials call the elections a success and an important step toward withdrawing U.S. troops in the summer of 2010. More than 6,200 candidates from eighty-six lists participate in the elections, which showcase a power struggle between Maliki’s Shiite coalition and former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s cross-sectarian secular list. Some opposition parties make allegations of fraud, but diplomats and UN officials helping to organize the elections maintain there weren’t widespread violations.

August 31, 2010

Combat Operations End

U.S. soldiers listen to instructions as they wait for their flight back to the U.S. at Camp Virginia in Kuwait.
U.S. soldiers await their flight back to the United States at Camp Virginia in Kuwait. Stephanie McGehee/Reuters

After more than seven years of war, 4,400 U.S. casualties, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, the United States officially ends its combat mission in Iraq. In an address to the nation, Obama underscores the war’s shared sacrifices while stressing that the United States will not abandon Iraq. “In the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets,” Obama said. “What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.” While combat operations are officially over, roughly fifty thousand U.S. troops remain to train and partner with Iraqi security forces. All U.S. forces are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011, though an uptick in violence and an ongoing political deadlock—six months after the March 2010 parliamentary voting, a coalition government has yet to be formed—prompts new calls for a reevaluation of Washington‘s withdrawal timeline.

December 21, 2010

Parliament Approves Coalition Cabinet

Iraqi MPs vote in parliament.
Iraqi lawmakers vote on December 21, 2010. Ali al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images

After more than nine months of political wrangling, the Iraqi parliament approves a coalition government forged by Maliki’s State of Law party and several other factions. The agreement keeps Maliki as prime minister and Jalal Talabani—a Kurd—as president. But a power-sharing arrangement with former Prime Minister Allawi—whose Iraqiya party won a majority of seats—never takes shape. Maliki names thirty-four ministers to his cabinet, including rival Sunni politicians, which U.S. officials say reduces the chances that disaffected Sunnis will split off and resume sectarian warfare. But Maliki refrains from naming heads of the defense and interior ministry, appointing himself the interim head and causing concern about a growing centralization of power. U.S. officials cite the acrimonious relationship between Allawi and Maliki as an obstacle to U.S. troop withdrawal and combating terrorism in the country.

October 21, 2011

Ending the War

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C. as reporters listen.
At a White House press conference, President Obama announces that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket/Getty Images

In accordance with prior security agreements, Obama announces that the remaining thirty-nine thousand U.S. troops will return from Iraq by the end of 2011, marking a conclusion to the nearly nine-year war and “a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Iraq.” The president’s speech follows the failure of U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to reach an accord on a residual contingent of U.S. trainers. However, Maliki indicates that Iraq will be open to further dialogue on the issue, including on the size of the U.S. training force, the nature of their mission, and the duration of their stay. The primary bone of contention remains the question of legal immunity for U.S. trainers.

December 18, 2011

Final U.S. Troops Leave

The last U.S. Army convoy vehicle drives down the road after crossing into Kuwait from Iraq.
The last U.S. Army convoy crosses into Kuwait from Iraq on December 18, 2011. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The last U.S. soldiers leave Iraq, ending a nearly nine-year military mission. Since 2003, more than one million airmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines served in the country. The costs of the conflict were high: $800 billion from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, with nearly 4,500 Americans and well over 100,000 Iraqis killed. U.S. troops brought the mission to an official close two days prior with a ceremony in Baghdad. Military forces will be succeeded by a diplomatic mission charged with overseeing U.S. interests in a country still struggling with security problems and deep-seated sectarian divisions.