10 Years After the Iraq Invasion


According to the report, Maliki said, "This money and the blood that was shed here is part of the price [paid by] the United States of America in cooperation with Iraq to fight terrorism ... and establish the Strategic Framework Agreement."

Today, Iraqi politics continues to reflect the divide between Sunnis and Shiites.

When the war started in March, 2003 few resources were dedicated to a post-war reconstruction effort. Eventually, the U.S. spent $60 billion to rebuild Iraq and the special inspector general estimated in its report that at least $8 billion of it might have been wasted. The Pentagon estimates that the long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq cost $728 billion.

Military plans called for the ground invasion of Iraq to begin March 21, 2003, after the start of an hours-long, air-bombing campaign over Baghdad intended to convey "shock and awe."

Those plans were carried out as scheduled, but by then the war was already two days old.

The war had begun the night of March 19, 2003, with a hastily planned bombing attack on a farm south of Baghdad where fresh intelligence indicated Hussein might be hiding. Years later, that intelligence was also proven to have been inaccurate.

In a televised address that night, President George W. Bush told the nation, "My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

Bush warned that the military campaign "could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment."

Within a few weeks, U.S. troops were in Baghdad and the fall of one of Hussein's statues symbolized the hope for a new start in Iraq.

But a few months later, when U.S. officials disbanded Hussein's army, an American military adept at launching a large-scale conventional invasion quickly found itself ill-prepared for the task of providing security in the face of a growing insurgency fueled by Hussein's former soldiers.

In time, the military adopted a counterinsurgency strategy that in 2007 led President Bush to order the "surge" of additional troops to Iraq. At the peak of the surge in late 2007, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq numbered 170,000, almost 100,000 more troops than the initial invasion force in 2003.

For U.S. military leaders, Iraq provided some important and hard-fought "lessons learned" about how the military should prepare for future conflicts. Among them was that the U.S. military should include counterinsurgency training in the future and the recognition that planning for post-combat occupations should be remain a priority.

That wisdom was soon communicated throughout the military.

In February 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Army cadets at West Point that the military should plan for all kinds of military conflict in the future.

"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.

"The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq -- invading, pacifying and administering a large Third World country -- may be low," Gates said.

He added that the U.S. should work to prevent "festering" international problems "from growing into full-blown crises which require costly -- and controversial -- large-scale American military intervention."

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