News / USA

    Iraq Invasion, Occupation Forged New US War Strategy

    US Conduct of War Reshapedi
    X
    March 15, 2013 4:31 PM
    Long, drawn-out war was far from conventional and shaped the way U.S. military would handle future conflicts.
    Luis Ramirez
    Some estimates now put the cost of the war in Iraq at about two trillion dollars and the number of dead, both military and civilian, at nearly 200,000. The conflict, whose first concussive blasts were felt at 02:30 UTC on March 20, 2003, forever reshaped the way the United States armed forces conduct war.
     
    U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
    x
    U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
    U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
    It was a war that began in a conventional way. U.S. forces went against Iraqi forces with a clear objective: to bring down the government of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
     
    The long, drawn-out war that followed was far from conventional and shaped the way the U.S. military would handle future conflicts.
     
    In 2011, the administration of President Barack Obama opted not to include regime change among its goals in Libya, citing mistakes in Iraq.

    Story continues below photogallery
    • Smoke rises from the Iraqi Trade Ministry in Baghdad after it was hit by a missile during a U.S.-led attacks, March 20, 2003.
    • Smoke rises moments after the bright light at the right faded during U.S. strikes in downtown Baghdad in this image from television, March 20, 2003.
    • Then President George W. Bush makes a statement to reporters while Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on following a Cabinet meeting, March 20, 2003.
    • An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.
    • U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad, April 9, 2003.
    • Iraqi men run through a neighborhood with looted items, Baghdad, April 10, 2003.
    • Iraqis cheer a column of U.S. armored vehicles arriving in Bagdhad, April 10, 2003.
    • A detained Iraqi man with a plastic bag covering his head sits in garden of a house searched by U.S. soldiers during a night raid in Tikrit, Oct. 30, 2003.
    • Iraqi policemen guard the burning pipeline near Karbala, Feb. 23, 2004.
    • British Army troops are covered in flames from a gas bomb thrown during a protest in Basra, March 22, 2004.
    • Coffins of U.S. military personnel are prepared to be offloaded at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo released in 2004.
    • A still from Al Iraqiya television shows masked executioners putting a noose around former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's neck moments before his hanging in Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006.
    • A man runs down a street warning people to flee shortly after a twin car bomb attack at Shorja market in Baghdad, Feb. 12, 2007.
    • A U.S. soldier guards an arrested man after a gunfight in central Baqouba, Iraq, March 29, 2007.
    • Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, April 9, 2007.
    • Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn a banner representing the U.S. flag during a protest in Baghdad's Sadr City,July 3, 2009.
    • U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2011.
    “Regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars," the president said. "That is not something we can afford to repeat.”

    With overwhelming power, U.S. forces were able to swiftly crush Saddam Hussein’s army and declare a quick victory, but managing the sectarian violence that erupted once Saddam was gone was a different story.
     
    “The invasion in fact ended up being the easy part," says Jim Thomas of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "The tough part was obviously the occupation. And our forces, while they optimized themselves for fighting another large conventional military, they were really unprepared for dealing with irregular, non-uniformed insurgents and terrorists that they encountered.”
     
    That new scenario forced changes in Pentagon policy and practices on the ground, with new manuals on counterinsurgency operations, improved intelligence-gathering, a greater emphasis on cultural understanding, and knowledge of how to deal with improvised explosive devices.
     
    But it was the length and the cost of the war that has most shaped the new U.S. defense structure.
     
    “What we’ve learned is that occupations in particular are going to be incredibly costly and that there’s probably little appetite on the part of political leaders to undertake large-scale stability operations, counterinsurgency operations, especially if they’re going to be protracted," Thomas says.
     
    With U.S. public opinion turning against big wars, the focus has shifted to less costly surgical approaches that are heavily reliant on unmanned aerial drones, special operations teams, and training partners and allies to handle conflicts in their own regions.
     
    The approach raises new questions of whether the lessons of Iraq have made war an easier option than it seemed a decade ago.
    Loading timeline...

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    March 15, 2013 6:11 PM
    The biggest error the US made in Iraq, once it engaged, was to fight for the continued integrity of Iraq. Iraq should have been broken down into its constituent ethnic people/areas, and once those areas were secured by the particular ethnic grouping, the US should have left. Unfortunately, to please Turkey, and even some US erroneous US influencers, the US fought for the maintenance of the integrity of a state, that should never have been assambled in the first place. As we see now, Iraq continues to disintegrate, much like the fmr Yugoslavia, and other states around the world. States created by divisive imperial borders continue to suffer wars; and we know the rest. Syria is the same type of state, were people were pushed together, by failed empires, against the will of their ethnic groupings. If those ethnic groupings want to form multi-ethnic countries, they will do so by their own will; forced unifications are a recepee for never ending ethnic wars/genocides.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora