Timeline: US troops in Iraq

  • Invasion begins March 2003
  • Baghdad falls April 2003
  • Victory declared May 2003
  • Saddam captured December 2003
  • Insurgency
  • Abu Ghraib prison April 2004
  • Suicide bombings 2005
  • New government May 2006
  • Surge begins January 2007
  • UK troops leave April 2009
  • US role change August 2010
  • End in sight October 2011
  • Invasion begins

    President George W Bush says the US is striking selected targets in an effort to disarm Iraq. The US and UK claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was capable of using. Operation Iraqi Freedom begins with a "shock and awe" campaign intended as a show of force. Bombs are dropped on a farming community outside Baghdad where intelligence incorrectly suggested Saddam might be hiding.

  • Baghdad falls

    It takes less than a month for US tanks to roll down the streets of Iraq's capital city. President Bush's spokesman Ari Fleisher offers this prophetic take: "As much as the president is pleased to see the progress of the military campaign... he remains very cautious because he knows there is great danger that can still lie ahead."

    Solider covers a statues face with an American flag
  • 'Mission accomplished'

    Two months into the invasion, President Bush appears on an aircraft carrier off the coast of California to declare victory. The Bush administration is careful to note that the president is not declaring a legal end to the war - in part because they had never officially declared war on Iraq, and in part because fighting continues. US military engagement in Iraq will last for more than eight years.

  • Saddam captured

    "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," US administrator Paul Bremer tells Baghdad-based journalists. Saddam is found by US troops south of Tikrit, his hometown, in an underground cellar. In 2006, after a trial conducted by the new Iraqi government, Saddam is found guilty of crimes committed during his regime and hanged.

    Poster of Saddam Hussein
  • Insurgency takes hold

    Late in 2003, insurgents begin targeting US-backed forces and fighting erupts between rival militias. US troops wage fierce battles against insurgents in Fallujah in April 2004. The second battle of Fallujah takes place in November 2004 and is the bloodiest of the war - at least 1,200 insurgents and 800 civilians are killed, while coalition forces lose over 100 troops, with at least 600 wounded.

  • Abu Ghraib scandal

    Images of US service personnel humiliating and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison circulate around the world after they are shown on a US TV news programme. US officials say the abuse was the work of a "few bad apples", but a 2008 Senate Armed Services committee inquiry concluded that the abuse was part of a larger culture of aggressive techniques solicited by government officials.

    US service personnel humiliating prisoner
  • Suicide bombing spreads

    Suicide bombing hits an all-time high in 2005, with 478 suicide attacks. The focus of the insurgency has now shifted away from military personnel and on to civilians. The country devolves into sectarian strife with Sunni insurgents targeting Shias, a portend of the civil war to come in 2007.

    Aftermath of a suicide bombing
  • New government

    The prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, seeks parliamentary approval for the first full government since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
    In July, coalition forces transfer control of a province, Muthanna, to local Iraqi authorities for the first time.

  • Surge begins

    In the face of mounting attacks by insurgents, the US sends in a surge of fresh troops while extending tours for troops stationed in volatile areas. Under the leadership of General David Petraeus, the plan marks a new direction for the war, with more emphasis placed on "winning hearts and minds". By 2008, violence drops by 80% in some areas. At that point, coalition forces focus on training Iraqis to eventually take over security measures.

    Troops prepearing for surge
  • UK combat troops leave

    British forces lower their flag over the city of Basra to signify the end of their combat operations. In 2011, the last 81 British troops in Iraq - sailors monitoring the port of Umm Qasr - turn over their duties to the Iraqi navy. A total of 179 UK service personnel gave their lives to the conflict.

  • US combat troops withdraw

    The last US combat troops leave Iraq, but 50,000 American service members remain in an advisory capacity, training and assisting the Iraqi military. To signify the end of combat, the US mission in Iraq, previously called Operation Iraqi Freedom, is renamed Operation New Dawn.

  • End in sight

    President Barack Obama announces the end of US military involvement in Iraq, promising to have the troops home by Christmas. The announcement comes after the US and the Iraqi governments fail to reach an agreement about extending criminal immunity for US forces in Iraq - this effectively guaranteed that troops would leave by the time the current military agreement between the US and Iraq expires on 31 December, 2011.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More US & Canada stories


Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.