15 years ago today the United States commenced Operation Iraqi Freedom. An operation to oust Saddam Hussein, take down one of the 3 countries listed by then President George W. Bush as the “axis of evil” and to rid the country of their supposed weapons of mass destruction stockpile.
The initial invasion of Iraq could not have gone any smoother. The United States military, flanked by our British allies made a strong and steadfast push from Kuwait all the way to Baghdad. Moving at lightning speed, the allies couldn’t even stay caught up with how quickly the Iraqi Army was surrendering. In some cases, the Americans left water and MRE’s with their Iraqi prisoners but had to keep moving because they had nowhere to put the enemy combatants and the mission objective was to reach Baghdad as quickly as possible.
The problems started after the country was liberated. The Coalition Provisional Authority, lead by Paul Bremer decided to disband the Iraqi military. This turned out to be a catastrophic mistake. The second biggest issue was the foreign fighters pouring into the country that eventually evolved into Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). At this point in time the American military essentially had Afghanistan under control after the invasion of that country after the September 11 terrorist attack. Al Qaeda and any foreign fighters fled Afghanistan and found themselves in Iraq where they could continue their fight against America. They found safe haven in Iraq due to it being a lawless country due to the Iraqi military being disbanded and with the cities being urban areas, they were able to blend in much easier. The next 4 years turned into a bloody insurgency battle.
The tide turned in 2007 when General David Petraeus implemented the “Surge.” Then President George W. Bush committed an additional 20,000 American troops to the country. This move helped stabilize the country by taking the fight strongly to the insurgency and in turn, helping the Iraqi government take hold. The surge was a major military success that the next President of the United States squandered.
In an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise, Barack Obama pulled all American forces out of Iraq in 2011. This will go down in history as the biggest blunder in the entire war. Bigger than any mistake made during the first 7 years. The United States military had the war won. They had either eliminated or pushed out the foreign fighters. American casualties were at their lowest point since the war began and it was the presence of Americans that was keeping the peace. Once the Americans left, the foreign fighters flooded back into the country and ISIS was born.
When Donald Trump became the President of the United States he too had a campaign promise to fulfill. That promise was to eradicate ISIS from the face of the earth. By installing General James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense the fate of ISIS was sealed. The legendary Marine Corps General has done what Marines do best, take the fight to the enemy. In less than 1 year, ISIS is all but gone and Iraq is once again stabilized.