Flag of Iraq
  1. Iraq Main Page
  2. Iraq Gains Independence
  3. Rise of the Baath Party
  4. Saddam Hussein's Ascendancy Brings Series of Wars
  5. After 9/11, the U.S. Launches War in Iraq
  6. No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq
  7. Insurgency Gathers Steam
  8. Iraqi Leadership Struggles in Effort to Form a Government
  9. U.S. Strategy Under Fire
  10. Bush Orders a Surge of U.S. Troops to Iraq
  11. Iraqi Parliament Gets Down to Business
  12. Political Veterans Fare Well in 2010 Parliamentary Elections
  13. War in Iraq Is Officially Over but Political Unrest and Violence Continue as ISIS Emerges
  14. 2014 Parliamentary Elections Unexpectedly Peaceful Despite Rise of ISIS
  15. New Prime Minister Forms a Power-Sharing Government
  16. Mixed Bag in the Fight Against ISIS
  17. Blackwater Guards Convicted
  18. Prime Minister Calls for Overhaul of Government
War in Iraq Is Officially Over but Political Unrest and Violence Continue as ISIS Emerges

On August 31, 2010, more than seven years after the war in Iraq began, U.S. president Barack Obama announced the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Obama emphasized that U.S. domestic problems, mainly the flailing economy and widespread unemployment, are more pressing matters to his country.

As the U.S. was making plans to withdraw troops from Iraq in late summer and fall of 2011, the ongoing insurgent activity in the country cast doubt on the long-term security of the region. This uncertainty was highlighted on Aug. 15, 2011, when insurgents launched more than 40 coordinated attacks throughout the country, mostly on civilians. A total of 89 people died and more than 300 were wounded in the violence, which came in the form of suicide attacks, car bombs, and gunfire. Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia took credit for the attacks, saying they were retribution for the killing of Osama bin Laden. The lethality of the incursions made it clear that Iraq is far from secure and remains a hotbed of terrorist activity.

In outlining his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, President Obama had planned to keep about 5,000 troops in the country as advisers and trainers, but he reversed the decision in late October when Iraq said the remaining troops would not be given immunity from Iraqi law. About 150 members of the Defense Department staff will remain in Iraq to maintain the security of the U.S. Embassy and the oversee the sale of military equipment to Iraq. In addition, the CIA will maintain a presence in the country.

On December 15, 2011, the U.S.-led war in Iraq officially ended. The war, launched in March 2003 based on faulty evidence of weapons of mass destruction and a dubious connection to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, lasted nearly nine years, killed more than 4,440 U.S. troops, and cost about $1 trillion.

On Dec. 19, 2011, the Iraqi government issued a warrant for the arrest of Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's vice president since 2006. Charged with operating death squads responsible for 150 assorted bombings, killings, and assassinations, al-Hashemi denied the accusations—claiming they were politically motivated—and fled to Turkey. On Sept. 9, 2012, al-Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging in absentia. The trial stirred up political unrest and ethnic violence. Maliki, who had been seeking to expand control of security in the Kurdish north, sent government troops to the region. The Iraqi and Kurdish troops engaged in a potentially volatile standoff.

In March 2013, ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country remained politically unstable and vulnerable to another civil war, with mounting tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds.

May 2013 witnessed a surge in violent attacks between Sunnis and Shiites when bomb blasts in Sunni areas on the 17th left more than 66 dead. A deadly echo occurred three days later in Shia sections of Baghdad when car bombs killed 76 civilians. On the same day in Shia-predominant Basra, at least 15 were victims in more bomb attacks; and in an area north of Baghdad, 12 Iranian pilgrims were killed.

In July 2013, Al Qaeda in Iraq orchestrated two bold, well-planned prison escapes using both mortar and suicide attacks that resulted in some 800 dangerous militants going free from facilities at Taji and Abu Ghraib. The sophistication of the operation signaled the growing threat from the militant group as well as the weaknesses in Iraq's security forces. The prison breaks coincided with increased car bombings and sectarian violence throughout the country.

In Aug. 2013, during the Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of Ramadan, more than 100 Iraqis—mostly civilians—were killed in sectarian gun and bomb attacks in Baghdad and beyond. Similar violence continued through the end of the year, with the death toll for 2013 reaching close to 9,000, making it the deadliest year since 2008.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an affiliate of al Qaeda made up of Sunni militants—several of whom broke out of prison in 2013, threatened the stability of the country and tested the strength of the Iraqi armed forces at the end of 2013 and into January 2014. Many Sunnis are disappointed with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Maliki, claiming it has shut out Sunni leaders and targeted Sunni citizens. Such policies have fueled the insurgency. Forty Sunni members of parliament resigned in December. In early January 2014, ISIS took control of Falluja and most of Ramadi, both cities in Anbar Province that are Sunni strongholds and were major battlegrounds during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Government troops resumed control of Ramadi, but the militants held on to Falluja.

Al Qaeda severed ties with ISIS in early February 2014, citing the group's refusal to comply with directives from Al Qaeda leadership and its insistence on acting independently of other rebel groups. The rift had been simmering for months, but the final straw seemed to be ISIS's defiance of an order to leave Syria from Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.

Moktada al-Sadr, the radical—and influential—Shiite cleric who led the powerful Madhi militia that fueled sectarian violence during the war in Iraq by fighting both Iraqi Sunnis and American troops, announced his departure from politics in February 2014. He had allied himself with Prime Minister Maliki but said the government is "a group of wolves hungry for power and money, backed by the West and the East." He encouraged his allies in Parliament to stay on and continue their work.

In April 2014, Iraq announced the "complete closure" of Abu Ghraib, the infamous prison in which members of the U.S. military physically and sexually abused Iraqi prisoners. Images of the abuse were publicized in April 2004. Saddam Hussein also used the prison to torture and execute inmates.

Next: 2014 Parliamentary Elections Unexpectedly Peaceful Despite Rise of ISIS
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