U.S. Strategy Under Fire
- Iraq Main Page
- Iraq Gains Independence
- Rise of the Baath Party
- Saddam Hussein's Ascendancy Brings Series of Wars
- After 9/11, the U.S. Launches War in Iraq
- No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq
- Insurgency Gathers Steam
- Iraqi Leadership Struggles in Effort to Form a Government
- U.S. Strategy Under Fire
- Bush Orders a Surge of U.S. Troops to Iraq
- Iraqi Parliament Gets Down to Business
- Political Veterans Fare Well in 2010 Parliamentary Elections
- War in Iraq Is Officially Over but Political Unrest and Violence Continue as ISIS Emerges
- 2014 Parliamentary Elections Unexpectedly Peaceful Despite Rise of ISIS
- New Prime Minister Forms a Power-Sharing Government
- Mixed Bag in the Fight Against ISIS
- Blackwater Guards Convicted
- Prime Minister Calls for Overhaul of Government
U.S. Strategy Under Fire
In February, a U.S. Senate report on progress in Iraq indicated that, despite the U.S. spending $16 billion on reconstruction, every major area of Iraq's infrastructure was below prewar levels. Incompetence and fraud characterized numerous projects, and by April, the U.S. special inspector general was pursuing 72 investigations into corruption by firms involved in reconstruction.
In May, a number of news stories broke about a not-yet-released official military report that U.S. Marines had killed 24 innocent Iraqis “in cold blood” in the city of Haditha the previous Nov. 19. The alleged massacre, which included women and children, was said to have been revenge for a bombing that killed a marine. The marines are also alleged to have covered up the killings. The military did not launch a criminal investigation until mid-March, four months after the incident, and two months after TIME magazine had reported the allegations to the military. Several additional sets of separate allegations of civilian murders by U.S. troops have also surfaced.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the most-wanted terrorist in the country, was killed by a U.S. bomb. Zarqawi was responsible for many of the most brutal and horrific attacks in Iraq. But his death seemed to have no stabilizing effect on the country. The UN announced that an average of more than 100 civilians were killed in Iraq each day. During the first six months of the year, civilian deaths increased by 77%, reflecting the serious spike in sectarian violence in the country. The UN also reported that about 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced, and up to 1.8 million refugees have fled the country.
At the end of July, the U.S. announced it would move more U.S. troops into Baghdad from other regions of Iraq, in an attempt to bring security to the country's capital, which had increasingly been subject to lawlessness, violence, and sectarian strife. But by October, the military acknowledged that its 12-week-old campaign to establish security in Baghdad had been unsuccessful.
In September, a classified National Intelligence Estimate—a consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, signed off by director of national intelligence John D. Negroponte—concluded that the “Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse.” By this time, many authorities characterized the conflict as a civil war—as one political scientist put it, the level of sectarian violence is “so extreme that it far surpasses most civil wars since 1945.” The White House, however, continued to reject the term: it would be difficult to justify the role of American troops in an Iraqi civil war, which would require the U.S. to take sides.
The increasingly unpopular war and President Bush's strategy of “staying the course” were believed responsible for the Republican loss of both Houses of Congress in November midterm elections, and for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately thereafter. In December, the bipartisan report by the Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James Baker and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, concluded that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating” and “U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.” The report's 79 recommendations included reaching out diplomatically to Iran and Syria and having the U.S. military intensify its efforts to train Iraqi troops. The report heightened the debate over the U.S. role in Iraq, but President Bush kept his distance from it, indicating that he would wait until Jan. 2007 before announcing a new Iraq strategy. On Dec. 31, 2006, the U.S. death toll in Iraq reached 3,000, and at least 50,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the conflict—the UN reported that more than 34,000 Iraqis were killed from the violence in 2006.