Major Military Operations Since World War II

Updated March 23, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

World War II was the last war fought in which the President asked Congress for a declaration of war. Since then, United States armed forces have been in combat several times, including the following:

1950-1953 Korean War

Communist North Korea, supported by China, invades non-communist South Korea. UN forces, principally made up of U.S. troops, fight to protect South Korea. The Korean War is the first armed conflict in the global struggle between democracy and communism, called the Cold War.

1961 Cuba

The U.S. orchestrates the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba.

1961-1973 Vietnam War

In 1955, communist North Vietnam invades non-communist South Vietnam in an attempt to unify the country and impose communist rule. The United States joins the war on the side of South Vietnam in 1961, but withdraws combat troops in 1973. In 1975 North Vietnam succeeds in taking control of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War is the longest conflict the U.S. ever fought and the first war it lost.

1965 Dominican Republic

U.S. president Lyndon Johnson sends marines and troops to quash a leftist uprising; he fears the Dominican Republic might follow in the footsteps of Cuba and turn communist.

1982 Lebanon

U.S. troops form part of a multinational peacekeeping force to help the fragile Lebanese government maintain power in the politically volatile country. In 1983 241 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers are killed by a truck bomb. The multinational force withdraws in 1984.

1983 Grenada

U.S. President Ronald Reagan invades the Caribbean island nation of Grenada to overthrow its socialist government, which has close ties with Cuba. A U.S. peace-keeping force remains until 1985.

1989 Panama

U.S. President George H. W. Bush invades Panama and overthrows Panamanian dictator and drug-smuggler Manuel Noriega. Noriega is later tried and convicted on a number of charges, and is imprisoned in the United States.

1991 Gulf War (Kuwait and Iraq)

Iraq invades the country of Kuwait. The Gulf War begins and ends swiftly when a U.S.-led multinational force comes to Kuwait's aid and expels dictator Saddam Hussein's forces.

1993 Somalia

A U.S.-led multinational force attempts to restore order to war-torn Somalia so that food can be delivered and distributed within the famine-stricken country.

1994 Haiti

After Haiti's democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is ousted in a coup in 1991, a U.S. invasion three years later restores him to power.

1994-1995 Bosnia

During the Bosnian civil war, which begins shortly after the country declares independence in 1992, the U.S. launches air strikes on Bosnia to prevent ethnic cleansing. It becomes a part of NATO's peacekeeping force in the region.

1999 Kosovo

Yugoslavia's province of Kosovo erupts in war in the spring of 1999. A U.S.-led NATO force intervenes with air strikes after Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian forces uproot the population and embark on a plan of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population.

2001-Present Afghanistan

The Taliban government harbored Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist group, responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. After Afghanistan refused to turn over Bin Laden, the U.S. and UN coalition forces invaded. The Taliban government was ousted and many terrorist camps in Afghanistan were destroyed. Thereafter, the Taliban begin regrouping. By 2005, the Taliban and coalition troops are it was engaged in ongoing clashes with coaltition troops. The year 2006 was the deadliest year for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001.

On May 2, 2011 (May 1 in the U.S.), U.S. troops and CIA operatives shot and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

May 1, 2012, President Obama and President Karzai signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America. The Agreement provides for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda. Afghanistan will be a Major Non-NATO Ally and as such, the U.S. will support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan National Security Forces, and social and economic assistance.

Despite plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, ongoing instability (and continued U.S. interest in the region) has led to the U.S. remaining heavily involved. There is still no clear end in sight, as the Taliban has resumed offensive operations as of March 2020.

2003-2010 Iraq War

The U.S. and Great Britain invade Iraq and topple the government of dictator Saddam Hussein. The U.S. engagement in Iraq continues for the next several years amid that country's escalating violence and fragile political stability.

On Aug. 31, 2010, President Obama announces the end of U.S. combat missions in Iraq. Effective September 1, 2010, the military operations in Iraq acquired a new official designation: “Operation New Dawn": the U.S. is still committed to providing support to Iraq for further development in the areas of defense and security; education and culture; energy; human rights; services; and trade.


In early 2011, a coalition of nineteen states began intervening in the civil infighting in Libya. By March, NATO officially took control of the situation, and assisted rebel forces against the government of Muammar Gaddafi. The intervention lasted until November, when fighting dropped off following Gaddafi's death.
2012-2019 War with ISIL

In 2012 militants in Iraq and Syria declared a new caliphate and rapidly seized a large territory. They began a widespread propaganda campaign to cultivate domestic terrorism in other countries and to recruit new members. The United States and other NATO allies began a long campaign to contain and reverse the spread of ISIL.

By 2018, ISIL no longer held any territory in Iraq, and severely declined in Syria. The United States continued airstrikes against the Assad regime as well as against the remaining ISIL holdouts. These airstrikes, by March 2019, contributed to ISIL losing all of its remaining territory. In October 2019 a US airstrike caused the death of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

After several years of launching airstrikes in Syria against ISIL, the United States pivoted to launching airstrikes against the Assad regime and its regional allies. The hostilities
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