20 years since the beginning of the American war in Iraq

Sunday marks 20 years since US President George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. US forces are still present in Iraq, not as enemy forces as they were in 2003, but now as a key partner. Voice of America’s Pentagon correspondent, Carla Babb, takes stock of both countries’ losses due to the war.

“At this hour, U.S. and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, liberate its people, and protect the world from grave danger,” said U.S. President George W. Bush when he gave the order to launch the attack on Iraq.

Airstrikes on Baghdad began 20 years ago.

The US military overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime and then captured the dictator.

Iraqis who lived through his rule say life was terrible.

“It is something that cannot be imagined. It’s like talking about Stalin or Hitler. He and his regime were ruthless,” said Ahmed Alsuhail, an Iraqi journalist who fled his country for the United States.

President George W. Bush declared the operation in Iraq “mission accomplished” on May 1, 2003, but the war dragged on as remaining supporters of the former Iraqi leader’s Baathist party and other insurgents continued to fight against US and allied forces. .

“Ambition and hatred are enough to unite Iraq and al-Qaeda, so much so that al-Qaeda can learn how to build more sophisticated bombs, learn how to forge documents and turn to Iraq for expertise for weapons of mass destruction”, warned the former US Secretary of State, the late Colin Powell.

Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were never found as the death toll of Iraqi and American soldiers mounted.

Critics, including former Obama administration Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, call the US intervention in Iraq “reckless”.

“There are two kinds of criticism: one, that there was no justification for starting the war, and the other criticism that, there was a justification, but only if you were able to make sure that the outcome of the war would not create a worse situation than it that was before”, said the former US Secretary of State, Jim Steinberg during an interview given in March of this year.

President Barack Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq in late 2011, only to return three years later to fight an Islamic State insurgency amid political turmoil.

Islamic State took control of Mosul and several large areas of Iraq before finally losing them in 2017.

The US officially ended its combat mission in Iraq in 2021. About 2,500 US troops remained to advise Iraqis on how best to fight what is left of the Islamic State.

“While ISIS has been significantly degraded in Iraq and Syria, the group has the ability to conduct operations within the region and the desire to strike outside of it,” said General Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command.

Speaking to the Alhurra TV channel, the Iraqi president said that Iraqi citizens now have more freedom than they had in the Saddam era.

“After overcoming the difficulties of the last two decades, Iraqis are enjoying peace and stability and the government is focusing on improving services and infrastructure in the country,” said Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid.

But Samah Azeez, who fled Iraq, says Iraqis are still suffering.

“It’s really the same thing, what’s happening in Iraq now is no different than what was happening under Saddam Hussein,” said Iraqi refugee Samah Azeez.

More than 4,000 US troops died in Iraq, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

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