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Another major event of that year was the revelation of widespread prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib which received international media attention in April 2004. First reports of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, as well as graphic pictures showing U.S. military personnel taunting and abusing Iraqi prisoners, came to public attention from a 60 Minutes II news report (28 April) and a Seymour M. Hersh article in The New Yorker (posted online on 30 April.) Military correspondent Thomas Ricks claimed that these revelations dealt a blow to the moral justifications for the occupation in the eyes of many people, especially Iraqis, and was a turning point in the war.
2004 also marked the beginning of Military Transition Teams in Iraq, which were teams of U.S. military advisors assigned directly to New Iraqi Army units.
2007: U.S. troops surge
Further information: 2007 in Iraq, Iraq War troop surge of 2007, Timeline of the Iraq War troop surge of 2007, and Strategic reset
In a 10 January 2007, televised address to the U.S. public, Bush proposed 21,500 more troops for Iraq, a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and $1.2 billion for these programs. On 23 January 2007, in the 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush announced “deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq”.
President George W. Bush visiting US troops in Iraq, September 2007.
On 10 February 2007, David Petraeus was made commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I), the four-star post that oversees all coalition forces in country, replacing General George Casey. In his new position, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq and employed them in the new “Surge” strategy outlined by the Bush administration. 2007 also saw a sharp increase in insurgent chlorine bombings.
On 10 May 2007, 144 Iraqi Parliamentary lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. On 3 June 2007, the Iraqi Parliament voted 85 to 59 to require the Iraqi government to consult with Parliament before requesting additional extensions of the UN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations in Iraq. Despite this, the mandate was renewed on 18 December 2007, without the approval of the Iraqi parliament.
Pressures on U.S. troops were compounded by the continuing withdrawal of coalition forces. In early 2007, British Prime Minister Blair announced that following Operation Sinbad British troops would begin to withdraw from Basra Governorate, handing security over to the Iraqis. In July Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also announced the withdrawal of 441 Danish troops from Iraq, leaving only a unit of nine soldiers manning four observational helicopters.
2010: U.S. drawdown and Operation New Dawn
Further information: 2010 in Iraq and Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
On 17 February 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of 1 September, the name “Operation Iraqi Freedom” would be replaced by “Operation New Dawn”.
On 18 April, US and Iraqi forces killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit, Iraq. The coalition forces believed al-Masri to be wearing a suicide vest and proceeded cautiously. After the lengthy exchange of fire and bombing of the house, the Iraqi troops stormed inside and found two women still alive, one of whom was al-Masri’s wife, and four dead men, identified as al-Masri, Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, an assistant to al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi’s son. A suicide vest was indeed found found on al-Masri’s corpse, as the Iraqi Army subsequently stated. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. “The attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles,” Mr Maliki said. “During the operation computers were seized with e-mails and messages to the two biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri”, Maliki added. U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency”, he said. “There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists.”
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stated that the deaths of the top two al-Qaeda figures in Iraq are “potentially devastating” blows to the terror network there and proof that Iraqi security forces are gaining ground.
On 20 June, Iraq’s Central Bank was bombed in an attack that left 15 people dead and brought much of downtown Baghdad to a standstill. The attack was claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq. This attack was followed by another attack on Iraq’s Bank of Trade building that killed 26 and wounded 52 people.
Iraqi commandos training under the supervision of soldiers from the US 82nd Airborne in December 2010.
In late August 2010, insurgents conducted a major attack with at least 12 car bombs simultaneously detonating from Mosul to Basra and killing at least 51. These attacks coincided with the U.S. plans for a withdrawal of combat troops.
From the end of August 2010, the United States attempted to dramatically cut its combat role in Iraq, with the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces designated for active combat operations. The last U.S. combat brigades departed Iraq in the early morning of 19 August. Convoys of U.S. troops had been moving out of Iraq to Kuwait for several days, and NBC News broadcast live from Iraq as the last convoy crossed the border. While all combat brigades left the country, an additional 50,000 personnel (including Advise and Assist Brigades) remained in the country to provide support for the Iraqi military. These troops are required to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011 under an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
The desire to step back from an active counter-insurgency role did not however mean that the Advise and Assist Brigades and other remaining U.S. forces would not be caught up in combat. A standards memo from the Associated Press reiterated “combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials”.
State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated “…we are not ending our work in Iraq, We have a long-term commitment to Iraq.” On 31 August, Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the Oval Office. In his address, he covered the role of the United States’ soft power, the effect the war had on the United States economy, and the legacy of American wars.}}
On the same day in Iraq, at a ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein’s former residences at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, a number of U.S. dignitaries spoke in a ceremony for television cameras, avoiding overtones of the triumphalism present in US announcements made earlier in the war. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concerns regarding the ongoing lack of progress in forming a new Iraqi government, saying of the Iraqi people that “they expect a government that reflects the results of the votes they cast”. Gen. Ray Odierno stated that the new era “in no way signals the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq”. Speaking in Ramadi earlier in the day, Gates said that U.S. forces “have accomplished something really quite extraordinary here, [but] how it all weighs in the balance over time I think remains to be seen”. When asked by reporters if the seven year war was worth doing, Gates commented that “It really requires a historian’s perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run”. He noted the Iraq War “will always be clouded by how it began” in regards Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, which were never confirmed to have existed. Gates continued, “This is one of the reasons that this war remains so controversial at home”. On the same day Gen. Ray Odierno was replaced by Lloyd Austin as Commander of US forces in Iraq.
On 7 September, two U.S. troops were killed and nine wounded in an incident at an Iraqi military base. The incident is under investigation by Iraqi and U.S. forces, but it is believed that an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. forces.
On 8 September, the U.S. Army announced the arrival in Iraq of the first specifically-designated Advise and Assist Brigade, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was announced that the unit would assume responsibilities in five southern provinces. From 10–13 September, Second Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division fought Iraqi insurgents near Diyala[disambiguation needed].
According to reports from Iraq, hundreds of members of the Sunni Awakening Councils may have switched allegiance back to the Iraqi insurgency or al Qaeda.
Wikileaks disclosed 391,832 classified U.S. military documents on the Iraq War. Approximately, 58 people were killed with another 40 wounded in an attack on the Sayidat al-Nejat church, a Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq organization.
Coordinated attacks in primarily Shia areas struck throughout Baghdad on 2 November, killing approximately 113 and wounding 250 with around 17 bombs.
Iraqi security forces transition towards self reliance
Preparing to buy $13 billion worth of American arms, the Iraq Defense Ministry intends to transform the country’s degraded conventional forces into a state-of-the-art military and become among the world’s biggest customers for American military arms and equipment. Part of the planned purchase includes 140 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. Iraqi crews have already begun training on them. In addition to the $13 billion purchase, the Iraqis have requested 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of a $4.2 billion program that also includes aircraft training and maintenance, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs and reconnaissance equipment. If approved by Congress, the first aircraft could arrive in spring 2013. Under the plan, the first 10 pilots would be trained in the United States.
The Iraqi navy also inaugurated U.S.-built Swift Class patrol boat at Umm Qasr, Iraq’s main port at the northern end of the gulf. Iraq is to take delivery of 14 more of these $20 million, 50-foot craft before U.S. forces depart. The high-speed vessels’ main mission will be to protect the oil terminals at al-Basra and Khor al-Amiya through which some 1.7 million barrels a day are loaded into tankers for export. Two U.S.-built offshore support vessels, each costing $70 million, were expected to be delivered in 2011.
The United States Department of Defense had issued notification of an additional $100 million proposed sales of arms from the US to Iraq. General Dynamics is to be the prime contractor on a $36 million deal for the supply of ammunition for Iraq’s Abrams M1 A1 tanks. The sale consists of: 14,010 TP-T M831A1 120mm Cartridges; 16,110 TPCSDS-T M865 120mm Cartridges; and 3,510 HEAT-MP-T M830A1 120mm Cartridges. Raytheon is proposed as the prime contractor for a $68 million package of “Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Systems”.
Further information: 2011 in Iraq
Last U.S. convoy crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait on 18 December 2011.
U.S. and Kuwaiti troops closing the gate between Kuwait and Iraq on 18 December 2011.
Main article: Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq in the holy city of Najaf to lead the Sadrist movement after being in exile since 2007.
On 15 January 2011, three U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. One of the troops was killed on a military operation in central Iraq, while the other two troops were deliberately shot by one or two Iraqi soldiers during a training exercise.
On 6 June, five U.S. troops were killed in an apparent rocket attack on Camp Victory, located near Baghdad International Airport. A sixth soldier, who was wounded in the attack, died 10 days later of his wounds.
On 29 June, three U.S. troops were killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base located near the border with Iran. It was speculated that the militant group responsible for the attack was the same one which attacked Camp Victory just over three weeks before. With the three deaths, June 2011, became the bloodiest month in Iraq for the U.S. military since June 2009, with 15 U.S. soldiers killed, only one of them outside combat.
In September, Iraq signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes, becoming the 26th nation to operate the F-16. Because of windfall profits from oil, the Iraqi government is planning to double this originally planned 18, to 36 F-16s. Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency.
With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end. The last American soldier to die in Iraq before the withdrawal was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on 14 November.
In November 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end.
The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on 18 December. The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashemi. He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq.[