Pieter D. Wezeman, Lauriane Héau, Dr Diego Lopes da Silva, Lorenzo Scarazzato and Timo Smit
Twenty years ago this month, a multinational coalition led by the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq. In the words of US President George W. Bush, the aim of the invasion was ‘to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people’.
On 20 March 2003, a massive multinational coalition force invaded Iraq under Operation Iraqi Freedom. After three weeks of an intensive air and ground campaign, the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, fell, and with it Saddam’s Ba’athist regime. Shortly afterwards, the Coalition Provisional Authority decided to disband the Iraqi Army. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
Estimates of civilian casualties of the war vary, but are generally in the hundreds of thousands. Many more people have been injured or displaced since the invasion. A 2005 constitution set in place a system of parliamentary democracy, with formal power-sharing arrangements between the country’s main ethno-sectarian groups. The Iraqi state formally took over responsibility for security in 2009, after which the coalition troop presence was gradually reduced from around 131 000 in 2009 to zero by the end of 2011.