Iraqi conflict evolves as result of US war on terror
At least 50 people die in series of car bombs on Iraq invasion 10th anniversary
Iraqi policemen examine the remains of a car bomb in Baghdad’s Sadr City yesterday. A series of co-ordinated car bombs and blasts hit Shia districts across Baghdad and south of the Iraqi capital, killing at least 50 people on the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion. Photograph: Qahtan al-Sudani/Reuters
Ten years ago, on the 19th of March 2003, prompted by 9/11, the United States and her allies invaded Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraq invasion ran concurrently with Operation Enduring Freedom – the invasion of Afghanistan. Both operations are regarded as crucial lynchpins of the ongoing US “global war on terror” – the longest war in US history.
The purpose of the global war on terror is to destroy or disrupt Islamist terror groups such as al-Qaeda and to deny them a physical safe haven in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere internationally. The invasion of Afghanistan drove the leadership of al-Qaeda into neighbouring Pakistan. Indeed, Osama Bin Laden, one of the principal architects of the Twin Tower attacks was assassinated by US forces in Pakistan in May of 2011.
In the interim, al-Qaeda networks have exfiltrated back to North Africa and the Gulf states of the Middle East. In response, the US has committed considerable forces to sub-Saharan and trans-Saharan Africa as part of two major – less publicised – African military campaigns. The African missions are designated “Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa” and “Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara”. The recent hostage crisis at the Amenas gas plant in Algeria and French military action against Islamist resistance groups in neighbouring Mali in January are linked to the ratcheting up of the global war on terror in North Africa.
Ten years after the US invasion of Iraq, the consequences of military intervention there – and globally – are becoming more apparent. The invasion certainly ended Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Hussein was deposed by May 2003, apprehended in December of that year and executed by a Shia-led regime in December 2006. No weapons of mass destruction, however, were discovered in Iraq. Al-Qaeda were not tolerated in Iraq by Hussein during his dictatorship. Ironically perhaps, the US invasion prompted an influx into Iraq of al-Qaeda-styled jihadis such as Abu Musab al Zarqawi – and thousands of other self-styled radicalised Sunni extremists.
‘Sons of Iraq’
Zarqawi was located and assassinated in June 2006. The US then re-armed and re-aligned the Sunni community within Iraq along geographical and tribal lines as part of its “Sons of Iraq” programme. Iraq is now an armed camp divided along ethnic lines between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish elements. The current Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad – with close links to Tehran – is poorly rated by the Brookings Institute and other organisations in global rankings of political freedom.
The costs of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are staggering. In fiscal terms, the Costs of War Project – a report published by the highly respected US Brown University in 2012 – estimates the cost of the invasions at $4 trillion. At a time of global recession and austerity – when we are newly accustomed to calculating liabilities in billions – this figure is truly astonishing. It translates as three-quarters of a million dollars for every minute fought of the global war on terror over the last 10 years.
The human costs are more disturbing. More than 6,600 US troops have been killed. Almost 50,000 suffered physical injuries requiring evacuation to the US. More than 250,000 former combatants have filed for disability pensions with the US Veterans Administration.