On March 19, 2003, US troops invaded Iraq, setting the stage for almost nine years of military occupation. But even though the US nominally withdrew from Iraq in 2011, it wasn’t long before the Obama Administration was sending troops back in for a whole additional war.
The new ISIS war in Iraq centers largely on fighting the same insurgency as the last war, which raises questions about whether it’s fair to call this a distinct war, or simply a continuation of resistance against the US-installed government, and US troops themselves.
Indeed, the weekend anniversary arrived with news of a US Marine killed in rocket fire from ISIS forces against a military base, and additional US troops were reported wounded in the incident, reminding everyone that 13 years in, US troops are still not just on the ground in Iraq, but in harm’s way.
And while the previous few anniversaries may have fueled reflection on the losses of the initial occupation, in 2016 the attention is turning toward the ever-increasing escalation in the ‘new’ conflict, with the Pentagon admitting that they have far more troops in Iraq than public estimates, and more than the current US agreement with Iraq legally allows.
Having already burst through the cap negotiated with Iraq, the Pentagon continues to push for additional troops all the time, and with officials openly talking about a long, long war against ISIS, the likelihood is that US boots will be on Iraqi soil for decades more.