War and Conflict

The War on Terror

When did the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom end?

President George W. Bush (1946-) declared an end to major combat on May 1, 2003. But the stabilization of Iraq was far from over; the fighting continued more than two years later, the result of an increasingly violent Iraqi insurgency. Faced with the ongoing resistance, in December 2004 the number of U.S. troops in the war-torn nation was increased from 130,000 to 150,000.

Most of the casualties occurred after the declared end of major combat: On April 8, 2005, the Pentagon reported that there had been 1,543 American fatalities in the war to date—1,174 in hostile actions and 369 in nonhostile actions, including accidents during routine maneuvers. Of the 1,543 U.S. military deaths, 1,404 died after the declared end of major combat, 1,065 of them from hostile action. More than 7,000 had been injured to date.

In addition to the American fatalities, the British military had reported 86 deaths as of early April 2005; Italy, 21; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Spain, 11; Bulgaria, 8; Slovakia, 3; Estonia, Thailand, and the Netherlands, 2 each; and Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Latvia, 1 each.

The figures fueled criticism for the lingering war, with some observers wondering if stabilization was possible in the fractious nation. There were several factors contributing to the growing lists of casualties and injuries: coalition forces were frequently ambushed in attacks from resistance fighters and suicide bombers; U.S. troops faced continued combat in parts of Baghdad and its outskirts; the southern towns of Najaf and Kufa were holdouts of resistance; and there was intense fighting in the Sunni cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra, which remained under insurgent control even after the transfer of political authority from the United States to the interim Iraqi authority on June 28, 2004.

A 30-foot statue of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is toppled by plastic explosives in Tikrit, Iraq, 2003.

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