Invasion chronology

March 6
Two weeks before he would launch the invasion of Iraq, President Bush announces at a press conference that time is running out on the UN inspections process and on Saddam Hussein

March 17
President Bush delivers his final ultimatum: "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to go will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

Coalition troops, massed in the Persian Gulf on the eve of the invasion, fully expect an Iraqi chemical attack as they near Baghdad. 200,000 ground troops, almost all of them American and British, are backed by an armada of ships in the Gulf and hundreds of Navy and Air Force warplanes.

At the insistence of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the ground force is only half the size of the force that ejected Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991.

March 20
The invasion begins. General Franks's ground war plan is for the Army's 5th Corps to cross the Iraq-Kuwait border and attack Baghdad from the desert west of the Euphrates.

The Marine Corps will attack through the inhabited areas east of the river, by heading toward Nasiriya to cross the Eurphates and make a parallel advance.

The British, with support from U.S. Marines, will secure Iraq's second city, Basra.

Secretary Rumsfeld is upbeat, convinced the Iraqi people will assist the invasion: "There will be Iraqis who offer not only to help us but to help liberate the country and to free the Iraqi people. More of them there are, the greater the chance that the war will be limited and less broad."

March 21
The coalition launches its bombing campaign in Baghdad against Saddam's palaces and ministries. The spectacle is designed to convince the Iraqi people that it is safe to overthrow the regime.

American commanders advancing across the Kuwait border report Iraqi regular forces are simply falling apart, taking off uniforms and disappearing among the civilian population.

March 22
By nightfall in Iraq, the forward elements of the 3rd Infantry are over 150 miles inside Iraq and roughly halfway to Baghdad.

March 23
A unit from the 507th Maintenance Company supporting the U.S. Army's advance takes a wrong turn in the pre-dawn darkness and stumbles into Nasiriya behind enemy lines. Jessica Lynch, among others, is taken prisoner.

March 25
By now, there have been more setbacks: A brutal three-day sandstorm has been swirling across southern Iraq and Fedayeen fighters are leaving the cities and attacking supply lines of the lead units. Five days into the invasion, the American advance on Baghdad stalls.

Back in Washington, retired generals have been appearing on television and commenting that the war is not going as well as it should because there are not enough combat forces on the ground.

March 28-29
The American army prepares to attack Baghdad. Lead units will have to funnel through a mile-wide gap between a lake and the city of Karbala -- the so- called Karbala Gap -- and then assault across the Euphrates towards Baghdad.

April 3-4
Troops from the 3rd Infantry reach Saddam International Airport on the western outskirts of Baghdad.

But the Americans aren't yet ready for the final assault on Baghdad.

April 5
At dawn, in a surprise armed reconnaissance raid into Baghdad, Col. David Perkins's 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry makes the first "Thunder Run" into the city, driving straight up Highway 8 and taking intense fire.

The Americans encounter morning traffic and many Iraqi defenders are dressed in civilian clothes. American troops are not always successful in distinguishing fighters from civilians. By late morning the Americans have sliced through Baghdad's south-western suburbs and arrive safely back at the airport.

April 6
In Baghdad U.S. Marines now join the American 5th Corps and are given the job of storming the east of the city. Marine commanders anticipate serious resistance, but the Iraqi army is retreating in chaos.

April 7
A second "Thunder Run" is made by Col. Perkins. He decides to head straight downtown for Saddam's palaces, spreading panic among the Iraqi defenders.

Colonel Perkins spends the night in Saddam's palace. Nineteen days after crossing the Kuwait border, less than a week after the breakthrough at the Karbala Gap, the Americans have penetrated to the very heart of the regime.

April 8-9
U.S. forces secure Baghdad after final desperate resistance by Fedayeen and Ba'ath Party militias who are fighting almost alone. The regular Iraqi Army soldiers don't fight or even surrender en masse, as the Americans hoped; they simply go home.

Late in the afternoon of April 9, in Baghdad's Firdos Square, the statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down.

American columns continue to roll into Baghdad. But there are few of the triumphal scenes Americans had hoped for. The people of Baghdad are wary, suspicious. And as in Basra, looting spreads quickly.

April 11
Television images of looting and chaos dominate American newscasts in the days following Baghdad's fall. At a briefing this day, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld reacts bitterly to suggestions the military is not in control of the situation and in a statement dealing with looting, says, "… freedom's untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things…."

After a few days of inaction, U.S. troops begin cracking down on looters.

April 16
General Tommy Franks, the commander of the invasion, flies into Baghdad to congratulate the American commanders on their swift victory over Saddam Hussein.

But in the weeks that follow, a violent insurgency grows against coalition forces.

May 1
President Bush lands on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California and announces the official end of combat operations in Iraq.


Inside the Green Zone (Interview with Rajiv Chandrasekaran)

Emma Sky: the British peacenik who became key to the US military

The Lost Year chronology

April 9, 2003
The End of Saddam

Iraqis topple an iconic statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad with help from U.S. soldiers. In hindsight, the event foreshadows what is to come: One of the Americans covers the statue's face with a U.S. flag, which is quickly replaced by an Iraqi one.

It had taken just three weeks after the U.S. invasion for Baghdad to fall.

April 11
"Freedom is Untidy"

As soon as Baghdad falls, Iraqis begin looting on a grand scale and attacking government ministries. During this first postwar week, the looting verges on chaos. But less than two U.S. brigades are in isolated positions in the city of over 5 million. U.S. troops don't stop the looters.

As the world watches the scenes of looting across Iraq, Rumsfeld tries to downplay concerns, saying: "Freedom is untidy."

April 16
A Surprise Announcement by General Franks

Gen. Tommy Franks makes his first triumphant visit to Baghdad and tells his troops -- more than 110,000 -- to prepare for takeover by a new Iraqi government within 60 days and a U.S. troop withdrawal by September.

Per Franks: one division -- about 30,000 troops -- would be left to occupy Iraq.

April 21
The First Postwar Civil Administrator: Jay Garner

Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner arrives in Baghdad to head the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). One of his first meetings is with Kurdish leaders to begin discussions about a transition to an inclusive interim Iraqi government.

Washington officials, worried that Garner is "off the reservation" decide to make a change. Within hours of his arrival in Baghdad, Garner is informed that presidential envoy L. Paul Bremer III will soon replace him.

May 1
"Mission Accomplished"

President Bush announces an end to major military combat. Onboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, the president stands in front of a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

Looting escalates across Iraq

May 6
Bremer replaces Garner

President Bush announces L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III, a diplomat and protégé of Henry Kissinger, will head a new temporary administrative entity for Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremer was not viewed as an "Arabist," nor did he have much prior experience in nation-building -- two factors that seemed to be pluses for the administration.

May 12
Bremer Arrives, Suggests Shooting Looters

In a private meeting during his first day in Baghdad, Bremer suggests the possibility of shooting looters to quell lawlessness. This leaks to reporters, outraging Iraqis and the U.S. military.

May 16
CPA Replaces ORHA; "De-Baathification" Announced

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) absorbs duties previously held by ORHA and issues CPA Order No. 1, which calls for the "de-Baathification" of Iraq -- dismantling Saddam's Baath Party and removing all Baath Party members from positions of authority.

Bremer brushes off a strong warning from the CIA station chief in Baghdad that the action will drive up to 50,000 people underground.

May 23
The CPA Disbands the Iraqi Army

The CPA issues CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army in favor of building a completely new force. The action takes many coalition troops by surprise. They have to scratch plans they had for reconstruction that involved getting help from an Iraqi military.

June 1
Garner Leaves

After spending just over a month struggling to get a handle on Iraq's situation and to define his position in relation to Bremer, Garner heads back to Washington. Later that month, he reports to Rumsfeld that the mission's success is seriously in jeopardy.

June 14
Sanchez Appointed Head of Ground Forces

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is appointed to lead Coalition Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7), a newly created agency to oversee ground forces in Iraq.

July 7
Gen. Tommy Franks Retires

In a further sign of turmoil and dissent within the U.S. military, Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the force that invaded Iraq, retires. Frustrated by ongoing clashes with Rumsfeld over the secretary's vision of creating a "faster" and "lighter" army, Franks turns down an offer to become Army chief of staff in June and announces his retirement. Gen. John Abizaid replaces Franks.

July 13
The Iraqi Governing Council

This 25-seat organization, created temporarily by the CPA to fill Iraq's power vacuum, meets for the first time. Its membership, handpicked by CPA, reflects all Iraqi ethnic groups and includes several women. White House favorite Ahmad Chalabi gets a seat and is given control over de-Baathification efforts. The council's limited powers and U.S. control over its membership foster distrust among many Iraqis.

July 22
Uday and Qusay Hussein Killed

Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay are killed in a U.S.-led raid after an Iraqi informant leads soldiers to the brothers' hideout in Mosul. The news is welcomed as a sign of progress toward stabilizing Iraq.

Aug. 1
Memo to Saddam's Secret Police Sheds Light on Iraqi Resistance

The chief of the CIA's Baghdad station shows Bremer a document recovered from a trashed office of Saddam's secret police. The memo instructs them to organize sabotage, looting, sniper attacks and ambushes across Iraq to thwart coalition efforts. It helps make sense of the growing insurgency.

Aug. 7
Jordanian Embassy Attacked

A large car bomb explodes outside the embassy in Baghdad, killing 17 people and injuring dozens. It's the first terrorist-style car bombing in Iraq.

Aug. 18
Bremer Refused Authorization to Arrest Moqtada al-Sadr

In July, the influential Shiite cleric begins preaching against the U.S. occupation. On Aug. 18, Bremer receives word that Rumsfeld has given orders not to arrest al-Sadr until further notice, for fear it would incite greater violence. The next day, concerned that al-Sadr's supporters, known as the Mehdi army, will further derail reconstruction efforts, Bremer requests Washington's support to bring al-Sadr under control. Rumsfeld refuses. The Mehdi army continues gaining strength as a key force in the insurgency.

Aug. 19
Truck Bomb Destroys U.N. Headquarters

A truck bomb explodes outside the hotel housing U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and at least 21 others. The increasing scale of the insurgents' attacks puts Iraqis on edge.

A major turning point

Aug. 20

Washington's worries grow over the summer about how long U.S. troops would remain in Iraq; Rumsfeld tells Bremer the Pentagon is growing impatient. But Bremer has no idea to whom he should hand over sovereignty. On Aug. 20, he urges the Governing Council to act more quickly so as to give Iraqis evidence of progress in rebuilding the country. But he has no confidence in them.

Aug. 29
Attack on Mosque in Najaf

A car bomb explodes outside a mosque in the Shiite holy city of Najaf as crowds leave midday prayers. The blast kills more than 100 people, including Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.

By the end of this summer, any debate about whether there is an insurgency is settled.

Rumsfeld Visits Iraq

He's there to assess possible approaches for reducing U.S. troop numbers and makes clear that the Pentagon is anxious for more intelligence to help quell the violence. He also continues to press for a transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis.

Coalition Forces Round Up Suspected Insurgents

Massive sweeps start to arrest suspected insurgents. Available prisons, including Abu Ghraib, are quickly filled.

Sept. 8
Bremer Publishes Seven-Step Plan

Without the White House or Pentagon's knowledge, Bremer publishes an op-ed in The Washington Post -- "Iraq's Path to Sovereignty" -- in which he describes a multi-step, multi-year process toward the ultimate goal of creating a constitution and holding elections.

Later that month, Bremer visits Washington and continues to lobby for his slow and steady approach to moving Iraq toward sovereignty. But with an eye on the 2004 election, the administration remains committed to handing Iraq over to Iraqis as soon as possible.

October - December
Abu Ghraib

During the fall of 2003, some U.S. troops guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib begin photographing prisoner torture and abuse.

Rice Given Control Over the CPA

Bremer's multi-year plan for turning over sovereignty is a big political problem for the president. The White House decides to rein him in. National Security Council Adviser Condoleezza Rice sends Robert Blackwill to advise Bremer and assert White House influence over the CPA.

Moqtada al-Sadr Gains Strength

His followers continue to grow as the cleric spreads his message of resistance and violence against U.S. occupation.

Nov. 15
Deadline for Sovereignty Transfer Announced

The CPA announces an agreement with the Iraqi Governing Council to hand over sovereignty to an Iraqi government by June 30, 2004. The agreement is built around a seven-step process, beginning with the drafting of an interim constitution by March 1, 2004. The following day Bremer meets with staff and reshapes the CPA's mission to meet the shortened timeline.

Dec. 13
Saddam Hussein Captured

Saddam Hussein is found hiding outside his hometown of Tikrit, in a dirt hole. The capture is highly publicized, but does not deter the growing violence across Iraq.

Begin 2004

January, 2004
Intercepted Letter From Zarqawi

The letter is from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and details his plans for the insurgency. His goals include fomenting violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, targeting the emerging Iraqi police and military, and killing Kurds -- any measure to derail progress toward a democratic Iraq.

March 2
Karbala Mosque Attack

On a holy day for Shi'a Muslims, suicide attacks in Karbala kill over 85 people. It's a sign of the growing ethnic and religious strife.

March 8
Interim Constitution Passed

Overcoming Shiite objections that the new plan gives Kurds too much power, Iraq's Governing Council signs an interim constitution to govern Iraq after the transfer of sovereignty in June, and until the adoption of a permanent constitution.

March 31
Four U.S. Contractors Killed In Fallujah

Four American contractors are killed; their bodies are burned, dragged through the streets, and strung up on a bridge.

April 6
Coalition Launches Fallujah Offensive

While battling al-Sadr's forces in the south, the U.S.-led coalition resolves to regain control of the "Sunni Triangle" area. Roughly 2,000 Marines advance on Fallujah, while 12 Marines are killed in a firefight in Ramadi to the west. The Fallujah advance is almost immediately in trouble: Iraqi troops assigned to back up U.S. forces abandon their posts. Sunni Governing Council members become enraged at civilian casualties. With the stability of the Governing Council at stake, Bremer approaches Gen. Abizaid and Lt. Gen. Sanchez, and on April 9, they agree to call off the attack on Fallujah.

April 23
Bremer Reverses Position on De-Baathification

In a speech titled "Turning the Page," Bremer concedes that enforcement of the de-Baathification order has not been fair -- particularly with regard to the academic community -- and suggests a more flexible policy going forward. Bremer's decision upsets Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the de-Baathification efforts and a longtime critic of the Baath Party.

April 27
Abu Ghraib Scandal Erupts

60 Minutes II broadcasts photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Three days later, The New Yorker publishes photos documenting the abuse. The ensuing scandal presents another obstacle for the CPA and the U.S. military in Iraq.

May 18
Bremer Requests More Troops

In a hand-delivered private message, Bremer requests two additional divisions of troops (roughly 40,000 soldiers) from Rumsfeld to help counter the steady stream of violent attacks. He receives no response.

May 28
U.S. Reaches Truce With al-Sadr

Moqtada al-Sadr reaches an agreement with U.S. forces. Both sides pledge to withdraw their fighters from Najaf, ending two months of intense combat. However the cease-fire does not hold.

On the same day, the Governing Council unanimously approves U.S. pick Ayad Allawi as interim prime minister.

I'm not sure where best to use this material on Ayatollah Sistani
BBC News profile: Ayatollah Sistani

Iraq's Path Hinges on Words of Enigmatic Cleric Sistani [written in 2004]

June 28
CPA Transfers Sovereignty; Bremer Leaves Iraq

Two days before the publicized deadline -- a move suggested by President Bush to thwart possible violence -- the CPA transfers authority to Iraq's interim government. Bremer leaves Baghdad immediately on a secret plane in order to avoid possible attacks.


Endgame chronology

End Game chronology


August 2004
General George Casey/New exit strategy

Rumsfeld assigns four-star Gen. George Casey to Iraq to replace Gen. Sanchez and implement a new exit strategy: Casey is ordered to train and shift responsibility to the Iraqi army -- ASAP.

Rumsfeld's approach is to reduce the U.S. footprint in Iraq and not step up U.S. efforts to win. So Casey is charged with keeping a lid on things, without adding more American troops.

The signature of the plan is that U.S. forces would keep a "light footprint," staying on large forward-operating bases and only engaging the insurgents when absolutely necessary. Part of the argument is that a large troop level inflames Iraqis' feelings against the coalition occupation.

August 2004
Fighting Sadr in Najaf

Al-Sadr's Shi'ite Mahdi Army rampages in Najaf, forcing Casey to bring his troops out. During the three-week conflict the Mahdi Army holes up in one of Shi'a Islam's holiest shrines. Surrounded, a cease-fire is negotiated. Many of his fighters return home to Shi'ite Sadr City in Baghdad and clashes subsequently increase between the Mahdi army and U.S. forces.

Battle for Najaf (August 2004)

Fall 2004
Gen. Casey Assembles Brain Trust

Casey brings together Ph.D.s and academics from the military academies to advise him on strategy. The team members call themselves "Doctors Without Orders." "The play on words went both ways," says Sepp. "Nobody knew how long they were going to be serving in Iraq -- they literally didn't have their follow-on orders -- but the other was that there was a sense of no constraint in thinking."

Nov. 2, 2004
Bush Re-elected

In the 2004 election, President Bush defeats John Kerry. On the eve of his second inauguration, the president refers to the vote as his "accountability moment" on the Iraq war.

Nov. 8, 2004
Fallujah II

Casey and his advisers decide that Iraqi elections cannot be held without clearing out Fallujah, which has again become a safe haven for Sunni insurgents. But Casey's advisers worry about the impact of the assault on Sunni Iraqis. Civilians are urged to leave the city; it is estimated only 400 remain when the assault begins

Many U.S. commanders are jubilant, believing the insurgency has been irreparably harmed. But Fallujah's Sunni refugees tell tales of a brutal U.S. assault, and some top observers worry Fallujah backfired, decreasing Sunni Arab support for the coalition's goals and helping fuel the insurgency.

November 15, 2004
Colin Powell resigns as Secretary of State, replaced by Condoleezza Rice

2005 A Fragile Equilibrium

January 2005
National Elections in Iraq

An estimated 58 percent of Iraq's population defy threats of violence to vote in the first elections since Saddam Hussein's ouster.

The Bush administration points to the voting as a sign of success, but the vast majority of Sunnis boycott the election and thus are disenfranchised from the political process, dashing hopes of establishing a representative Iraqi government.

The Shia now dominate the new government.

February 2005
At a Tipping Point

After one of his early trips to Iraq at the request of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow writes a memo describing Iraq as being at a tipping point.

February 2005
Vacancy at the US Embassy

America's ambassador in Iraq, John Negroponte, is appointed director of national intelligence. Iraq will be without a U.S. ambassador until Zalmay Khalilzad's arrival four months later.

February 2005
Insurgents Step Up Attacks

Seeing the new Shi'a-dominated government is dividing the country and creating a virtual vacuum, Sunni insurgents ramp back up their attacks in an effort to undermine the government.

May 2005
Cheney's Predictions

Vice President Cheney says in an interview on Larry King Live May 30, "I think the level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint, I think will clearly decline. I think that they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." He will defend his assessment for at least a year.

May 2005
The Tal Afar Way

In contrast to Rumseld's "light footprint" approach for U.S. troops, Col. H.R. McMaster's 3rd Armored Calvary Division implements a much different strategy in the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar. McMaster applies a "clear, hold and build" approach: clearing insurgents door-to-door, holding neighborhoods by stationing U.S. troops among the people and rebuilding by distributing to Iraqis reconstruction funds.

A new, promising strategy emerges in Tal Afar (Interview with Col. H.R. McMaster)

June 2005
Ambassador Khalilzad Takes Charge

New U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad arrives in the country after discussing the "oil spot" strategy, a strategy rooted in clear-hold-build counterinsurgency tactics. Khalilzad assembles a team to study how it can be implemented.

June 2005
"As the Iraqis Stand Up, We Will Stand Down"

In a June 28 national address, President Bush focuses on the strategy of training Iraqis to take charge of their country's security.

September 2005
Recommendation: More Troops Needed

Back from his latest trip to Iraq, State Dept. adviser Philip Zelikow writes a memo to Secretary Rice calling for a surge of additional troops to clear, hold and build. The plan is modeled on Col. McMaster's work in Tal Afar, one of the few successful efforts Zelikow encountered.

October 2005
Rice Champions "Clear-Hold-Build" Strategy

On Oct. 19, Secretary of State Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stating that, "our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build," together with Iraqi forces.

In a November press conference, Secretary Rumsfeld refutes Rice's position, asserting Iraqis must be the ones to hold and build.

October 2005
Petraeus Leaves Iraq

Petraeus, recalled from Iraq where he had been training Iraqi forces, is sent to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he oversees training for troops heading to Iraq. There he also co-authors the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual.

2006 Simmering Civil War

February 2006
Bombing in Samarra

Bombs destroy the golden dome of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest shrines, igniting a wave of sectarian violence in which thousands of Iraqis will die over the months that follow. Many experts view it as an attempt by al Qaeda to stimulate a civil war, making the country ungovernable

Holy Shi'ite 'shrine is bombed, fueling sectarian violence

March 2006
Iraq Study Group Formed

Congress [note: not the White House] announces the creation of the Iraq Study Group.

March 2006
Revisiting Tal Afar

As part of a media blitz in response to the rise in sectarian killings. President Bush highlights Tal Afar as a success story in a speech in Cleveland.

But a Washington Post story notes that sectarian violence had returned to the city after Col. McMaster's division departed.

May 2006
"A Plan for Victory in Iraq"

Scholar Frederick Kagan publishes "A Plan for Victory in Iraq" in the Weekly Standard, in which he argues for major clear, hold and build operations. [Genesis of the idea behind the surge.]

Frederick Kagan
A Plan for Victory in Iraq

June 2006
Camp David Meeting

No longer able to ignore the seriousness of the sectarian conflict, the White House begins to crystallize its views. Staffers support the idea championed by Secretary Rice of a new policy - "clear, hold, build" - and organize a meeting to get the president on board.

Well-known military scholars are invited to Camp David to meet with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and generals. Staffers hope the meeting will be the start of a substantive review of war strategy.

Midway through, however, Bush decides to fly to Baghdad to meet the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

see this article about Maliki [listed below in the section entitled "Iraq since the withdrawal of US forces"]
"Letter from Iraq: What we left behind (Dexter Filkins)

After Bush's return from Iraq, there is no major shift in Iraq policy.

June 2006
A Drawdown Proposal from Casey

During a visit to Washington, Gen. Casey presents another version of his plan for drawing down U.S. troops, but it is quickly shelved as violence continues in Iraq.

June 2006
Zarqawi, Al Qaeda in Iraq Leader Killed

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is successfully targeted in a U.S. airstrike in Baquba on June 7.

Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

How Zarqawi was found and killed

How Zarqawi went from "thug" to ISIS founder

July-August 2006
Abizaid: No Troop Reductions

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Aug. 3, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid rules out any reductions in the number of U.S. troops because of the surge in sectarian violence. The previous month, Abizaid commented sectarian killings were now a more pressing problem than the insurgency.

July/August 2006
Summer of Bloodshed

Random violence plagues Baghdad. A New York Times article by Dexter Filkins shows violence actually increased in areas handed over to Iraqi forces.

Also in August, a Marine Corps intelligence memo concludes that the United States can no longer defeat the insurgency in western Iraq or counter the popularity of Al Qaeda in that area.

July/August 2006
Operation Together Forward II
[can't surge without sufficient troops]

U.S. and Iraqi forces commence the second phase of Operation Together Forward in Baghdad.

The plan calls for U.S. troops to clear neighborhoods of insurgents and for Iraqi forces to hold those areas. But there are too few U.S. troops, the Iraqi government fails to provide the requested forces, and the Iraqi police is infiltrated by sectarian fighters.

The operation, which lasts until Oct. 24, fails to quell the violence in the capital.

November 2006
Midterm Elections; Rumsfeld Out

Democrats retake the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections.

The day after, President Bush announces Robert Gates will replace Rumsfeld.

Two days before submitting his resignation, Rumsfeld writes a memo outlining 14 options for Iraq, including withdrawing U.S. troops and reducing the number of bases. He does not mention "clear, hold and build."

November 2006
A Blunt Memo on Maliki

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley authors a memo recounting his meetings in Iraq with Prime Minister Maliki and how much of the sectarian violence links back to his Shi'a-dominated government and Shi'a militia forces: "[T]he reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
"Letter from Iraq: What we left behind (Dexter Filkins)

Hadley's secret memo on Malaki (2006)

December 2006
A Dramatic Admission

President Bush says--for the first time--that the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq.

December 2006
Iraq Study Group Report

Bush unwillingness to admit problems
Iraq Study Group executive summary

The group releases its report calling the situation "grave and deteriorating" and recommending diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors -- including Iran and Syria -- and handing security over to Iraqi forces so the U.S. troops can withdraw by early 2008.

President Bush reacts coolly to the report, saying he will consider its recommendations alongside other advice.

December 2006
A Meeting in the Oval Office>>>genesis of "The Surge"

On Dec. 11, two civilian academics, Stephen Biddle and Eliot Cohen, and retired four-star generals Barry McCaffrey, Jack Keane and Wayne Downing meet with Bush and Cheney in the Oval Office.

Keane advocates a plan, crafted with military historian Frederick Kagan, to use a troop surge to clear and hold several neighborhoods in Baghdad.

The plan is a fundamental departure: tens of thousands of troops clearing Sunni insurgents and Shi'a militia door-to-door, and much higher casualites on all sides.


January 2007
New Plan, New Leadership

In an address to the nation, President Bush concedes current strategy is failing and announces a new plan: a surge of 20,000 troops to secure Baghdad, based on Frederick Kagan and Gen. Keane's thinking.

Bush Announces Iraq Troop Surge - 2007 | Today in History | 10 Jan

Interviews: Can the Surge work?

Frederick Kagan
A Plan for Victory in Iraq

To implement the new strategy, Gen. Casey is replaced by Gen. Petraeus; CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid is replaced by Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific; Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad is replaced by Ryan Cocker.

A new plan and a new general (Petraeus replaces Casey) for Iraq

February 2007
Security Situation "Daunting"

The National Intelligence Council issues a National Intelligence Estimate. It finds that "Iraqi society's growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides' ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism." If these trends cannot be reversed, the report warns, "[T]he overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006."

April 2007
Surge of Troops Continues -- As Does Violence

The surge will not be fully deployed until July '07. Gen. Petraeus says he will issue a report in September on the progress of the Baghdad security plan, which the administration will then review.

Meanwhile, despite an initial drop in sectarian killings, spectacular attacks continue to rock Baghdad. On April 12, a suicide bomber targets the Parliament cafeteria inside the Green Zone, injuring 22 and killing MP Muhammad Awad. On April 18, nearly 200 people are killed in a series of bombings in Baghdad. It is the deadliest day in the capital since the start of the U.S. troop surge.

Sunni Awakening

Emma Sky: 'we had to deal with people who had blood on their hands'

Iraq signs up to the Sunni Awakening movement

Iraq's Sunni militia leaders reveal why they turned on Al-Qaeda

Moqtada al-Sadr

Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia

Sadr declares new Iraq ceasefire

Iranian influence today

Power failure in Iraq as militias outgun the state