Small Wars Journal

ISIS

How the 2011 US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq Led to the Rise of ISIS

The United States was on the verge of achieving a lasting victory in the Iraq War after a costly seven-year occupation and the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. troops. In 2006, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had lost its charismatic leader and chief strategist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Over the next few years, the organization lost its base of support as Iraq’s Sunni tribes turned against it and began fighting beside US and Iraqi troops to eject the terrorists from their communities. By 2010, Iraq had emerged from its civil war and AQI had become irrelevant. Then, President Barack Obama made two strategic mistakes that reversed that progress and sent Iraq spiraling back down the path of sectarian violence.

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