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13 years later, Iraq war still a major political issue

Posted at 7:55 PM, Mar 18, 2016

Saturday marks the 13-year anniversary of the start of America's combat mission in Iraq, which eventually saw the conquest of the Iraqi government and the capture of Saddam Hussein.  

Within three weeks, American and coalition troops had successful capture the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. By the end of April 2003, American troops had successfully taken over power of the nation from Hussein. 

On May 1, President George W. Bush declared 'mission accomplished' from the USS Abraham Lincoln. Little did anyone know that America's battle in Iraq was actually just beginning. 

The war officially ended in 2011 after President Barack Obama had ordered a troop surge. The troop surge was ordered due to a rise in violence late in Bush's second term.

Since the end of the war in 2011, it has been a contentious issue in politics since. In recent months, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has suggested that going to Iraq was a mistake. 

This has also been an issue being fought between Democrats. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has been defending her vote in favor of the war as a member of the U.S. Senate as challenger Bernie Sanders has criticized her for her vote. Sanders voted against the war. 

Researchers from the University of Washington estimated that 405,000 Iraqi citizens were directly killed in the war, along with 60,000 indirect fatalities. Various reports estimate that 5,000 American troops were killed during the combat.

Part of the rationale for going to war was due to the belief that Hussein's government was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Coalition troops were never able to find weapons of mass destruction, and there are many questions on whether Iraq ever had such weapons.

The U.S. successfully captured Hussein, but Hussein's departure from power left a vacuum in the region, which partially led to the formation of the Islamic State. 

The U.S. continues to operate bases in Iraq, despite no longer being involved in combat. 

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.