a memorial for all wars: the Polynational War Memorial


Iraqi Insurgency

Years: 2004-2017
Battle deaths: 15,824 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 451 [3]
Onesided violence: 923 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
Iraq, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, Iran

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2018-07-29 08:09:10

In the wake of the defeat of the Baathist regime led by Saddam Hussein against a coalition of US, UK and Australian forces in 2003 and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, an insurgency began against the new regime and the occupying forces.

The following passage from UCDP:s website describes the subsequent transformation of the state. "The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) dissolved the state apparatus of the former regime. Several of the opposition organisations that had fought against Saddam Hussein transformed into political parties and members of their armed wings joined the new Iraqi government forces. This included older forces such as the Badr Brigades of the SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and the so-called peshmerga forces of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), but also elements of recently formed militias such as the al-Mahdi army or the Fadhila." (1)

The Baathist army including the elite forces of the National Guard was dissolved and disarmed, and parts of this disgruntled and dismissed army has alledgedly played an important role in the insurgency.

The first phase of the insurgency began shortly after the 2003 invasion and prior to the establishment of the new Iraqi government. From around 2004 to May 2007, the insurgency primarily targeted the Multi-National Force – Iraq, while latterly, Iraqi security forces, seen as collaborators with the coalition, were also targeted. (2)

The violence quickly spread along sectarian lines, pitting sunnis against shi'a. The sunni-dominated Anbar province soon became a hotbed of resistance against the government in Baghdad. But also militant nationalists, ethnic groups and salafi jihadist groups were active in the insurgency.

With the full-scale eruption of the sectarian civil war in February 2006, many militant attacks in American-controlled central Iraq were directed at the Iraqi police and military forces of the Iraqi government. The attacks continued during the transitional reconstruction of Iraq, as the Iraqi government tried to establish itself. Civil war violence decreased in late 2008 and the insurgency continued through the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. After the withdrawal in December 2011, a renewed wave of sectarian and anti-government insurgency swept Iraq, causing thousands of casualties in 2012. Increasing violence in 2013 raised fears of another civil war. (2)

A prominent militant sunni salafi group that alledgedly played an important part in the early insurgency was led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda network in 2004 and this group would later transform itself into the islamic state of iraq and the levant (al-doula al-islamiyya fi al-iraq wa al-sham), better known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or da'eish.

The group quickly recruited a large number of fighters both locally and from abroad and managed to take control over a large territory in northern Iraq in 2014 including the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.

In 2014 the Iraqi government forces in the South and Peshmergas in the Northeast of Iraq started to push back against IS with support from the US Air Force in the air and Iranian al-Quds forces on the ground. Iraqi forces retook Ramadi in december 2015, Fallujah in June 2016 and launched an offensive to recapture Mosul on 16 October 2016, a campaign that is still, in June 2017, ongoing.

Insurgents continue to launch frequent suicide and IED attacks in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. One of the most deadly in recent years was the bomb attacks in the busy shopping district of Karrada on 3 July 2016, which killed over 300 civilians.(3)


(1) http://www.ucdp.uu.se/#actor/116

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_insurgency_(2003%E2%80%9311)

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Karrada_bombing


Iraq Body Count Database




Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v. 5-2017 (link) (1989-2017) #259
Low: 14,693 High: 19,818

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2017 (link) including actors: / Ansar al-Islam / Government of Iraq / Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba / al-Mahdi Army / AAH
Low: 795 High: 1,199

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2017 (link) including dyads: / Ansar al-Islam vs PUK / IS vs RJF / 1920 Revolution Brigades vs IS / Jaysh al-Mukhtar vs MEK
Low: 438 High: 815

Optional figures related to onesided violence: low: 151,670 and high: 162,458 based on the following estimates (2013):

1) Iraq Body Count (IBC) data retrieved 2013-07-30. Civilians. Low estimate May 2003 - 2012: 104,095.
2) Coalition forces (from icasualties.org) may 2003- dec 2012: 4,632.
3) Iraqi police and military forces: 16,632. Iraqi insurgents: 26,320.wikipedia.org

NOTE! Fatality data for 2014 has not yet been added for this conflict.

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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