Year in Review 2007: Mideast: Progress in Iraq, but toll for U.S. is still high

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Year in Review 2007:

Mideast: Progress in Iraq, but toll for U.S. is still high

By Joseph Giordono and Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, December 31, 2007

Before the year began, few could have predicted the gains made in Iraq in 2007. Just 10 days into the year, President Bush had replaced his commander in Iraq, announced a “surge” of U.S. forces, and admitted mistakes in prosecuting the war.
Toward the end of the year, violence had fallen markedly and U.S. troop deaths — and other indicators — were at two-year lows. Officials attributed the gains to the “surge,” an alliance with Sunni tribes and a stand down ordered by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. The early part of the year was marked by heavy fighting and several large-scale bombings. But despite the gains, 2007, in fact, was the deadliest year in Iraq for U.S. troops.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan picked up steam. U.S. and NATO troops repeatedly clashed with a resurgent Taliban. By year’s end, the last sizeable Afghan town held by the Taliban had been retaken by NATO and U.S. troops.


Jan. 4 Bush names Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus top commander in Iraq, replacing Army Gen. George Casey Jr.; Navy Adm. William Fallon is chosen to succeed Army Gen. John Abizaid as the head of Central Command.
Jan. 10 Bush announces the “surge,” a major change in strategy adding at least five brigades to Iraq in coming months. Bush acknowledges mistakes in the war, but says the new strategy will focus on counterinsurgency operations and securing Baghdad.
Jan. 11 U.S. troops raid an Iranian diplomatic office in Irbil, Iraq, and detain five people who allegedly have helped train and arm Shiite militias in Iraq.
Jan. 16 A controversial U.N. tally of death certificates and reports from morgues, hospitals and other institutions claims more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in 2006.
Jan. 21 Twenty-seven U.S. soldiers die over a particularly deadly two-day period in Iraq.
Jan. 28 As many as 250 insurgents are killed near Najaf as American and Iraqi troops fight with a Shiite militia. An American helicopter is shot down in the battle.


Feb. 4 At least 130 people die when a massive truck bomb explodes in a crowded Shiite market in Baghdad.
Feb. 7 U.S. and Iraqi forces kick off a new Baghdad security offensive, hoping to stem increasingly deadly attacks by insurgents and militias.
Feb. 27 A suicide bomber attacks Bagram air base in Afghanistan during Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit, killing some 20 people. Though Cheney is a mile away from the blast, the Taliban claims the bombing is an assassination attempt.


March 4 After a suicide attack near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Marines open fire on a road filled with civilians, killing 16. The special operations Marine unit is later expelled from the country.
March 6 Sunni insurgents attack Shiite pilgrims as they make their way to a religious ceremony in Karbala, killing about 120 people and wounding as many as 200.
March 23 Iran detains eight British sailors and seven British marines, claiming they were in Iranian territorial waters. British officials deny the allegation, saying they were in Iraqi waters. In response to the crisis, Britain suspends all “bilateral business” with Iran. The sailors are freed April 4.
March 28 In Iraq, Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, replaces Zalmay Khalilzad, who becomes the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.


April 12 Eight people, including two Iraqi legislators, die when a suicide bomber strikes inside the Parliament building in Baghdad’s Green Zone. In a separate attack, the Sarafiya bridge spanning the Tigris River is destroyed.
April 24 Nine U.S. soldiers are killed and at least 20 are wounded after two suicide bombers attack an American post in Diyala, Iraq.


May 12 Four U.S. soldiers die and three are captured in an ambush near Mahmudiyah, Iraq, a mostly Sunni area. The Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent group that includes al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, says it is holding the soldiers.
May 13 A senior Taliban military leader, Mullah Dadullah, is killed in a Helman province raid by Afghan, NATO and American forces.
May 23 The body of Pfc. Joseph Anzack, one of three soldiers missing since the May 12 ambush, is found in the Euphrates River.
May 25 Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army, appears in public for the first time since January and calls for a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops in Iraq.


June 13 A revered Shiite shrine in Samarra is bombed for the second time in 16 months. Sunni militants connected to al-Qaida are suspected in the attack.
June 19 U.S. troops launch Operation Arrowhead Ripper, an effort to clear Baqouba, Iraq. Many of the insurgents pushed from Baghdad had relocated to the area, officials said.


July 23 Mohammad Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan whose 40-year reign ended in 1973, dies in Kabul.
July 25 Iraqis celebrate their national soccer team’s victory in the semifinals of the Asian Cup. Two suicide bombers in Baghdad target the celebrations, killing 50 people. Four days later, the Iraqis win the Asian Cup with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.


Aug. 13 The Taliban releases two of 23 South Korean hostages abducted from a bus on July 19; two of the hostages, a group of religious volunteers, had been killed.
Aug. 13 U.S. military officials announce Operation Phantom Strike, a major offensive against both Sunni and Shiite militants throughout Iraq.
Aug. 14 Truck bombs strike the northwestern Iraqi towns of Qahataniya and Jazeera, killing at least 500 members of the minority Yazidi community. It is the single deadliest attack of the war.
Aug. 26 Iraqi government officials announce a reconciliation measure allowing former Baathists to regain government jobs lost under the 2003 de-Baathification rule.
Aug. 29 South Korea agrees to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan and end any future evangelical work in the country. The Taliban releases 12 of 19 remaining hostages; the last seven are released the next day.
Aug. 29 Muqtada al-Sadr says he has ordered the Mahdi Army to suspend its military operations for six months. The order largely holds, contributing to a downturn in violence.


Sept. 3 Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates make a surprise visit to Iraq. They go to Anbar province to highlight security gains and meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders.
Sept. 13 Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, a leader of Sunni tribes in Anbar that have allied with the U.S. to fight al-Qaida, dies in a bombing. Sattar had met with Bush just 10 days earlier.
Sept. 16 Blackwater guards escorting a State Department convoy allegedly kill 17 Iraqi civilians in a controversial shooting in Baghdad. The incident spurs congressional hearings on contractor oversight and Iraqi demands that Blackwater be ejected from the country.
Sept. 30 The month of September ends with the fewest U.S. casualties in nearly two years. The “surge” is credited with greatly reducing violence in many parts of the country.


Oct. 22 A Bahrain-based U.S. sailor shoots and kills two female sailors assigned to the command before shooting himself. The shooter had been involved in a relationship with one of the women; the other was her roommate.


Nov. 6 In the worst suicide bombing in the country’s history, at least 77 people — including six legislators — are killed and 100 other people wounded in northern Afghanistan. U.N. officials say many of the deaths are injuries caused when security services fired in response to the blasts.
Nov. 18 U.S. military commanders in Iraq say that attacks throughout the country have gone down by 55 percent since the “surge” began.
Nov. 26 Bush and Maliki sign a deal setting the stage for a long-term agreement on basing U.S. forces in Iraq. The details are to be negotiated in 2008.


Dec. 2 Muqtada al-Sadr urges his Mahdi Army militia to continue its six-month freeze in military activities.
Dec. 10 After a week of fighting, NATO and U.S. troops say they have taken the Afghan town of Musa Qala, the last “sizeable” town held by the Taliban.
Dec. 16 Turkish jets — using U.S. military intelligence information — bomb several locations in northern Iraq they say are Kurdish militant bases. In the coming days, Turkish troops also mount a cross-border raid. The incidents raise worries about destabilizing the mainly peaceful region.
Dec. 26 Turkey confirms its third airstrike in 10 days against Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq. Turkish President Abdullah Gul praises the U.S. for providing military intelligence.
Dec. 26 Bush signs a measure that includes about $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan past February2008.