Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF & OIF)

Afghanistan:  Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) / Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States responded by deploying military personnel in Southwest Asia. By January 2002, more than 30,000 active duty were involved and additional reserve personnel continue to be called to duty.  

As a result of Iraq’s refusal to comply with United Nations’ mandates, U.S. began deploying troops to the Gulf region in late 2002.  Coalition forces subsequently won a decisive victory against the forces under the regime of Saddam Hussein, during April 2003, in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  Coalition forces remain in Iraq today as part of ongoing peacekeeping/nation-building activities.  

Currently, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and neighboring countries of the former Soviet Union.  

Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
On September 11, 2001 the United States of America was the victim of a series of suicide bombings. Nineteen  members of a terrorist organization boarded commercial passenger airplanes, hijacked them, and subsequently crashed them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.  Following the attacks, it was discovered that Al-Qaeda, an extremist Islamic militant group, was responsible for these acts of violence. Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist group’s leader, was rumored to be hiding in Afghanistan, where he trained and armed men to perform terrorist acts.  While 15 of the 19 people accused of the hijackings were from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan was chosen as a battle ground because it housed many terrorist training grounds and was a meeting place for terrorists around the world.   

The United States government immediately responded to these acts of terrorism by giving Afghanistan an ultimatum. The Taliban did not comply with the demands of the ultimatum and on October 7, 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched.  The stated goals of OEF became ousting the Taliban regime, which was harboring Al-Qaeda, capturing and prosecuting Osama Bin Laden and other leaders of Al-Qaeda, and permanently destroying Al-Qaeda’s organizational capacities.  The first objective, removing the Taliban from governmental power, was easily accomplished by a joint effort of US and British forces.   Also, several top leaders of Al-Qaeda have been found and either prosecuted or killed.  The remaining goals have proved much more difficult because the nature of the warfare has turned to counterinsurgency. Since the Taliban was eradicated, a power vacuum has been created which is being filled by US forces and the International Assistance Security Force (ISAF).  US officials fear that if they leave this power vacuum will be filled with counterinsurgents and Afghanistan will once again become a safe haven for terrorists.  The United States remains in Afghanistan, and is likely to remain until a strong central government, capable of enforcing stability, can be established.   

Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Iraq War
The United States, with the aid of Great Britain, launched Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 20, 2003.  Prior to the conflict there was speculation as to whether or not Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  In 2002, The United Nations Security Council, demanded full access from the Iraqi government to ensure that they possessed no weapons of mass destruction.  The United Nations found no verification of weapons of mass destruction when they searched Iraq, but evidence was said to be inconclusive.   

After OIF began, the search for WMD continued, but no such weapons were ever found.  Another justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom was that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al-Qaeda and coordinated the September 11th terrorist attacks with the organization.  No evidence of a connection was ever found between Hussein and Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda.  The last justification for the attack was that the people of Iraq were being oppressed by Hussein, and The United State’s goal was to free these civilians.  Due to the controversial nature of the invasion justification, the Iraq war was protested against in many European countries.

Despite the controversy surrounding the entrance into the war, the initial attack was very successful.  With the help superior weapons, technology, and leadership the U.S. military, with the help of their British allies, quickly and soundly defeated the Iraqi military.  Saddam Hussein and his brothers went into hiding and Hussein was later found, tried, and executed.    

Once the official Iraqi military was defeated, insurgents began fighting U.S. troops who they felt were wrongfully occupying their country. Old religious tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims were ignited and violence continued. Iraq is still unstable and The United States remains in the country for purposes of security and nation building. U.S. officials want to make sure that the new Iraqi government will be capable of retaining stability and that the insurgents will not come into power when troops leave.  Recently there has been improvement in the situation; the Iraqi government is taking increasingly more responsibility for security measures and daily governance.  In 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama laid out a withdrawal plan, which would tentatively have U.S. forces out of the country by the end of 2011.  

Learn more about Unique Health Risks for OEF/OIF.

OEF/OIF Related Resources

U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs - Information about OEF/OIF.  

Hazardous Exposure - Information on chemical, radiation, physical and environmental hazards during military service, possible health-related problems and VA benefits.  

Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF)Benefits information for returning services members from OEF/OIF.  

Iraq War Veterans' IllnessesInformation about health problems associated with military service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn and related VA benefits. 

Afghanistan War Veterans' Illnesses-  Information about health problems associated with military service during Operation Enduring Freedom and related VA benefits. 

Hepatitis C Virus Research and Education – Information about Hepatitis C Virus.  

Veterans Health InitiativeIndependent study courses to help health providers care for their Veteran patients. 

National Center for PTSD - The Center aims to help U.S. Veterans and others through research, education, and training on trauma and PTSD.  

Women Veterans Health Care – Information about and answers to some of the most freq