This day in history, March 20, 2003, the invasion of Iraq, led by U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, began under the codename “Operation Iraqi Liberation,” later renamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the UK codename “Operation Telic,” and the Australian codename “Operation Falconer.”
Approximately 40 other governments participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces. Among those sent to Kuwait for the invasion were 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from Special Forces unit GROM. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north, and the invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to have up to 70,000 troops.
According to General Tommy Franks, the objectives of the invasion were:
“First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq’s oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.”
Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and Baghdad was occupied on April 9. Other operations occurred against the Iraqi army, including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk and Tikrit. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On May 1, the invasion period ended and the military occupation period began.