CNN Photos

Looking back at eight years of war in Iraq

Photojournalist Joe Raedle has been covering the war in Iraq since its start in 2003. He’s now documenting its final days as the last American troops prepare to leave the country.

“There seems to be some real apprehension about what is next,” says Raedle, a photographer with Getty Images. “But there is also a return to some sense of normalcy.”

During the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, Raedle was embedded with a Marine unit that was tasked with securing a strategic point in Nasiriyah. It ended up being one of his closest calls when a fierce gun battle left 19 Marines dead.

Shortly after the incident, Raedle took an image that sticks with him to this day. It shows U.S. troops walking through the desolate landscape in a single-file line.

“At the time, it looked like Iraq may become a quagmire,” he says. “And I thought it summed up the bleakness of the situation.”

Another memorable moment came in 2005, when Raedle instinctively took photos as an Army sergeant fell to the ground after being shot along Baghdad’s Haifa Street. After medics tended to the soldier, he was back out patrolling the streets.

“[He] was hit with two rounds; one in the shoulder, the other in the leg,” Raedle says. “Even though he was hit, he wanted to continue to fight.”

Raedle says it’s hard to believe it has been eight years since he crossed the border into Iraq at the beginning of the war. Back in Nasiriyah last week, he watched Army soldiers remove their protective body armor before sharing a meal at the home of a sheikh they had befriended.

“It was fascinating to witness soldiers having lunch without wearing their body armor and walking the streets with very little fear of attack,” Raedle says. “I can’t profess to know what the future is. But in a region that is full of turmoil, Iraq seems stable at this time.”

- Brett Roegiers, CNN