OEF/OIF: Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Veterans from Both Conflicts Have High Rates of PTSD

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OEF/OIF is an acronym that refers to the U.S.-led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, OEF means "Operation Enduring Freedom" (the war in Afghanistan), while OIF stands for "Operation Iraqi Freedom," or the Iraq War.

Veterans from the OEF/OIF conflicts have been found to have high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that some 10% to 18% of OEF/OIF veterans have or had PTSD, and may be at risk for other mental health problems.

PTSD was more likely to be diagnosed in service members several months after they returned from the two conflicts, rather than right away. Here's some information on the conflicts and how PTSD has affected those who participated.

OIF: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom — the Iraq War — started with the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003 and officially ended in 2011 when the U.S. and its allies withdrew its forces. Soldiers returning from Iraq (many of whom served multiple deployments) were at high risk of PTSD, in large part because they had faced many combat stressors as part of their service — in general, more than those soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

Iraq War combat veterans experienced multiple stressors that can contribute to PTSD. According to studies from the VA, some 95% of OIF combat veterans reported seeing dead bodies. Meanwhile, 93% said they had been shot at, 89% said they had been attacked or ambushed, 86% received mortar or rocket fire, and 86% said they knew someone who had been seriously injured or killed.

OEF: Operation Enduring Freedom and PTSD

Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the United States and its allies as a response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 that brought down the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.

The attacks were linked to al Qaeda, a terrorist group operating in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban, and so the U.S. in October 2001 invaded Afghanistan in an effort to oust the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda.

Operation Enduring Freedom lasted for 13 years, until December 2014, when the U.S. and its allies ended their combat mission in Afghanistan.

Although OEF combat veterans generally don't suffer from PTSD at the same rates as OIF veterans, significant numbers of soldiers who participated in this conflict experienced combat stressors, according to the VA.

Specifically, 84% said they had received mortar or rocket fire, 66% said they had been shot at, 58% said they had been attacked or ambushed, 43% said they knew someone who had been seriously injured or killed, and 39% said they had seen dead bodies.

Mental Illness in OEF/OIF Veterans

While up to 18% of OEF/OIF veterans suffer from PTSD, these veterans also are at high risk for other mental health problems.

Specifically, depression may have affected between 3% and 25% of those returning from these conflicts (due to widely differing methods used in the studies conducted, it's difficult to get a firm read on how many suffered depression). Veterans may also have had difficulties with drinking and excessive tobacco use, the VA says.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mental Health Effects of Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq fact sheet. Accessed March 12, 2016.

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