As 2007 comes to close, how should we understand the situation in Iraq? Are we witnessing the greatest American military comeback late in a war since Sherman’s march to the sea in 1864? Or is Iraq still a weakly governed and very violent place where sectarian reconciliation is starkly absent?
The problem for American policymakers, troops and voters is that both these situations are simultaneously real. Iraq’s security environment is considerably improved, with security at its best levels since early 2004. This is largely thanks to the surge-based strategy of Gen. David Petraeus and the heroic efforts — and sacrifice — of so many American and Iraqi troops and police officers (more Americans have died in Iraq in 2007 than in any previous year, though death rates have dropped greatly in the last few months). But Iraq’s political environment and its economy are only marginally better than a year ago. High oil prices have helped the latter, but violence and rampant corruption remain huge problems.
The number of trained Iraqi security forces steadily rises. It had better, since American troop levels are scheduled to drop to pre-surge levels by summer, although the new strategy, with its emphasis on protecting the civilian population, is to continue. Given Iraq’s fragile sectarian relations and weak institutions, the likelihood is that further American troop reductions will have to be slow and careful if the progress is to continue.
|Category||Nov. 2003||Nov. 2004||Nov. 2005||Nov. 2006||Nov. 2007|
|Iraqi Civilian Deaths from Violence||700||2650||1650||3450||650|
|U.S./Other Foreign Troops in Iraq (thousands)||123/24||138/24||160/23||140/18||162/12|
|U.S. Troop Deaths||82||137||84||69||40|
|Iraqi Security Forces (thousands)||95||114||214||323||430|
|Iraqi Security Force Fatalities||65||65||176||123||89|
|Daily Attacks by Insurgents, Militias||35||85||95||180||80|
|Sunni Volunteers Working with U.S., Iraqi Forces (thousands)||0||0||0||0||50|
|Iraqi Civilians Displaced by Violence (monthly, thousands)||25||25||15||1,000||40|
|Multiple Fatality Bombings||6||11||41||65||22|
|Oil Production (Millions of Barrels/Day; Prewar 2.5)||2.1||2.0||2.0||2.1||2.4|
|Household Fuels as % of Need||76||77||88||54||67|
|Iraq’s Global Rank for Corruption||113||129||137||160||178|
|Electricity (Average Gigawatts; Prewar 4.0)||3.6||3.2||3.7||3.7||4.1|
|Unemployment Rate (percent)||50||35||33||33||33|
|Resources Going From Baghdad to Average Iraqi Province (in millions of dollars per year)||0||0||25||50||100|
View the Op-Chart
(graphic by Amy Unikewicz)