The Iraq War started 10 years ago, an anniversary marked by violence. In December 2011, the United States said its involvement in combat was over, and with it, the war. The reasons behind the invasion and the mishandling of it are a myriad of falsehoods and ineptitude. But looking past that, where is Iraq after a decade of war and with American combat forces out of the country? It’s not in a good state. And the international community is ignoring a country resting on an unstable foundation.
The so-called “surge” in 2007 worked, but not in the way it was presented. Iraq was in a civil war then, with Sunnis and Shias in large ethnic and sectarian clashes. The United States and coalition forces took sides in the civil war to stop it, but the conflict only increased refugees and didn’t resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts, only postponing them. Roughly 1.5 million were internally displaced during the fighting, and many remain displaced today. According to Refugees International, there are as many as 2.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Iraq today.
With foreign combat troops withdrawn from Iraq, long-simmering conflicts and the civil war’s fallout are rearing their heads. One of the country’s vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, is living in exile in Turkey after being sentenced to death on charges of running Sunni death squads. The warrant for his arrest came the day after American troops left the country. The semi-automous Iraqi Kurdistan is in on-and-off fights with the Iraqi government over its own oil trade. And with the Syrian civil war next door, the risk of the fighting spilling over could reignite Iraq’s own civil war. Already, over 115,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UNHCR in Iraq.
Meanwhile, reconstruction efforts in Iraq remain inconsistent. Projects are abandoned halfway to completion. The government’s authority is tenuous at best in parts the country. And the State Department ended its training program for Iraqi police after years of mishandling, even as the country’s security forces continue to grow. So Iraq’s left with an unstable authority, while regional and local authorities bare teeth at each other. Instead of rebuilding the country and providing for basic humanitarian needs, the international community is letting Iraq set itself up for conflict and humanitarian problems.
The world wants to forget Iraq, and the disaster that was the war. It wants to try to sweep it under the rug and focus on the global economy or current conflicts such as Syria. But the facts won’t go away: more than 30 million people live in Iraq, and they need help to rebuild their country and avoid another decade of violence.