The security situation has improved since the peak of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, yet there are still many uncertainties and the situation remains fragile. The surge of US security forces coupled with the activism of Iraq’s tribes against radical extremists reduced Iraqi civilian and US troop casualties, and this pattern has been sustained for more than a year.

Gradual, positive changes have emerged in the daily lives of Iraqi citizens. Neighbourhood militias have been virtually eliminated, as Iraqi security forces have become more effective. Provincial elections held on January 31, 2009 were successful; there were no major security incidents anywhere in the country. The Iraqi government declared June 30, 2009, the date the United States officially transferred the responsibility for control of Iraqi cities to its security forces, as a national holiday.

Some level of insecurity persists in parts of the country, and preventing militant attacks and outbreaks of violence continues to be a challenge for Iraqi security forces. Car and suicide bombings remain frequent in the new Iraq. The US military will continue to maintain a presence and play a security role in Iraq through 2011 and Iraqi forces will continue to rely heavily upon US intelligence and logistical support to carry out their missions, maintaining a level of interdependence that will endure for some time to come.

This second report from the “Iraq’s New Reality” conference series, discusses how Iraq can ensure security within the country and also how it will set its national security agenda. The report is a joint publication by CIGI and the Stimson Center in Washington, DC.