Iraq facts


While some folks continue to debate how we got into Iraq, Congress and the media have turned mostly to the question of when and how to get out. Americans are eager to bring the troops home, but politicians and pundits disagree about how quickly - or whether - we should be segueing out of Iraq.

On the side of quicker is better, folks say the Iraqi government and military will only step up to the plate and take charge if Uncle Sam is not around to lean on. They also argue America's presence, by ticking off the insurgency, makes it harder to stabilize the country. Those urging the US to take it slow, warn that a too early departure could leave the country with more bloodshed and even an all out civil war. They prefer sticking around 'til Iraq is more politically stable, with more fully trained Iraqi troops, a stronger infrastructure and less rampant chaos.

For more on the "should we stay or should we go" debate, see our issue brief.

Below is a statistical snapshot of the situation in Iraq, a brief timeline on the political progress so far, and links for more background info and stats. As you'll noticed, we're indebted to Brookings for doing all the real tracking.

US troop levels

Source: Brookings

note: According to the Washington Post there are also 180,000 private contracters in Iraq as well, up from 25,000 in April, 2006. 

Iraqi forces levels

note: although goals for troop and police levels have been met, not all troops are 100% ready to take control without US support and not all police are 100% legit, with many believed to be also part of the militia. unfortunately numbers are hard to find. Brookings

Political timeline

(completely cribbed from the BBC)

  • April, 2003 Saddam Hussein's government goes down

  • May, 2003 Bush declares end of major combat

  • July, 2003 The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) meets for the first time

  • March, 2004 The IGC agrees on a temporary constitution

  • May, 2004 Iyad Allawi is named interim prime minister

  • June, 2004 US hands over power to interim government

  • August, 2004 National assembly members are chosen

  • January, 2005 Iraqis vote in multiparty election

  • April, 2005 Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani sworn in as the new interim president

  • October, 2005 Iraqis vote in constitution referendum

  • Dec. 15, 2005 Iraqis vote on a new national government

  • June, 2006 A national government is formed

Ongoing violence

US troop fatalities

Source: Brookings

Iraqi military and police deaths

Source: Brookings

Iraqi civilian deaths

Source: Brookings (pdf). Note: Brookings started changing how it tracked numbers in 2006, primarily by stopping separating out deaths from war related violence and deaths from crime, since they increasingly seemed to be one and the same.

Number of daily attacks from insurgents

Source: Brookings

Iraqis' top concerns

from polls by the International Republican Institute Brookings (pdf)

In September, 2005:

  • inadequate electricity: 55%

  • ethnic tensions: 34%

  • presence of multi-national forces: 25%

  • religious tension: 24%

  • lack of adequate housing: 22%

In July, 2005:

  • inadequate electricity: 32%

  • lack of adequate housing: 17%

  • unemployment: 9%

  • presence of multi-national forces: 8%

  • high prices: 7%

The economy and other signs of (non)improvement

Crude oil production

Brookings. Note: pre-war levels were at 2.5 million barrels a day



Gross Domestic Product (size of the economy) Brookings (pdf)

  • 2005: $29.3 billion

  • 2004: $25.5 billion

  • 2003: $13.6 billion

  • 2002: $20.5 billion

Unemployment Brookings (pdf)

  • 2005: 27-40% (hasn't budged since January)

  • 2004: 30-45%

Paying for reconstruction

  • As of January 2006: $18.4 billion of US money was set aside for Iraqi reconstruction. WP Of that:

    • $14.7 billion has been used so far (January 2006). Of that:

      • $2.5 billion was shifted to Iraqi forces and prisons, and

      • About $2.5 billion is used for private security for the contractors

  • February 2006: Congress Daily puts the numbers at $21 billion set aside for reconstruction, with $3 billion left to be used, but another $4 billion likely to come in a 2006 supplemental spending bill.

facts and backgrounders from other sources:


warning: this is not a carefully vetted or balanced listing of opinions, but rather quick take of some of the reputable voices CJ came across

  • Five views on withdrawal from Foreign Policy (for readers who don't subscribe, here's another site that posts the FP essays)

  • Washington Post's six competing op-eds from Bodine, Gompert, Khouri, Chehab, Marr, and Anderson.

  • Optimism from a major in the Marine Corps.

  • Senator Biden argues for the popular timeline-for-withdrawal plan. James Dobbins from Rand takes a similar view. Laurence Korb and Brian Katulis spell out a plan (pdf) for withdrawal.

  • Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings talks about the risks of over-optimism and over-pessimism.

  • Kenneth Pollack says its not just the insurgency that's destabilizing Iraq - it's a wider lawlessness.

  • Peter Brookes at Heritage leans toward sticking around to see nation-building through to the end.

Updated September, 2007.

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

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As we decrease the U.S.

As we decrease the U.S. troop prescence in Iraq, it is necessary to make sure the Iraqi forces will be able to handle the population within their borders.  It is understood that the U.S. has been training/supplying the Iraqi security forces, but they must be able to function themselves come 16 months from now.  The most important statistics to look at will be the overall number of U.S. troops per month, the number of Iraqi security force deaths a month, the number of civilian deaths a month, and the number of insurgent attacks per day.  If all these can decrease while the U.S. is leaving, or has left, we can consider this a huge victory fo the Obama administration.  
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frankb344 | March 16, 2009 - 6:28pm