Monday, April 11, 2011

Checking in with Iraqi Stability


The future of global oil supply, and the timing and height of peak oil, depend critically on whether and when Iraq can markedly increase its oil production.  A precondition for increased oil production is adequate political stability in the country.  So it's good to check-in every so often on how the statistics in the Brookings Iraq Index are tracking.

The above graph shows the number of foreign troops in Iraq since May 2003, shortly following the invasion of the country by the US and other "coalition of the willing" members.  As you can see, the number of troops stabilized last summer at a much reduced number - just shy of 50,000 Americans (everyone else lost their willingness by the middle of 2009).

Notwithstanding the withdrawal, security indicators have mostly stabilized or continued to improve.  For example, here is the estimate of violent fatalities of Iraqi civilians, which continues to mainly trend down:


Similarly, deaths of the Iraqi military and police are stable or declining:


There are now very few US troop casualties by comparison with earlier years:


Likewise, the number of troops wounded is a tiny fraction of the levels of the mid 2000s:


Therefore, the continued deployment is politically tolerable in the US (though it's likely that Iraqi domestic politics will enforce the current bilateral agreement that all troops will leave by the end of this year).

However, Iraq is still not a normal country - there are still 10-20 multiple fatality bombings a month, a very high rate of terrorism.  However, the number is not increasing.


It appears likely that the Maliki government can keep the country stable enough for development of its oil resources to proceed at some pace constrained more by logistics than the security situation.

5 comments:

John said...

"As you can see, the number of troops stabilized last summer at a much reduced number - just shy of 50,000 Americans (everyone else lost their willingness by the middle of 2009)."

Does this number show the complete picture of people in Iraq. At one time we had thousands of "contractors" in Iraq. It would be interesting to know how many contractors/mercenaries we still have there.

Gerald said...

I wonder if things are quite as promising as you seem to be saying. There are still 50,000 US troops in the country distributed around some enormous numbers of ever more fortified bases - hardly a sign of long-term stability. The Kurds, who control a lot of the oil, are either annoying the Iraqi government or the Turks but there is a not a word about them. And is the Maliki government really in control of what is happening? I suspect there is a seething broth of tensions just below the surface. We used to have Patrick Cockburn as a reliable non-embedded voice but where is the latest news coming from?

Nick G said...

So....how is Afghanistan doing?

Are there are comparable statistics?

Stuart Staniford said...

Nick:

I hadn't paid any attention to this, Afghanistan being fairly irrelevant to the stability of global civlization, but yes, apparently Brookings also maintains that index.. Flipping through, it looks like things are going from bad to worse...

buck smith said...

"There are still 50,000 US troops in the country distributed around some enormous numbers of ever more fortified bases - hardly a sign of long-term stability."

The US kept a lot more troops in South Korea and Western Europe and managed to lead those backward locales, however haltingly, to long term stability ;)