On Saturday the 28th of August US president Barack Obama made the following announcement on the situation in Iraq:
“The war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all our troops will be home.”
It seems an age ago that joyous Iraqis tore down the huge statue of Saddam Hussain that dominated Firdos Square in Central Baghdad.
It was seven years ago to be precise and the apparent jubilation was tempered by violence as some celebrated others took pot shots at US Marines as they helped topple the effigy.
Now as the US prepares its withdrawal, there is still no Iraqi government in place, six months after the election, to plan the post 2011 scenario.
Many believe that Iraq has now reached a form of stability, yet it is a raw stability, a stability that includes regular attacks against the fledgling Iraqi security services.
As the clock ticks down on the US combat mission Iraq is on its highest level of alert.
The authorities have warned of plots to sow fear and chaos and undermine the confidence of the newly trained Iraqi military.
Senior Iraqi intelligence officers have indicated that suicide bombers have entered the country with plans to strike unspecified targets in Baghdad over the next few weeks.
Insurgents have already intensified attacks on police and soldiers, making August the deadliest month for security personal in two years.
Many Iraqis have lost faith in their leaders and see a future blighted by sectarian violence.
As well as violence there is also poverty.
According to the UNHCR 1.5 million are displaced inside Iraq and 500,000 are housed in squatter camps with only basic sanitation and electricity.
It is a volatile mix and one that will be difficult to keep a lid on and according to the UNHCR it is very easy for a country such as Iraq to slip back into war.
Daniel Endres is from the UNHCR in Iraq:
“It is very important that post-conflict or transition countries, because part of it is still in conflict, receive sufficient support for a certain period, because statistics show that the majority of post conflict situations punch back into conflict within seven years.”
Unless the provision of basic services improves a significant proportion of the country will feel they have no stake in the new Iraq and fall prey to those who want chaos to be king.