|A woman in a traditional costume sits as she waits to leave after collecting water from a well due to a water scarcity in Sadr City, northeastern Baghdad March 12, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)|
by Xinhua writer Li Laifang
BAGHDAD, March 19 (Xinhua) -- As Iraq enters the eighth year of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the nation is also bracing for a reshaping of political map for the next four years with a pivotal parliamentary election that took place on March 7.
Over the past seven years, the life of ordinary Iraqis, however, remains hard as problems of unemployment, violence, poverty and a lack of basic services, have yet been resolved despite certain progress in post-war reconstruction.
Compared with the chaos shortly after the war and a peak of sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007, the overall security situation has improved a lot since 2008. Yet peace still has not fully returned to this war-torn land.
Since the U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi towns last June, strings of massive car bombings in August, October, December last year have struck government buildings in the capital Baghdad, leaving hundreds dead. In January, several major hotels in downtown Baghdad were hit by car bombings, which killed dozens.
Western Anbar province, which was once a stronghold for anti-U. S. insurgency but later saw a sharp drop of violence after tribal militia cooperated with U.S. troops against al-Qaida, has had a resurge of attacks since the second half of last year. In northern Neineva province, violence occurs almost every day.
Thick and high concrete blast walls near key facilities and numerous checkpoints on roads indicate security threats remain. On election day, rounds of rockets and mortars and roadside bombs hit Baghdad, killing 37 people. Sporadic violence continues after the election. Insurgents have not gone away. Rather, they still carry out attacks on various occasions.
Al-Qaida insurgents, extremists and some local militia pose a threat to the security situation. The Iraqi government has frequently blamed the al-Qaida and the loyalists of the now outlawed Baarth party for the recent deadly attacks in the capital.
Currently, the number of U.S. troops has reduced to below 100, 000. According to an agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. combat troops will pull out at the end of August this year. And at the end of 2011, all U.S. troops will leave Iraq.
Some analysts doubt whether the Iraqi forces could shoulder the responsibilities of maintaining security on their own after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.