Many are concerned that conditions could worsen in Iraq once the US military has withdrawn its forces from the country. Troops are required to leave by the end of the year and the pullout is already well underway. Hundreds of transport vehicles are currently snaking their way south towards the Kuwaiti border. Most of the troops are likely to have left the country by Christmas. Concerns are not being eased by a recent bomb in the International/Green Zone and a rise in violence over the course of November.
At least 200 people were killed and over 560 injured in violent incidents over the course of the month. Of the dozens of recorded attacks over a third targeted civilians. However, it was the security forces who bore the brunt of the violence. Over half of all the attacks targeted either the Iraqi police or military.
Government employees, particularly those working in ministries in the capital, were the next most commonly targeted group. After that the Sahwah organisation suffered the next greatest number of targeted shootings and bombings in the central provinces. The US military suffered a handful of attacks, but they will now go into decline as the force crosses the border into Kuwait.
Commercial interests remain at risk of attack in Iraq but they remain targeted only infrequently. The oil and gas sector was not targeted at all over the course of the month, although a bombing in Basrah the day before a notable oil and gas conference served as a sharp reminder of the security issues facing private businesses. Two recent attacks on North Oil Company employees in Kirkuk also illustrate that the hydrocarbon sector is far from immune.
The economic potential in Iraq is significant so would-be investors should not be put off by ongoing violence. The operating environment simply requires a different approach from a health and safety perspective. The industry-wide principles of preparation, training, protection, intelligence and insurance are as applicable in Iraq as in other industry hotspots such as Algeria, Angola and Nigeria. Risk-aware companies which prepare themselves appropriately for investing securely in the country will likely find themselves far ahead of their competitors.
John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq since 2003. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here, and you can obtain a free trial of AKE’s Iraq intelligence reports here.