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US in Iraq: What's been left behind

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Americans and Iraqis engaged in reconstruction say many lessons have also been learned and security has improved. The current monthly death toll of 300 is 1/10th that of 2007. But the cost has been high, with more than 4,400 Americans killed and almost 32,000 wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqis – some estimate hundreds of thousands – have also died from violent death and the broader impact of conflict.

In the minds of Iraqi citizens – many bitter over lives lost and seared with indignation over atrocities such as the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, but also ignorant about the extent of American investment in reconstruction – the US presence here has left a mixed legacy. It ranges from hostility to gratitude. "The locals are happy, but they won't say, 'We are grateful to the US' because of security concerns," says one Iraqi engineer from Baghdad who has worked with the US military in Fallujah since 2005. "People could write on their door 'Traitor' or kidnap them. It is a shame. They should be grateful for what [the US] did for the city."

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Anti-American hostility lingers in Fallujah like few other cities because more than 300,000 residents were ordered to leave in advance of the 2004 assault. The military broke into and searched every one of the estimated 30,000 structures. Some were destroyed in the fight to kill militants.

When it was over, Fallujah was sealed off and a biometric security system put in place for all returning residents. Compensation was paid for damage, but Fallujans were shocked at what they saw.

Since then, the Iraqi government has paid for two new bridges; a new 200-bed, $46 million hospital; and a host of other projects like roadworks. But the US military has also channeled much money into the area. Among the 4,600 projects USACE has implemented across Iraq, 109 projects worth $190 million lie in Fallujah alone.

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