Twenty Years of Externally Promoted Security Assistance in Iraq: Changing Approaches and Their Limits

Irene Costantini, Dylan O'Driscoll

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Iraq adds to the poor track record of externally promoted security assistance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. By taking a long-term perspective, this article examines and problematizes the shift in paradigms from Security Sector Reforms (SSR) as a pillar of the liberal statebuilding intervention in Iraq to Security Force Assistance (SFA) as the remedy that the post-interventionist turn endorsed since the 2010s. In discussing this shift, the article also shows that in successive phases of externally promoted security assistance, different notions of security prevailed. As the intervention unfolded, human security instead of guiding SSR was quickly put to the side, as donors’ security (2003–2008) and later regime’s security (2009–mid 2014) prevailed. The late 2014–2019 prevalence of SFA in Iraq was instead characterized by the disjuncture of security assistance from other governance aspects in the country while it later became part of a tense geopolitical context (2020–2023). Overall, Iraq proves to be a laboratory for testing out concepts relating to security whereby external actors and factors are key to explaining the shift in security assistance, while internal local needs for security are largely ignored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Peacekeeping
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Institute themes

  • Peace and Conflict
  • Security and Resilience


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