Following the U.S.-launched 2003 invasion of Iraq, the situation deteriorated, and by 2007, the conflict between Iraqi Sunni and Shi'a factions was described by the National Intelligence Estimate as having elements of a civil war. In a January 10, 2007 address to the American people, President George W. Bush stated that "80% of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 mi (48.3 km) of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis." Two polls of Americans conducted in 2006 found that between 65% to 85% believed Iraq was in a civil war; however, a similar poll of Iraqis conducted in 2007 found that 61% did not believe that they were in a civil war.
In October 2006, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Iraqi government estimated that more than 365,000 Iraqis had been displaced since the 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, bringing the total number of Iraqi refugees to more than 1.6 million. By 2008, the UNHCR raised the estimate of refugees to a total of about 4.7 million (~16% of the population). The number of refugees estimated abroad was 2 million (a number close to CIA projections) and the number of internally displaced people was 2.7 million. In 2007, Iraq's anti-corruption board reported that 35% of Iraqi children, or about five million children, were orphans. The Red Cross has also stated that Iraq's humanitarian situation remains among the most critical in the world, with millions of Iraqis forced to rely on insufficient and poor-quality water sources.
According to the Failed States Index, produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, Iraq was one of the world's top 5 unstable states from 2005 to 2008. A poll of top U.S. foreign policy experts conducted in 2007 showed that over the next 10 years, just 3% of experts believed the U.S. would be able to rebuild Iraq into a "beacon of democracy" and 58% of experts believed that Sunni-Shiite tensions would dramatically increase in the Middle East.
In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that "the security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive; however, they remain fragile, reversible and uneven." In July 2008, the audit arm of the U.S. Congress recommended that the U.S. Government should "develop an updated strategy for Iraq that defines U.S. goals and objectives after July 2008 and addresses the long-term goal of achieving an Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself". Steven Simon, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in May 2008 that "the recent short-term gains" had "come at the expense of the long-term goal of a stable, unitary Iraq."
After Iraqi security forces took the lead in security operations on June 30, 2009, Iraq experienced a "dramatic reduction in war-related violence of all types ..., with civilian and military deaths down by 80 to 90 percent compared with the same period in 2008."
As of late 2010 violence remains at far lower levels than during the worst of the bloodshed in 2006-2007. However hundreds are still killed every month by sectarian groups and insurgents attempting to exploit the perceived weakness of the Iraqi Government. There is much debate on whether or not the "Civil War" has ended as well as heated controversey on how to label the violence that is still a daily feature of life in Iraq.