The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges: Iraq faces substantial external and internal security challenges. A history of weak and sectarian governance has encouraged community divisions, undermined the development of effective state institutions, inhibited economic development, contributed to increased poverty, and encouraged corruption. The majority of Iraqis believe the most important challenge facing the country is corruption, which is widespread in its institutions. The Government of Iraq (GOI) has struggled to achieve progress on political reconciliation and reform, to include the devolution of power and authority to provincial and local governments. Though the military campaign against ISIS has been successful, ISIS remains a threat and significant work remains across all sectors of government and society to restore stability and address the underlying grievances that exist. Iraq’s security and justice sector institutions are integral to this process, facilitating and cementing gains, preventing the reemergence of ISIS or like-minded organizations, and countering the proliferation of organized criminal networks, which undermine Iraq’s security and stability.

The Government of Iraq’s security and justice sector institutions have focused heavily on countering ISIS since 2014. The Coalition to Defeat ISIS assists the Government of Iraq greatly in this effort by training and equipping military and police units to provide security and to counter terrorist threats. The campaign to defeat ISIS has placed considerable strains on a criminal justice system still maturing from reforms made after the Iraq War. Courts have deferred criminal cases for more pressing terrorist-related matters, police have been utilized to execute functions traditionally carried out by military forces, detentions and prison inmate populations have increased substantially, and reports of torture and extra-judicial punishment are numerous.

Goals: INL programs seek to reduce instability in strategically vital regions and strengthen the resilience of partner nations facing malign influence. INL programming in Iraq contributes towards improving the capacity of the criminal justice sector to deliver citizen security and maintain rule of law to prevent and address non-state, criminal, and terrorist threats to national and regional stability. INL programming in Iraq is focused on improving the capacity and capabilities of the criminal justice sector to prevent the reemergence of violent extremist organizations and promote stability. Countering instability and violence will require the Government of Iraq to foster an impartial, responsive, and transparent criminal justice system that enforces the law, ensures public safety, and prevents crimes.


  • In 2017 INL pursued limited law enforcement programming with the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (DOJ/ICITAP) to deliver a program designed to increase capacity within the Iraq Ministry of Interior in four areas: 1) Crime Scene Management and Forensic Services; 2) Organized Crime Investigations, 3) Internal Affairs; and 4) Specialized Training Management.
  • INL’s program with ICITAP provides technical assistance, training, advice, and limited equipment donations to increase knowledge, skills, and capabilities within the four areas outlined above. The program continues to assist applicable organizations within the MOI to address core institutional gaps including relevant standard operating procedures, training, and strategic planning, to address budgeting, logistics, and support necessary for more sustainable improvements. The program also includes participants from different law enforcement entities and relevant members of the justice sector to develop positive working relationships and encourage coordination to ensure quality investigations.
  • In 2018, INL partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support a program to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi law enforcement and criminal investigation Services. Activities focus on building the capacity of Iraqi law enforcement agencies and forensic entities to enhance their abilities in countering the growing challenges posed by organized criminal groups, illicit trafficking, and the links between organized crime and the financing of terrorism. The program provides training, advising, and technical assistance in conducting complex investigations, criminal information analysis, forensic sciences, crime scene management and chain of custody. INL assistance also provides limited equipment to Iraqi law enforcement and supports research studies to help foster regional and international cooperation on illicit trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future