Four days after his brother was slain in a Baghdad robbery this month, Muntather Shaker borrowed $1,500 and bought a pistol. He carries it in his back pocket, sleeps with it under his pillow and is ready to use it to defend his family.

“If I thought the government could protect me, I would never buy a weapon,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen when the Americans leave.”

Shaker is one of many Iraqis who feel they must depend on themselves for protection now that the U.S. military has drawn down to just under 50,000 troops and will end combat operations Tuesday.

The withdrawing troops have left behind a country with only a tenuous hold on stability: Nearly six months after parliamentary elections, no new government has formed, violence is on the rise and Iraq’s security forces are being targeted.

Despite assurances that the United States is not abandoning Iraq, people here are scrambling to prepare themselves. Weapons dealers in Fallujah, Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk said sales of personal-protection weapons are up by 30 to 50 percent in the past four months.

“Especially in the last three weeks, business has picked up,” said Abu Fatma, who insisted on using his nickname to protect his illegal weapons-sales business. “People are afraid. It is as if we are returning to 2005.”

Source: Leila Fadel for The Washington Post.

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