Where Things Stand: Violence in Iraq

Security is the single biggest issue for every Iraqi today. Many Iraqis get up in the morning and ask themselves whether they will make it through the day.

The sound of bombings and gunfire are a constant backdrop to everyday life, and everyone knows someone who has been touched by the violence.

In an ABC News/USA Today poll to be released on Monday, 86 percent of Iraqis fear that they themselves or a loved one will be a victim of violence.

"Whenever someone knocks on my door, I don't open it without my gun," one Sunni told ABC's Terry McCarthy.

"Everything we do to improve the lives of the Iraqis depends on stopping the violence, improving security," said Dan Senor, a former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman said. "That really is the number one issue."

Senor added that there has been success in reducing the violence because of the surge in U.S. troops.

"You're not going to see that reflected in the opinion polls," he said. "Public opinion is a lagging indicator of what's going on. But that's easy to understand, because the last 12 months have been rocky ones for the Iraqis. They don't have the confidence yet that things can change."

Confidence in a safer future is a foreign concept for the millions of Iraqis living under the threat of daily attacks. Over the course of just 48 hours on Friday and Saturday, Iraqi civilians came under attack in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk and throughout Anbar province.

Kurdistan is the closest thing to a safe haven in Iraq. The northern region is relatively peaceful, but the fight to keep terrorists out still takes up a lot of time and energy. The Kurds have dug a six-foot ditch all around their largest city, Erbil, to stop car bombers from entering.

Swelling Ranks in the Iraqi Police

The second biggest problem -- linked to the lack of security -- is joblessness. Businessmen will simply not invest in an area that is unsafe, where anyone with money is an automatic kidnap target. The unemployment rate in Iraq is estimated to be between 25 percent and 40 percent -- which, in turn, provides plenty of angry young recruits for the insurgency.

The one growth area is in the police force.

Gen. Sherko Hakim, chief of Kirkuk's police force, has 6,400 policemen and a budget to employ 2,700 more. It is a dangerous job, but he has more applicants than he can use.

"We have no problems recruiting," Gen. Hakim says. "The only available jobs are the police and the army."

Too Dangerous to Go to School

Longer term, one of the biggest concerns in Iraq is the harm the war is doing to children's education.

In Baghdad, many parents don't dare send their children to school. Many of the two million Iraqis who have fled the country have done so to ensure their children's education is not interrupted.

One man who ABC spoke to said he couldn't bear the worry of leaving his two sons at school in Baghdad.

"Every hour I phone them -- still alright," said Kasim Mohammed.

So he fled north with his family to Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan -- and now barely calls his sons once a week.

Senor insisted that the situation in Iraq would change if enough troops were on the ground and Baghdad was secured.

"You know Baghdad is the focus, the center of everything in Iraq. When the center is in disarray, all things are in disarray," Senor said.

But many questions remain. When the U.S. troop surge is at it full force, expected to happen in summer 2007, can they abate a daily cycle of violence that prevents Iraqis from leaving their homes to go shopping, take their kids to school or pray at the mosque?