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Cruel April In Iraq

In the first 12 days of April, 153 U.S. troops were injured in Iraq, at a rate of 12.75 per day. Copyright AFP
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Apr 13, 2006
April is turning out to be a cruel month for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But the bad news should have come as no surprise. As the New York Times reported Wednesday, the rates at which Sunni insurgents are killing U.S. troops soared over the past month. As of Wednesday, April 12, 33 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the month.

The total for the whole of March was only 31. This reverses positive trends in the fall of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq since mid-January that we have tracked in these columns.

However, it should not have come as such a surprise. For as we have repeatedly pointed out in Iraq Benchmarks, even when the rate of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq fell significantly in recent months, the numbers of U.S. troops wounded, Iraqi troops killed and Iraqi civilians killed in terror bombings continued at their previous levels or higher.

The latest wave of casualties confirms another grim trend we have been tracking for more than half a year in this column: The failure of U.S. coalition and allied Iraqi security forces to be able to come up with an effective counter-tactic to neutralize the effectiveness of improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, IEDs have been responsible for more than 38 percent of all U.S. deaths in Iraq, including those from non-hostile causes, for every month since May 2005.

In all, IEDs have been responsible for the deaths of 746 U.S. soldiers, or 31.7 percent of all fatalities in Iraq including non-combat ones from the start of military operations in March 2003 through April 9, the Iraq Index Project said.

The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Wednesday, April 12 since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,360, according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense.

This meant 112 U.S. troops have died in Iraq in the 68 days starting Feb. 4, at an average rate of 1.65 per day. This looks like a vast improvement on the 33 U.S. soldiers killed in only seven days from Jan. 11 through Jan. 17, an average of 4.7 soldiers killed per day and on the figure of 28 in the Jan. 4-10 period when the average death rate was 4 U.S. soldiers killed per day. Only one U.S. soldier per day was killed on average throughout the month of March.

However, as the New York Times noted, this month, the rate of U.S. troops killed per day has risen sharply and is currently running at more than 250 percent the rate for March -- 2.75 U.S. soldiers per day have died in Iraq since the beginning of April.

The rate at which U.S. soldiers are being injured in Iraq also remains high. As of April 12, 17,549 U.S. soldiers have been injured in Iraq since the start of hostilities to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003. That was an increase of 943 wounded in 68 days, at an average rate of just below 13.9 wounded per day, according to figures issued by the DOD.

This was somewhat higher than average rate of 11.6 per day injured from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3, when 58 U.S. soldiers were injured, according to the DOD figures, an average rate of 11.6 per day. It was almost twice as high as the rate of 7.4 U.S. soldiers injured per day during the Jan. 11-17 period. And it was even worse than the very high figure of 91 U.S. soldiers wounded during the Jan. 4-10 period at an average rate of 13 per day.

As of April 12, 8,058 of those troops were wounded so seriously that they were listed as "WIA Not RTD" in the DOD figures. In other words: Wounded in Action Not Returned to Duty, an increase of 375 such casualties in 68 days at an average rate of 5.5 per day.

This was higher than the Jan. 30-Feb. 4 rate of 4.8 WIA Not RTD per day and it was more than twice as bad as the 17 such casualties in seven days in the Jan. 11-17 period, at an average rate of less than 2.5 per day.

In all an estimated 2,000 of the U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq, or one in eight of them, have suffered brain damage, loss of limbs or been crippled for life by their injuries.

The March and April figures also reverse the positive trend of October through January when the number of U.S. troops wounded in action per month steadily fell. It dropped from 618 in October, through 466 in November and 408 in December to 309 in January. But the total number of U.S. troops wounded per month in Iraq has now been steadily rising for two-and-a-half months. It reached 355 in February and 443 in March.

In the first 12 days of April, 153 U.S. troops were injured in Iraq, at a rate of 12.75 per day. These figures, if maintained for the rest of the month, would result in a figure of 382.5 U.S. soldiers projected injured in April, a figure considerably lower than the March total, but still higher than February and January.

The bulk of the casualties being inflicted on U.S. forces are concentrated in Anbar province and in Baghdad, as the New York Times noted Wednesday. The remarkable statistical stability of the wounded figures suggests that the scale of attacks in those areas on U.S. forces is not in fact significantly increasing but is certainly not leveling off either.

It is too soon to attempt to assess whether the rapidly rising U.S. fatalities in April reflect a lucky streak on the part of the insurgents or greater tactical skill and capabilities from them.

The cumulative impact of all these figures is that the conclusion we drew in our Jan. 18 analysis remains unchanged: The Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq has not so far shown signs of dramatically metastasizing in recent weeks, but it has been able to return to and maintain its old formidable levels following a lull for the Iraqi parliamentary elections in December. And it has remained remarkably impervious to both the broad political strategies and the tactical military initiatives that U.S. political leaders and military commanders have sought to apply against it.

Source: United Press International

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