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IEDs Still Plague US Troops

IEDs have been responsible for the deaths of 779 U.S. soldiers and are fueling an explosion in military technology developments that will impact urban warfare for decades to come.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 04, 2006
The main thrust of the Iraq insurgency is not currently aimed at U.S. forces, but it shows no signs of diminishing either. In the 20 days from April 13 to May 2, 47 U.S. soldiers were killed or died in Iraq at an average rate of 2.35 per day, according to official figures issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The number of U.S. troop fatalities in April was 73, of whom 61 were killed by hostile action. This marked rises of more than 200 percent from the 34 fatalities in March, of whom 29 were killed by hostile action, according to official U.S. figures.

These figures reversed the previous positive trend in falling U.S. military fatalities in Iraq from mid-January through March

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, a Washington think tank, 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 April, they were responsible for the deaths of 43 U.S. troops, or 59.7 percent of all those who died in Iraq that month ether in accidents or by hostile action.

In all, IEDs have been responsible for the deaths of 779 U.S. soldiers, or 32.5.7 percent of all fatalities in Iraq including non-combat ones from the start of military operations in March 2003 through April 30, the Iraq Index Project said.

The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through April 30 since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,407, according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense.

The 2.35 per day fatality average over the 20 days from April 13 to May 2 marks a rise of 30 percent on the rate of 1.65 U.S. troop fatalities per day in the previous 68 day period from Feb. 4 to April 12.

However, the 2.35 per day figure is still 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 four U.S. soldiers killed per day.

The rate at which U.S. soldiers are being injured in Iraq also remains high. As of April 30, 17,874 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 325 wounded in 20 days at an average rate of 16.25 per day. This rate marked a significant increase on the figure of 943 wounded in the previous 68 days, at an average rate of just below 13.9 wounded per day, according to figures issued by the DOD.

The rate art which U.S. soldiers have been wounded per day in Iraq has therefore been slowly but inexorably rising since the end of January. The average rate was 11.6 per day injured from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3, when 58 U.S. soldiers were injured, according to the DOD figures. The latest figure is more than twice as high as the rate of 7.4 U.S. soldiers injured per day during the Jan. 11-17 period. And it is 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 30, 8,194 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 136 such casualties in 20 days at an average rate of 6.8 per day. This marks a rise of more than 20 percent in this figure from the previous 68 day period when U.S. forces suffered 375 such casualties at an average rate of 5.5 per day.

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 reached 355 in February and 443 in March. It fell, however, to 366 -- still unfortunately above the February figure - in April.

The casualty figures suggest that the insurgency is not dramatically increasing the scale of its attacks on U.S. forces, but that it is growing more proficient than ever with its employment of IEDs, and that despite the priority Pentagon planners have certainly given to combating the problem, U.S. combat vehicles in Iraq remain vulnerable to 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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