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Insurgency Stays Strong After Vote

Far from being unable to maintain their increased level of activity and casualties inflicted once the Iraq referendum vote was successfully held, the insurgents, at least initially, showed that they were able to far exceed it.

Washington (UPI) Oct 21, 2005
The Iraq referendum last Saturday did not take the wind out of the insurgency there. On the contrary, the rate of casualties inflicted upon U.S. and allied Iraq troops actually increased significantly in the following days.

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, continued to account for more than half the total casualties inflicted on U.S. troops - an ominous indicator that the technical expertise of the insurgents is steadily advancing.

Up to and including February 2005, IEDs never accounted for more than 43.1 percent of U.S. troops killed per month in Iraq. Since June, IEDs have never accounted for less than 46.2 percent of U.S. military fatalities per month. The percentage of U.S. troops killed by them this month up to Oct. 19, according to figures compiled by the Iraq Index Project (IIP) of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, was 59.3 percent.

The death toll of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq as of Wednesday, Oct. 19, the day after the referendum vote, was 1,977, a rise of 15 U.S. soldiers in only three days, according to figures from the Department of Defense and the IIP. U.S. soldiers were, therefore, dying in Iraq at a rate of five a day, four times the rate of the previous 14-day period. This is one of the highest intense periods of fatal casualties suffered since August.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through Sunday, Oct. 19, was 15,220, the IIP said. This represents an increase of 157 in only three days, an average rate of more than 52 wounded a day, much higher than the 30 a day injured during the previous 14-day period.

The high rate of injuries suffered reflects the continuing widespread and formidable nature of the insurgency. The figure was 300 percent worse than the average of 16.3 U.S. soldiers injured per day from Sept. 21 through Sept. 28, and almost twice as bad as the 28.5 per day from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2. It was also far worse than the comparable figures for most of August and early September.

Far from being unable to maintain their increased level of activity and casualties inflicted once the Iraq referendum vote was successfully held, the insurgents, at least initially, showed that they were able to far exceed it.

It remains to be seen if they can maintain this formidable level of activity in the coming weeks or whether it will level off.

At the same time as the rate of attacks on U.S. forces increased, so did attacks on the Iraqi army and police. Some 27 of them were killed in only three days from Oct. 17 through Oct. 19, at a rate of nine a day. This was even worse than the rate of just under eight per day they were killed from Oct. 2 through Oct. 16 and far worse than the six per day kill rate the insurgents achieved in the first 13 days of September. It was a full 20 percent worse than the 7.5 per day kill rate they achieved during the four days from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.

At that time, it appeared possible that that kill rate might have been a statistical aberration, with the insurgents getting "lucky" or mounting an intensive offensive that they could not sustain for more than a few days. But they have now sustained it for more than three weeks with no relief in sight. As long as the insurgents can continue to inflict such a sustained heavy level of casualties on the allied Iraqi police and troops, their effectiveness must be judged to almost negligible. They remain far more the hunted rather than the hunters.

The total number of Iraqi police and military killed from June 1, 2003 to Sunday, Oct. 16 was 3,430, according to the IIP figures.

The total death toll for Iraq security forces in the first 19 days of October was 145. The month's projected total looked likely to be around 241-242, slightly worse than the 233 killed in September. While still bad, this would still be the lowest for any month since April and well below the record 304 fatalities the Iraqi forces suffered in July or the 296 in June. But it would still be still a grim and unacceptable level of attrition for any effective security force in a nation the size of California with less than half California's population.

The statistics on multiple fatality bombings (MFBs) grimly confirm this conclusion. The number remained formidably high in the first half of October, continuing almost at the peak levels of September, when there 46 of them, the worst month yet. Between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19 there were at least another two, bringing the total for the month so far to 25, killing 204 Iraqi civilians and injuring another 290, the IIP said.

This is a rate of civilian casualties far higher than anything suffered during the entire 25 years of the active Irish Republican Army insurgency in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2004, or through even the worst months of the Second Palestinian Intifada targeting Israeli civilians from 2001 through to the building of the Israeli security fence last year.

The insurgents, therefore, were able to sustain through the first 19 days of October their very high MFB rate of September and both were vastly worse than the 27 such attacks recorded in August or the 26 in July. By Oct. 19, almost as many MFBs had occurred less than two-thirds of the way through the month as occurred through all of July or August, and they were bad months themselves.

By Oct. 19, MFBs had killed 4,364 people and wounded another 9,284 since the start of the insurgency, the IIP said. The number of people killed in MFBs in the almost three weeks to Oct. 19 was, at 204, still significantly down from the 481 killed in all of September but was already far worse than the 170 killed through August.

These figures clearly document an insurgency that so far has been able to sustain its latest quantum leap in area, intensity and tactical sophistication in terms of the power of the IEDs and the number of car bombs per week it can set off.

And the referendum vote did nothing to dent it.

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Iraqi Forces Coming Along, Slowly
Washington (UPI) Oct 21, 2005
A young Iraqi lieutenant in a maroon beret and immaculately pressed battle fatigues paced in front of 28 children at a school courtyard in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib neighborhood in early October, smoking a thin cigarette, elegantly.

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