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Iraq Insurgents Switch Targets

File photo: Sunni insurgents in the streets of Iraq.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jul 17, 2006
The rapidly escalating sectarian violence in Iraq appears to have distracted the Sunni insurgents from their previous assaults on U.S. forces. The good news for U.S. forces in Iraq is that during the past two weeks is that the rate oat which American soldiers are being killed in the country has fallen again very significantly.

The rate at which they are being wounded -which we have repeatedly noted is a statistically more comprehensive and reliable indicator as to the level of insurgent activities -- has also fallen somewhat, but to nowhere near the same degree.

However, at the same time, the scale of Sunni-Shiite inter-community ethnic violence has escalated enormously, especially in the capital Baghdad. The political and grand strategic consequences of this development, as we have note din our companion Eye on Iraq columns, are very grave, and potentially far outweigh any relative breathing space that the U.S. forces have enjoyed.

This is especially the case as the worst and most widespread killing in the latest explosions of violence this week have been done by rampaging Shiite militia forces and the new Iraqi police and army have proven unwilling and unable to stop hem.

The fact that the worst outbreaks occurred in the capital Baghdad is also very bad news for U.S. policymakers. It graphically demonstrates that the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot provide the most basic services and security even on its own doorstep.

The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Wednesday, July 12, since the start of operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,543, according to official figures issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Therefore, 19 U.S. soldiers were killed in the 15 day period from June 29 through July 12 at an average rate of 1.36 per day. This was a more than 50 percent improvement on the death rate of the previous eight-day period when 24 U.S. soldiers were killed from June 21 through June 28 at an average rate of three per day.

The latest figure is also significantly better than the rate of 1.75 U.S. soldiers killed by in Iraq per day during the seven-day period from June 14 through June 20. And it is almost twice as good as the eight-day period of June 6-13 when 2.5 U.S. soldiers were killed per day in Iraq. The latest figures are also better than the previous six-day period of May 31-June 5 when some 11 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average rate of 1.82 per day.

The latest figures, in fact, show the lowest rate of U.S. military fatalities in at least six months. They were more than 40 percent better than the longer-term trend of the 48-day period from April 13 to May 30, when 107 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average rate of just over 2.2 per day. And they were also better than the previous longer-term trend during the 68-day period from Feb. 4 to April 12, when 112 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average of 1.65 per day.

The rate at which U.S. soldiers are being injured in Iraq also fell sharply over the past two weeks though not as dramatically as the fatality rate. As of July 12, 18,874 U.S. soldiers have been injured in Iraq since the start of hostilities. That was an increase of 178 wounded over 15 days at an average rate of 11.2 wounded per day.

This was significantly, though not dramatically, better than the previous rate we recorded of 124 wounded during the June 21-June 28 eight days period at an average rate of 15.5 per day. It was statistically remarkably close to the figure of 82 wounded in seven days from June 14 through June 20 at an average rate of 11.7 per day.

The latest figures were also far better than the eight-day period of June 6-13, when 236 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq at an average rate of 29.5 per day. They were very close to the levels of May 31 to June 5, when 70 U.S. soldiers were wounded at an average rate of 11.67 per day.

The latest figures show a marginal, though not marked improvement on the long-term average rates for U.S. troops wounded in Iraq over the previous four months from February through May. Some 635 U.S. soldiers were wounded in the 48-day period from April 13 to May 30 at an average rate of just over 13.2 wounded per day. That figure showed a remarkable statistical consistency compared with the previous 68-day period from Feb. 4 to April 12 when 943 U.S. soldiers were wounded in 68 days, an average rate of just below 13.9 wounded per day, according to figures issued by the Department of Defense.

As of June 28, 8,560 of these U.S. 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. This marked an increase of 52 such casualties in eight days at an average rate of 6.5 per day. This was dramatically worse than during the pervious week's lull when U.S. forces suffered only seven such casualties in seven days, or an average of one a day. However, the latest figures, while discouraging, were not half as bad as during the day period from June 5 through June 12 when U.S. forces suffered 115 such casualties in eight days, an average of 14.38 per day.

These figures were also a little better than the previous six-day period of May 31-June 5 which saw 42 such casualties, at an average rate of seven per day. But they were also somewhat worse than the longer-term trends we recorded during the first four months of this year. There were 286 such casualties over 48 days from April 13 through May 30, at an average rate of just under six per day. The time period from Feb.4 through April 12 saw a rate of 5.5 such casualties per day over 68 days for a total of 375 seriously injured.

The latest figures are significantly different from the longer term trends we have recorded over the past six months based on the Pentagon's own official figures. The latest trends indicate that the insurgency is not diminishing: On the contrary, it is growing far more widespread. But the latest developments have turned the main focus of Sunni insurgent violence against the ever-more powerful and militant Shiite militias. The greatest concern of U.S. policymakers in the long term may be to try and prevent those Shiite forces turning on American troops as well.

Source: United Press International

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Bad Signs In Iraq
Cleveland (UPI) Jul 17, 2006
The Bush administration delights in finding "turning points" in Iraq so often that by now we must have turned our way through a maze. However, the events in Iraq to which the administration points are nothing more than new acts in the playacting offered by Iraq's government and security forces.

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