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Pre-Election Casualty Figures Positive

Washington (UPI) Dec 13, 2005
The rate of casualties on U.S. and allied Iraqi forces inflicted by the insurgency in Iraq dropped significantly this week.

Although the drop in figures is not dramatic in itself, when viewed in the context of the forthcoming elections, scheduled for Dec. 15, it is hopeful.

The statistical change, over a relatively short period, could represent either a lull, or the continuation of a long-term trend, the signs of which have been emerging for several weeks.

As of Monday, Dec. 12, the total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,144 according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense, a rise of 17 in eight days.

Therefore, over the past week, U.S. soldiers were being killed at a rate of 2.1 a day in Iraq.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or roadside bombs, 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 continues to steadily advance.

The rate of deaths was a significant improvement on the three per day average of the previous seven-day period, and was even below the 2.4 killed per day in mid-November, a figure that had previously been heralded as a sign of improvement. In late October the casualty rate was nearly three times higher; troops were being killed at a rate of six per day.

There was also a marked improvement in the figures of U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq over the previous measured period, which covered the second half of November. The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through Dec. 12, was 15,955, the Pentagon said.

This meant 74 American soldiers were wounded in Iraq in eight days, an average of 9.25 per day. In the last measured period, the average was 11 wounded per day, which was itself an improvement on the 17 injured per day in mid-November.

The 9.25 wounded per day represents an improvement of approximately 16 percent on the last measured period, but is also roughly 16 percent higher than the eight per day injured in the first half of November. Compared with the 30 injured per day in the first half of October, however, the current figures show an improvement of 70 percent, a significant change.

The rate of casualties inflicted upon the new Iraqi security forces continued to improve. That rate has now been falling since July.

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, 40 Iraqi police and troops were killed in the same seven day period from Dec. 5 through Dec. 12, an average of 5.7 per day. This was the lowest average since the period between Oct. 27 and Nov. 2, which showed an average of less than five troops and police killed per day. However, it was a marked improvement on all periods since the beginning of November.

The total number of Iraqi police and military killed from June 1, 2003, to Dec. 12, 2005, was 3,760, according to the Iraq Index Project figures. Eighty-four members of Iraq's military and police were killed in the first 12 days of December, and average of seven per day.

If these figures continue for the rest of the month, there will be 217 fatalities among Iraqi police and military in December, higher than the November low of 176. However, that total is based on extrapolation, and the rate of casualties per day in the second week of December is lower than the daily rate in the previous period, which spanned the end of November and the beginning of December.

Despite the high incidence of on car and truck bombs -- grimly referred to as multiple fatality bombings, or MFBs -- reported in November, the current figures for December are positive.

So far, 7 of these attacks were recorded in December, killing 93 people and wounding 146. If this rate continues, December will see a marked improvement on November's 41 attacks, with a projected total of 18 attacks, the lowest figure since March 2005.

According to the Iraq Index Project figures, 4,972 people have been killed in MFB attacks since the start of the insurgency and another 10,079 wounded. However, MFB statistics do not include killed and injured in bombings where less than three people were killed.

The project also notes that the U.S. estimate of the number of insurgency combatants killed remains very rough and approximate. The estimates are rounded off at 3,000 per month for the three months of September, October and November.

There is good reason to look at the accuracy of these estimates. If correct, they would mean that the insurgency lost 9,000 troops in only three months when other U.S. military estimates have calculated that there are never more than 20,000 insurgents active at any one time.

Those figures, therefore, would -- if true -- mean that the insurgency had lost almost 50 percent of its active manpower in less than three months, a rate of attrition that has only been seen historically in the closing stages of counter-insurgency operations when the guerrilla movement is literally disintegrated and rapidly losing its ability to inflict casualties.

There has been no sign whatsoever of that process so far in Iraq.

Source: United Press International

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A Real Intelligence Failure
Washington (UPI) Dec 13, 2005
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