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Rate Of Casualties On US Troops Drops

Washington (UPI) Dec 05, 2005
Over the past week, the rate of casualties inflicted by the insurgency in Iraq on U.S. and allied Iraqi forces dropped slightly. While this was a welcome improvement, it was too slight a reduction as yet, and over too short a period, to make any estimate as to whether it was a relative lull or the beginning of a longer term strategic improvement.

As of Sunday, Dec. 4, 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 2,127 according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense, a rise of 21 in seven days. Therefore, over the past week, U.S. soldiers were being killed at a rate of three 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 is steadily advancing.

The rate of deaths was a slight improvement on the 3.25 per day average of the previous two weeks, but it was still well above the 2.4 killed per day during the 11 day period before that. However, it was still much better than the figures in late October when 30 were killed during a five-day period, a rate of six per day.

The figures on U.S. soldiers being wounded in Iraq also showed a slight improvement during 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. 4, was 15,881, the Pentagon said.

This meant 77 American soldiers were wounded in Iraq in seven days, an average of 11 per day. This was also a significant improvement of more than 50 percent on the rate of 17 injured per day during the previous 14 day period. But it was still around 40 percent above the rate of eight injured per day during the 11 day period before that, in the first half of November. And it was a more than 60 percent improvement on the 30 injured per day rate during the Oct. 2-Oct. 16 period.

The rate of casualties inflicted upon the new Iraqi security forces continued to show a significant improvement. The scale of those casualties has now been falling since July.

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, 44 Iraqi police and troops were killed in the same seven day period from Nov. 28 through Dec. 4, an average of just over six per day.

This was somewhat worse than the 103 Iraqi troops and police killed in the 18 day period from Nov. 10 through Nov. 27, an average of well under six per day. But it was still marginally better than the 45 Iraqi troops and police killed in the seven-day period from Nov. 3 through Nov. 9, an average of just below 6.5 per day. And it remained higher than the 34 Iraqi troops and police killed in the previous seven-day period from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, an average of just below five per day. However, it was a marked improvement over the rate of just under eight per day at which they were killed from Oct. 2 through Oct. 16.

The total number of Iraqi police and military killed from June 1, 2003, to Dec. 4, 2005, was 3,701, according to the Iraq Index Project figures.

This meant that the total death toll for Iraq security forces in November was 176. Although still bad in absolute terms, this was a significant improvement of around 20 percent, or one-fifth, on the 215 killed in October and the 233 killed in September. It confirmed November as seeing the lowest casualties inflicted on the Iraqi security forces since February when 103 were killed -- an improvement that could be of real strategic as well as symbolic significance. Casualties suffered by the Iraqi forces have now been falling every month since they peaked at 304 killed in July.

On the other hand, the statistics on car and truck bombs -- grimly referred to as multiple fatality bombings, or MFBs -- continue to climb.

In all, 41 of these attacks were recorded in November, making that month the second worst so far in the whole insurgency. Only September was worse, with 46. In November, MFBs killed 409 people and wounded 524. This marked a significant deterioration by almost 33 percent or one-third on the 310 killed and 415 wounded by MFBs in October, according to the Iraq Index Project figures.

The casualties are even worse when it is recognized that MFB statistics do not include killed and injured in bombings where less than three people were killed.

So far, according to the IIP figures, 4,896 people have been killed in MFB attacks since the start of the insurgency and another 9,951 wounded.

The Iraq Index Project also notes that the United States' estimates 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 August, September and October.

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 and experienced 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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