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Secrets Of The Surge

According to official U.S. figures cited by the Iraq Index Project, 21,500 of the 28,829 troops approved for the surge -- more than 75 percent of them -- are being deployed for combat duty. Only 2,400 -- or less than 9 percent of the total -- are intended for support roles. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 9, 2007
Statistics compiled by the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, reveal sometimes surprising details of the impact President George W. Bush's "surge" strategy is having on the war in Iraq. Nations are usually assumed to implement wartime policies and strategies at lightning speed, though this is far from always the case. The implementation of the surge has been surprisingly gradual, the figures compiled by the IIP reveal.

By Feb. 21, only 2,700 additional U.S. soldiers had been deployed to Iraq. Three weeks later, by March 14, this had grown by only 3,300 to 6,000. And by March 4, the figure was only 9,500. By May 1, 13,200 U.S. additional troops had been deployed to Iraq.

This figure was still less than half the total of 28,829 additional troops that the Pentagon has approved for the buildup.

When factored in with the rate at which regular units are being rotated in Iraq, the IIP concluded the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq rose from 130,000 in mid-February to 141,000 by early March. It appears likely that when the surge buildup is completed, U.S. total troop strength in Iraq will be around 155,000 to 158,000 troops.

A common criticism that has been directed at U.S. military deployments in wars over the past 65 years has been that the number of combat troops at the "point of the spear" is tiny proportionate to the huge number of non-combat support troops, especially in the area of logistics, that they require.

But this is certainly not true of the surge buildup. According to official U.S. figures cited by the Iraq Index Project, 21,500 of the 28,829 troops approved for the surge -- more than 75 percent of them -- are being deployed for combat duty. Only 2,400 -- or less than 9 percent of the total -- are intended for support roles.

Another 2,200 will strengthen U.S. military police forces, 129 are slated to help in provincial reconstruction and 2,600 for combat aviation duties.

The IIP noted that U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England "testified March 1, 2007, that up to 7,000 additional troops could be necessary to help support the 21,500 additional combat troops."

There are also some surprises in the statistics on the shifting pattern of U.S. casualties suffered during the first two months of the surge policy.

U.S. military fatalities in Baghdad almost doubled during the first seven weeks of the surge buildup compared with the seven weeks immediately before it. They rose from 29 dead in the earlier seven-week period to 53 in the latter one, the IIP said.

However, during the same two seven-week periods, the figures for U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq hardly changed at all, the IIP found. In the seven weeks before the surge buildup began, 113 U.S troops died in Iraq; in the seven weeks after the surge began, 116 died.

In other words, the rising number of U.S. fatalities in Baghdad was offset by far fewer fatalities in most of the rest of the country at the same time.

The contrast was most striking in Anbar province in western Iraq where the Sunni insurgency is strongest and most active, as well as in Baghdad. Some 46 U.S. troops died there in the seven weeks before the surge policy began, but the figure dropped by almost one-third, to 31, in the seven-week period after the surge began.

These figures suggest that Iraqi insurgents are sticking to their low-risk, low-profile policy of inflicting casualties on U.S. forces at a low but steady rate through the use of improvised explosive devices. As the figures cited focused on block periods of seven weeks each, they did not reflect the rising death toll of U.S. troops, again primarily in Baghdad, during April as a result of the more exposed deployment of American soldiers required by the surge policy. However, other IIP figures documented this trend clearly.

Source: United Press International

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