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Why US Deaths Are Rising Again In Iraq

April's figures documented a relatively high rate per day of fatalities over a more extended period of time. Even more sobering, it marked the fifth month in a row during which more than 80 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 03, 2007
U.S. fatalities are rising again in Iraq, but the strategy that is exposing them has also saved many lives. As has been widely reported, April marked the worst month of the more than 4-year-old insurgency in terms of fatalities suffered by U.S. troops in Iraq. In all, 104 of them died during the month, yielding an average rate through April of 3.1 per day.

This is not the highest rate per day of U.S. soldiers killed during the war. And as we have noted in previous columns, the rates at which U.S. soldiers were being killed actually fell during much of April compared with other recent periods we had previously documented.

However, April's figures documented a relatively high rate per day of fatalities over a more extended period of time. Even more sobering, it marked the fifth month in a row during which more than 80 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.

Also, as we have repeatedly documented in these columns, the overall long-term rate of fatalities inflicted on U.S. troops in Iraq has been rising again. As Nancy Youssef wrote for McClatchy Newspapers Tuesday, "So far this year, 348 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, compared with 124 during the first four months of 2006.

In fact, as Youssef pointed out, the deaths suffered by the U.S. armed forces in Iraq during the first four months of this year alone are more than two and a half times the total death toll of defeating the Iraqi Army, occupying the country and toppling Saddam Hussein back in March-April 2003.

Youssef noted that those operations cost the lives of 139 U.S. soldiers compared with the 348 who have died in the country in the first four months of this year.

As U.S. military analyst Anthony Cordesman has pointed out, much of the higher U.S. death toll can be attributed to the bolder, and in many respects, far more effective military strategy that the U.S. armed forces in Iraq have followed since Gen. David Petraeus took command there earlier this year.

"The rising levels of killings both inside and outside the Baghdad areas illustrate the problems inherent in the current U.S. approach to the war in Iraq," Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, wrote in a new analysis published last month.

"The new counter-insurgency strategy takes U.S. forces out of relatively safe positions and exposes them," Cordesman wrote in his study, "Diyala: Space, Time, Casualties, Force Ratios."

The new U.S. strategy "simultaneously gives any hostile faction in their area of operation greater incentives to attack them, while making them more dependent on the Iraqi army and police, and local support, to avoid infiltration and spying that can lead to more effective attacks," he wrote.

"These problems are further complicated by a lack of any real progress toward conciliation that would weaken the insurgency and hostility from other factions and by the limited nature of the surge. The U.S. combat force will still be extraordinarily small even in Baghdad in June relative to the size and population of the area to be covered," Cordesman wrote.

Youssef's analysis supports Cordesman's assessment. She cited figures from Iraq Casualty Count, a group that monitors U.S. casualties in Iraq, as documenting that "since the U.S. began moving more troops into Baghdad on Feb. 15, the capital has surpassed Anbar province as the deadliest location for American forces."

The positive aspect of these figures is that, as we have also noted in previous columns, civilian Iraqi deaths in Baghdad fell dramatically as the U.S. troop deployment there was implemented.

Source: United Press International

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