War Update and Statistics
The 126 U.S. fatalities in May marked this as the third deadliest month of the Iraq war.
That surge of fatalities continued in the early days of June, with 27 dead reported in the first seven days – all from hostile causes. At this rate, fatalities will be in the 115 to 120 range by the end of the month.
The U.S. troop buildup announced January 10 by President Bush is now complete with the arrival of the last of the 30,000 additional troops assigned to try to quell the violence in Baghdad and al-Anbar province. The price in lives came high; the last 500 U.S. fatalities (from 3,000 to 3,500) occurred in just 5¼ months. This is the shortest time in the Iraq campaign, including the initial period of “major combat operations,” in which 500 American service personnel have died; the next shortest period to date is 6 months.
Given that the bulk of the combat forces are Army and Marines, it is ironic that the 3,500th fatality was an Air Force noncommissioned officer working in intelligence and counterintelligence.
Of the major combat units – divisions – deployed and re-deployed to Iraq, losses have been heaviest in two Marine units: 1st Marine Division (341) and 2nd Marine Division (217). The heaviest losses in Army Divisions are in the 1st Cavalry (211) and 82nd Airborne Divisions.
Coalition forces other than the U.S. have collectively suffered 277 fatalities; well over half – 150 – of these are British.
The upper limit of Iraqis killed in the violence or otherwise dying from causes associated with the occupation remains the 650,000 “excess deaths” reported in the British medical journal The Lancet earlier this year. Since January 2005, the combined losses among Iraqi civilians and insecurity organizations (national police, border guards, special commandos, etc) are at least 39,300, according to figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health, the UN, and press reports. .
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan consists of three elements: 36,750 soldiers from 37 countries in the International Security Assistance Force; another 11,000 U.S. troops under direct U.S. command; and 25 provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). U.S. losses here stand at 398 killed with another 199 dead from other coalition countries. Of these latter, the British have suffered 59 killed and the Canadians 56. As Britain draws down in Iraq, it is planning to add forces to Afghanistan. A few German parliamentarians, on the other hand, are pressing for withdrawing their soldiers as a result of the deaths of three Germans.
As in Iraq, the number of Afghan civilians killed in the war is unknown. However, a high ranking Afghan police official noted that there has been a sharp increase in the number of uniformed officers killed in clashes with suspected Taliban.
Statistics on the wounded mirror the difference in the size of the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the Iraq campaign, as of May 19, the Pentagon listed 25,549 U.S. service personnel as having suffered wounds since the start of the fighting in March 2003. In the Afghanistan fighting, 1,636 service personnel have been reported wounded through May 23.
On the home front, at least 7 Republican senators are supporting bills that would either implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group or a non-binding proposal that calls from the tripartite decentralization of Iraq.
Then there is the comment by Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, the president’s choice as the new Washington “war czar,” at his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The question, in my mind, is not to what extent we can force them or lever them to a particular outcome, but rather to what degree do they actually have the capacity themselves to produce that outcome, and if produced – or if pressed too hard, will we in turn end up with an outcome that really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on?” Not much of an endorsement of the Baghdad regime.
And finally, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will not recommend the president re-nominate General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for an additional 2-year term. Pace will complete six years as either the Vice-Chairman or Chairman this summer.