February Statistics and War as a Growth Industry in Leap Year
February seemed to be a month when everyone wanted to get into fighting – without seeming to care too much who they were fighting.
Sunni militias that formed under U.S. patronage first in an-Bar and then spread into Sunni-controlled areas elsewhere went on strike after a run-in with U.S. troops supported by aircraft. In the latest instance of friendly fire three Iraqis were killed – raising the total fatalities for this one group to 19 since the beginning of the year.
Iraqi civilian fatalities for February came to 564 and Iraqi security force losses were 110. In both instances, these numbers were up from January. Almost exactly half of the civilian fatalities – 283 – came on four days when suicide bombers struck. Now two entries do not a trend make, but it is of more than passing interest that fatalities are up in the first full month of the redeployment of U.S. “surge” troops
U.S. fatalities were 29, bringing the war’s total for U.S. soldiers lost to 3,973. UK forces lost one soldier in February, raising their total for the war in Iraq to 175 with all other coalition fatalities unchanged at 133.
In terms of the time interval from when U.S. fatalities stood at 3,500 and when that number will hit 4,000, this is at 9 months almost exactly (June 5, 2007). By the end of March the 4,000 meloncholy milestone will be surpassed. This will represent an interval equal or nearly equal to the time period between the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the 500th U.S. fatalitiy, whichwas 9 1/2 months.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai refused the appointment of former British Liberal Party Leader as a “super-envoy” to coordinate better the develo0ment and other assistance from the UN and donors. Reportedly, some in Karzai’s government fear that Ashdown might go off on some tangent such as the reduction in the opium harvest, something every western country has been after Kabul to undertake. In the war with the Taliban, the coalition troops have lost 24 so far this year: 7 U.S. and 7 allied soldiers in January, one U.S. and 6 allied soldiers in February, and three allied soldiers in March..
The Israelis ended their latest ground incursion into Gaza in search of Hamas militiamen and the stores of rockets that are fired almost nightly into southern Israel. News reports say that 110 Palestinians were killed in the fighting against three Israeli soldiers who died. Palestinian President Abbas suspended peace talks with the Israelis even as Secretary of State Rice was flying to the region. I fully expect that the Israelis will point to the destruction of the wall on the Gaza-Egyptian border as the catalyst for the importation of longer-range missiles.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced the end of Ankara’s incursion into northern Iraq (Kurdistan) with a ground force estimated at 10,000. Their targets were a series of camps used by the outlawed PKK movement fighting for independence from the Turks and eventually a united Kurdish homeland. Ankara said more than 120 PKK insurgents were killed.
Finally, Ecuador and Venezuela have moved troops closer to their borders with Colombia after Bogotá entered Ecuador in pursuit of a Raul Reyes, the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reyes was killed by an airstrike.