Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq Grow in Lethality, Complexity


Richard Moore


This is a very interesting article. It describes the growing sophistication of 
the Iraqi resistance movement, and it does not try to blame it on Iran, or other
typical propaganda ploys. It is a genuine 'report from the front line', telling 
the facts as they are. It does use the term 'insurgents', and it talks about 'Al
Qaeda', but only briefly, and those myths don't play a major role in the 
discourse --  an incidental tipping of the hat to mainstream terminology / 

I'm intrigued by the term 'improvised device'. The thinking here seems to be 
that weapons are 'naturally' produced by corporations, under contract, with 
performance specifications, and uniformity of output. When people create their 
own weapons, presumably in basement factories, with an evolving understanding of
methods, that is 'improvised'. I imagine that the sense of most writers is that 
'improvised' is equivalent to 'sub standard'. I see 'improvised' as inspiring, 
as to how people are able to defend themselves in the face of regime assault.


Original source URL:

Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq Grow in Lethality, Complexity
Bigger Bombs a Key Cause of May's High Death Toll
By Ann Scott Tyson and John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 3, 2007; A01

As U.S. troops push more deeply into Baghdad and its volatile outskirts, Iraqi 
insurgents are using increasingly sophisticated and lethal means of attack, 
including bigger roadside bombs that are resulting in greater numbers of 
American fatalities relative to the number of wounded.

Insurgents are deploying huge, deeply buried munitions set up to protect their 
territory and mounting complex ambushes that demonstrate their ability to 
respond rapidly to U.S. tactics. A new counterinsurgency strategy has resulted 
in decreased civilian deaths in Baghdad but has placed thousands of additional 
American troops at greater risk in small outposts in the capital and other parts
of the country.

"It is very clear that the number of attacks against U.S. forces is up" and that
they have grown more effective in Baghdad, especially in recent weeks, said Maj.
Gen. James E. Simmons, deputy commander for operations in Iraq. At the same 
time, he said, attacks on Iraqi security forces have declined slightly, citing 
figures that compare the period of mid-February to mid-May to the preceding 
three months. "The attacks are being directed at us and not against other 
people," he said.

May, with 127 American fatalities, was the third-deadliest month for U.S. troops
since the 2003 invasion. As in the conflict's two deadliest months for U.S. 
troops -- 137 died in November 2004 and 135 in April of that year -- the 
overarching cause of May's toll is the ongoing, large-scale U.S. military 
operations. Simmons called the high U.S. losses in May "a very painful and 
heart-wrenching experience."

The intensity of combat and the greater lethality of attacks on U.S. troops is 
underscored by the lower ratio of wounded to killed for May, which fell to about
4.8 to 1 -- compared with an average of 8 to 1 in the Iraq conflict, according 
Pentagon data. "The closer you get to a stand-up fight, the closer you're going 
to get to that 3-to-1 ratio" that typified 2oth-century U.S. warfare, said John 
Pike, director of, a defense information Web site.

Simmons said that in May, the number of armor-piercing weapons known as 
explosively formed projectiles roughly matched the April high of 65, and the 
main source of increased U.S. deaths was "large and buried IEDs," or improvised 
explosive devices.

U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad's outlying regions, such as 
Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence
and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens. 
"Extremists on both sides of this thing are trying to make a statement by 
attacking U.S. troops," Simmons said.

The overall percentage of U.S. military fatalities caused by roadside bombs had 
dipped from more than 60 percent late last year to 35 percent in February. It 
then rose again to 70.9 percent in May, according to research by the independent
Web site Gains in defeating the bombs have not resulted in 
fewer deaths because the number of bombs -- and the lethality of some types -- 
have increased, military officials said.

Insurgents are also staging carefully planned, complex ambushes and retaliatory 
attacks as they target U.S. troops, the officials said. While few in number, 
these include direct assaults on U.S. military outposts, ambushes in which 
American troops have been captured, and complex attacks that use multiple 
weapons to strike more than one U.S. target. For example, attackers will bomb a 
patrol and then target ground forces or aircraft that come to its aid.

"We are starting to see more sophistication and training in their attacks," said
a senior military official in Baghdad. While the vast majority of attacks are 
still relatively simple and involve a single type of weapon, "clearly the trend 
is going in the wrong direction," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity 
because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

In an attack Monday in Diyala, for example, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter 
carrying two U.S. soldiers took heavy enemy fire during combat and crashed in 
farmland southwest of the town of Abu Saydah, about 40 miles north of Baghdad in
a region where the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to establish
a new stronghold.

The U.S. military scrambled Bradley Fighting Vehicles at Forward Operating Base 
Normandy, 19 miles from the crash, for an urgent rescue. But as the Quick 
Reaction Force rumbled through the rural terrain just a mile and a half from the
crash site, a huge roadside bomb hit a Bradley, killing four soldiers and 
wounding another four, one mortally. Suddenly, the rescue mission itself was in 
peril, and helicopters rushed to evacuate the injured.

Other units pushed forward to the copter crash, recovering the bodies of the 
pilots and killing three insurgents. But back at the Bradley bomb site, where 
soldiers were clearing the wreckage, a second bomb exploded, killing another 
U.S. soldier.

In all, eight U.S. troops died and three were wounded in the Memorial Day 
incident, which contributed to May's toll.

Simmons said helicopter downings such as the one in Diyala reflect a "thinking 
and adaptive enemy" that is refining its skills. "There is a greater degree of 
training," he said. Moreover, he said that as in past cases, insurgents may have
placed the bombs that killed the ground troops deliberately along routes leading
to the copter, but said military investigators have not confirmed that.

In a complex attack in Babil on May 12, a small, two-Humvee U.S. patrol that was
watching an area where insurgents often buried roadside bombs came under 
insurgent observation. Insurgents got through a perimeter of concertina wire, 
attacked the patrol with grenades, hustled captured soldiers into a getaway car,
then used bombs pre-positioned on both sides of the approaching road to delay 
for about an hour other U.S. forces coming to the patrol's rescue. Four soldiers
were killed in the assault, the body of another was found later, and two remain 

U.S. commanders have long warned that more casualties would probably result from
the increase of about 25,800 U.S. troops ordered by President Bush in January. 
The increase has placed the troops in the Baghdad region and the Sunni 
stronghold of Anbar province. These forces have been stationed since February at
small patrol bases in Baghdad neighborhoods under a counterinsurgency strategy 
intended to pacify the capital.

The 2004 spikes in American deaths resulted from major U.S. ground offensives, 
such as the November 2004 campaign to retake the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah. 
Today, the losses are occurring as large numbers of U.S. troops disperse into 
Baghdad and other areas in an effort to protect Iraqis.

Commanders credit U.S. military operations with sharply lowering civilian deaths
in Baghdad. The numbers of civilians killed and wounded as well as sectarian 
murders have all fallen roughly 50 percent in Baghdad in the 90 days ending in 
mid-May, compared with the previous three months, Simmons said, despite what 
some military officials described as a slight upturn in civilian deaths in May.

U.S. patrols and raids have also uncovered nearly 2,500 weapons caches and 
killed or captured more than 20,000 insurgents, militia members and other 
fighters nationwide since January. Among the enemy killed or captured are more 
than 1,700 individual targets considered "high value," in what military 
officials and analysts say is an effort to eliminate leaders of enemy cells in 
hopes they cannot quickly be replaced.

"Maybe this is the bloody period when we are doing the heavy fighting to get at 
the bad actors so we can have a more peaceful future," said Michael O'Hanlon, a 
military analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

But after lying low to a degree and watching U.S. tactics, fighters are now 
responding and retaliating. "In February, all sides -- including al-Qaeda in 
Iraq, Jaish al-Mahdi -- stepped back to take the measure of the surge, and by 
late April and May, they stepped forward again and are aggressively testing the 
resolve of U.S. forces," said Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Queen Mary College 
University of London, using the Arabic name of the Shiite Mahdi Army.

Military officials and analysts say the factors contributing to the increased 
deaths will likely not ease soon. "We are looking at a very nasty summer," Dodge

Anderson reported from Baghdad.
© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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