Iraqi Casualties Are Up Sharply


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

September 2, 2006
Iraqi Casualties Are Up Sharply, Study Finds

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 ‹ Iraqi casualties soared by more than 50 percent in recent 
months, the product of spiraling sectarian clashes and a Sunni-based insurgency 
that remains ³potent and viable,² the Pentagon said in its latest comprehensive 
assessment of security in Iraq.

During the period from the establishment of the new Iraqi government on May 20 
until Aug. 11, the average number of weekly attacks jumped to almost 800. That 
was a substantial increase from earlier this year and almost double the number 
of the first part of 2004.

As a consequence, Iraqi casualties increased 51 percent over the last reporting 
period. The document notes that, based on initial reports, Iraqi casualties 
among civilians and security forces reached nearly 120 a day, up from about 80 a
day in the pervious reporting period from mid-February to mid-May. About two 
years ago they were running about 30 a day.

³Although the overall number of attacks increased in all categories, the 
proportion of those attacks directed against civilians increased substantially,²
the Pentagon noted. ³Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually 
reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each 
portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups.²

The Pentagon report, titled ³Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq,² is 
mandated by Congress and issued quarterly. It covers a broad range of subjects, 
including the economy, public attitudes, and security.

This time, the study is the focus of special interest because of increasing 
fears that Iraq is sliding into civil war and because it is being published at a
time when President Bush and members of his cabinet have been trying to present 
a strong case in support of the war, in the face of vehement criticism from 

The report does not take account of the latest efforts to bring order to 
Baghdad, operations that involved 12,000 additional soldiers, including some 
7,000 additional American troops. Col. Thomas Vail, the commander of a brigade 
of the 101st Airborne Division, told reporters on Friday that his troops had 
made progress in recent days in tamping down the violence in the capital. The 
last several days have been particularly bloody, with about 250 Iraqis killed 
and scores wounded since Sunday. The Pentagon acknowledged that the grim data on
attacks, casualties and executions was distressing. ³It¹s a pretty sober report 
this time,² said Peter Rodman, a senior Pentagon official, who met with 
reporters to discuss it. ³The last quarter, it¹s been rough. Sectarian violence 
has been particularly acute and disturbing.²

Democratic lawmakers portrayed the report as evidence that the administration¹s 
strategy was failing. ³They have not provided the real resources, in terms of 
both military and civilian advisers, nor real dollars to reconstruct and help 
Iraq emerge from this period of instability,² Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island 

The report chronicles dangers on an array of fronts. Although the Sunni-based 
insurgency has received less news media attention since the surge of sectarian 
violence, the report cautions that it is resilient and strong. The number of 
attacks in Anbar Province, a vast Sunni-dominated region in western Iraq, 
averages more than 30 a day.

Regarding Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia¹s operations in Iraq, the report says the 
network¹s ³cellular nature² has enabled it to continue attacks despite the death
of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But sectarian strife has emerged as the biggest worry. In recent months, the 
Pentagon noted, ³The core conflict in Iraq changed into a struggle between Sunni
and Shia extremists seeking to control key areas in Baghdad, create or protect 
sectarian enclaves, divert economic resources, and impose their own respective 
political and religious agendas.² Echoing recent statements by senior American 
military commanders, the report says that ³conditions that could lead to civil 
war exist in Iraq, especially in and around Baghdad, and concern about civil war
within the Iraqi population has increased in recent months.²

The report notes that sectarian violence is gradually expanding north to Kirkuk 
and Diyala Province. Further, the confidence of Iraqis in the future has 
diminished, according to public opinion surveys cited in the Pentagon report.

Still, the study says the fighting in Iraq does not meet the ³stringent 
international legal standards for civil war,² without further explanation. Even 
so, the sectarian fighting has been bloodier than ever.

In discussing daily casualty rates, the report did not distinguish between the 
number of dead and wounded. But it noted that execution-type killings, in 
particular, reached a new high in July. ³The Baghdad Coroner¹s Office reported 
1,600 bodies arrived in June and more than 1,800 bodies in July, 90 percent of 
which were assessed to be the result of executions,² the report states.

The report says that progress has been made in fielding Iraqi Army units and 
police that can take over the main responsibility for security. It says 5 Iraqi 
Army divisions, 25 brigades and 85 battalions have the lead for security in 
their areas. It notes that a lack of noncommissioned officers and absenteeism 
are obstacles to fielding an effective Iraqi force. Though the 63-page report 
does not discuss military operations in Baghdad in detail, it has become clear 
in recent months that Iraq could not be effectively secured without the active 
involvement of the Americans. When the Americans cut back patrols in Baghdad, 
violence rose and American commanders decided to send additional troops to the 
capital from elsewhere in the country.

The report notes that Iraq¹s Interior Ministry does not have a system to 
determine how many of the forces trained by police advisers are still on the 
job. Advisers from the American-led forces estimate that the attrition rate is 
about 20 percent a year.

Citing polling data from the International Republican Institute, the report 
states that almost 80 percent of Iraqis thought in April 2006 that the general 
situation would be better in a year. By June, it was less than 50 percent. ³In 
general, Iraqis have had an optimistic outlook,² the report stated. ³However, as
time has passed, their optimism has eroded.²

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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