Attrition: Combat a Minor Cause of Casualties


January9, 2007: In Iraq, 600-700 U.S. troops are evacuated from the country each month for medical reasons. Only 23 percent of these, on average, are for combat wounds. The rest are for non-combat injuries (21 percent) and diseases (56 percent). Only the most serious cases are evacuated. Each month, another 3-4,000 troops are treated locally, and nearly all return to service quickly. So far, there have been 27,000 combat casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of that number, 12 percent died, and 2.7 percent lost a limb, or part of one (a third lost a finger, toe or part of a hand or foot).

Troops are much more likely to get sick in Iraq or Afghanistan, than to get injured in combat. This reverses a trend that began about a century ago. Back then, for the first time in history, wars saw more men die from combat than from disease. During World War II, for example, two thirds of the deaths were from combat, the other third were from accidents and disease. But now, combat deaths are lower than they've ever been in the history of warfare. About twenty percent of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are from non-combat causes (mostly vehicle accidents). This was the same ratio as in Vietnam, but you were three times as likely to get killed or wounded, from any cause, in Vietnam.


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