Attrition: Casualties Continue Decline in Iraq


November 4, 2007: American casualties (dead and wounded) in Iraq have been sharply declining since last May, when they hit 781 for the month. They were down to under three hundred last month. Casualties haven't been that low since 2004. There are many reasons for this decline. The main one is that al Qaeda and the Sunni Arab resistance has sharply declined. Al Qaeda is the most hated organization in Iraq, and most Iraqis will inform on these terrorists, especially the foreign ones. The Iraqi police are much more numerous, well equipped, and competent now, than in past years. That means Iraqi security forces can receive, and act on many of these tips. With about half the adult population of Iraq owning a cell phone, al Qaeda is having a hard time staying safe, and in action.

While much was made of the "surge offensive" of the last six months, this was not the key factor in reducing American casualties. The big deal was the collapse of the Sunni Arab resistance, and this has been building for over a year. Half the Sunni Arab population has already fled their homes, and many of those who haven't, are planning to. A major source of income in the Sunni Arab community is cash paid to those who build and place roadside bombs (which account for about half of American casualties.) This effort, paid for by wealthy Sunni Arabs outside Iraq, and former supporters (and cronies) of Saddam, peaked late last year. The cash, and bomb making supplies, are drying up, while those eager to do get involved are fewer in number. That's because it's gotten a lot more dangerous to do that sort of thing. U.S. and Iraqi troops have much more effective techniques for catching the bombers in the act. The bombers have demanded more money, or simply gotten out of the business. The number of bombs placed, and attacks in general, have plunged since last Summer, and along with it, U.S. casualty rates.

Attacks have gone down to a third of the level a year ago. In Anbar province (western Iraq) and Baghdad, where most American casualties take place, this has meant a decline from over 1,400 attacks a month late last year, to about 500 in the past month. "Attacks" include all manner of hostile, and harmful, activities. Each time someone fires a rifle or RPG at U.S. or Iraqi forces, it is considered an attack. So is the use of grenades, mortars or rockets. If a roadside bomb, or other type of IED, is encountered, even if it doesn't go off, it is considered an attack. The Sunni (and some Shia) Arab terrorists are still setting up roadside bombs, but the number has gone down from nearly 2,000 a month, to about 600. Most are found and destroyed before they can hurt U.S. or Iraqi forces.

Finally, the radical Shia militias (the Badr and Sadr crews) have backed off on their attacks on American troops. Even Iran has stopped sending terrorism supplies to the Badr and Sadr followers. The enemy, in a word, has broken.




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