Attrition: Martyr Fodder

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February 7, 2006: Casualties (troops, civilians, dead and wounded) in Iraq are at their lowest level in two years. In January, 2006, there were 1,600 casualties. During that month, there were 19 days where the number of casualties was below 50. About half the casualties currently are Iraqi civilians. The anti-government forces now spend most of their time terrorizing civilians. This decline in casualties is apparently part of a trend. Over the past 18 months or so the average number of monthly insurgent attacks has varied from about 1,500 to about 3,000, with the "spikes" occurring during periods of particular importance, such as elections, Ramadan, or Shia religious festivals, such as Ashura. Oddly, regardless of the attack tempo, the number of attacks rated as "effective" by Iraqi and Coalition security personnel appears to have remained fairly stable, running around 500 a month. This suggests that during their periodic offensives, the Insurgents, whether Sunni secularists, Baathists, or Al-Qaeda, commit a lot of untrained "martyr fodder" (unskilled volunteers motivated by religion) to operations. These guys get killed pretty quick, Most of the combat action encountered by American troops is against the "martyr fodder," who rarely hurt U.S. troops, and usually get themselves killed or captured quickly.

 


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