Attrition: The Battle For Sunni Country

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February27, 2007: The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan takes place mainly in the same small areas, it's been getting more intense of late, and the enemy is losing. Some 450 American troops have died in combat in Iraq over the last five months. That's 45 percent more than the previous five months. The increase has come largely from the battles going on in the Sunni areas of western Iraq. The Sunnis who worked for Saddam have refused offers to make peace, and then there's a steady flow of suicide bombers and terrorists coming in via Syria and Iran. The terrorists are mostly used against Iraqi civilians (usually Shia), although a growing number of attacks have been directed at Sunni Arab tribal leaders who are siding with the government. Many of the American casualties have resulted from operations in support of these tribal chiefs. Meanwhile, the Sunnis are losing, not just in terms of combat losses (which are more than ten for every American casualty), but in terms of territory lost, and the number of Sunni Arabs who are fleeing the country.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan (and adjacent areas), total American combat deaths for over five years of operations are 192. Another 105 died from non-combat causes, mainly vehicle accidents. Combat losses in Afghanistan are about three percent of those in Iraq, which is mitigated somewhat by the fact that five times as many American troops have served in Iraq. Iraq and Afghanistan have the same size population, but the Sunni nationalists (who want to run Iraq once more) are more numerous, and combative, than the pro-Taliban tribes in Afghanistan. In both countries, the violence is confined to a small portions of the country. You wouldn't know that from the news, because successful journalism requires that every explosion, or American death, be given a headline, and a story line that predicts imminent doom. The real world doesn't work like that, but the news business does.

 


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