Sunday, February 05, 2006

Topic: Iraq


According to the Department of Defense, at the end of 2004, the number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces was around 96,000. That number has grown to 227,000 in January 2006. Today, Iraqi forces outnumber US forces in Iraq, who currently number 138,000. The Iraqi forces are also taking a more aggressive and noticeable role in fighting the insurgency.

The insurgents in Iraq have broadened their target list to include the growing number of Iraqi forces operating across the country. This fact explains the increase in insurgent attacks from 26,496 in 2004 to 34,131 last year, an increase of 29%. The insurgents are definitely aiming for the weakest link in the stabilization forces in Iraq, and that link is the Iraqi forces.

Numbers alone can paint an imperfect picture. Just because the number of attacks jumped 29% from one year to the next does not mean that the strength of the insurgents is growing or that they are "winning". Often what we see in the media is an unsophisticated representation of the problem that simply assumes that more attacks is an accurate measure of insurgent strenght and indicates that we are failing in Iraq.

Numbers are just numbers. Think about it. The 34,131 includes every single attack that the military reports, whether is a car bomb resulting in dozens of casualties or a mortar round that lands in an empty field and causes no casualties. Most of the attacks carried out by insurgents are of the latter variety and totally unsuccessful. The insurgents have about a 25% success rate when it comes to their attacks. Success in this case is defined as attacks that cause damage or casualties.

673 US troops were killed in Iraq in 2005, versus 714 in 2004. The number of wounded dropped from 7,990 to 5,639, a drop of 26%.

The most serious threat in Iraq to our forces comes from remotely detonated roadside bombs (improvised explosive devices or IEDs). This type of attack remains as one of the major problems for the Coalition forces. IEDs caused 900 deaths out of a total of 1,748 combat deaths, or 51.5% during the entire post-Saddam period, from March 2003 to January 2006. IEDs are by any measure the most effective tactical weapon of the insurgents. Things are actually getting worse in the IED front. From July 2005, to January 2006, IEDs killed 234 US service members, out of a total of 369 total combat deaths, or 63.4%. IEDs attacks are successful even when they cause no casualties because they tie down manpower and equipment.

At the strategic level, how effective are these thousands of attacks in swaying the views and behavior of the Iraqi population? According to ABC News fourth installment of "Where Things Stand in Iraq", published last December, Iraqis are far more hopeful about their personal situation than they were in June 2004, when the third installment was published. Seven in 10 Iraqis responded saying that their lives were going well, but paradoxically only 44% of Iraqis say they believe things are going well in their country.

One troubling trend is that suicide attacks increased in 2005. The number of suicide car bombs rose from 133 in 2004 to 411 in 2005. There's also been an increase in the number of successful attacks against Iraqi officials, Iraqi forces, and their families, and well over 2,700 Iraqi officials and Iraqi forces were killed in 2005. There's also been numerous attacks against reconstruction and aid projects to weaken acceptance of the US-led transition command in Iraq. At least 276 civilians working on US aid projects had been killed by March 31, 2005.


If the roughly 25% success rate in insurgent attacks is a good measure of victory the insurgents are failing miserably. There are no indications that the insurgents will be able to significantly increase their effectiveness. Just like the insurgents, we also learn and adapt from our experiences. The insurgents are also unable to establish sanctuaries within Iraq. Witness our success at rooting them out from Fallujah. They can't win any major military battle. On the other hand. The insurgents are limited to attacking our weak spots. That being said, we need to remember that the mission of the insurgent is not to attain victory, but to deny victory.


We can win in Iraq. Unlike Vietnam, we are not in a quagmire in Iraq. We need to understand that fighting asymmetrical warfare against a savage enemy is meant to be frustrating. If we abruptly run way from Iraq, we would be running away from all the moderates in the Middle East. We would be leaving these moderates at the mercy of the terrorists. Who's going to believe us then when we pledge our support for reform in the Middle East, when we are so quick to turn our back and retreat. War is not easy. Is not meant to be.

Further Reading

Here's a link to The Brookings Institution site, where you can find the Iraq Index, a statistical compilation of economic, public opinion, and security data, updated frequently.

good post sonny. keep these coming. very informative.
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