Robert H. Reid / Associated Press & Al Jazeera – 2008-03-23 22:32:01
US Death Toll in Iraq War Hits 4,000
Robert H. Reid / Associated Press
US Military Deaths During Iraq War
• September 2004: US military deaths reach 1,000.
• October 2005: Deaths reach 2,000.
• Dec. 31, 2006: Deaths reach 3,000.
BAGHDAD (March 23, 2008) — A roadside bomb killed four US soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000.
The grim milestone came on the same day that rockets and mortars pounded the US-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.
A Multi-National Division — Baghdad soldier also was wounded in the roadside bombing, which struck the soldiers’ patrol vehicle about 10 p.m. in southern Baghdad, according to a statement.
Identities of those killed were withheld pending notification of relatives.
The 4,000 figure is according to an Associated Press count that includes eight civilians who worked for the Department of Defense.
Last year, the US military deaths spiked along with the Pentagon’s “surge” — the arrival of more than 30,000 extra troops trying to regain control of Baghdad and surrounding areas. The mission was generally considered a success, but the cost was evident as soldiers pushed into Sunni insurgent strongholds and challenged Shiite militias.
Military deaths rose above 100 for three consecutive months for the first time during the war: April 2007, 104; May, 126 and June at 101.
The death toll has seesawed since, with 2007 ending as the deadliest year for American troops at 901 deaths. That was 51 more deaths than 2004, the second deadliest year for US soldiers.
The milestones for each 1,000 deaths — while an arbitrary marker — serve to rivet attention on the war and have come during a range of pivotal moments.
When the 1,000th American died in September 2004, the insurgency was gaining steam. The 2,000-death mark came in October 2005 as Iraq voted on a new constitution. The Pentagon announced its 3,000th loss on the last day of 2006 — a day after Saddam Hussein was hanged and closing a year marked by rampant sectarian violence.
The deaths taken by US soldiers in Iraq, however, are far less than in other modern American wars. In Vietnam, the US lost on average about 4,850 soldiers a year from 1963-75. In the Korean war, from 1950-53, the US lost about 12,300 soldiers a year.
But a hallmark of the Iraq war is the high wounded-to-killed ratio, partly because of advances in battlefield medicine, enhanced protective gear worn by soldiers and reinforced armored vehicles.
There have been about 15 soldiers wounded for every fatality in Iraq, compared with 2.6 per death in Vietnam and 2.8 in Korea.
The deadliest month for American troops was November 2004, with 137 deaths. April 2004 was the next with 135 US military deaths. May 2007 saw the third-highest toll.
Last December was the lowest monthly death toll, when 23 soldiers were killed — one less than February 2004.
Two factors have helped bring down violence in recent months: a self-imposed cease-fire by a main Shiite militia and a grass-roots Sunni revolt against extremists.
But commanders often say there is no guarantee the trends will continue. Among the concerns: the strength of breakaway Shiite factions believed armed by Iran and whether Sunni fighters will remain US allies or again turn their guns on American troops instead of al-Qaida.
Civil strife also could flare again.
Shiite militias are vying for control of Iraq’s oil-rich south. In the north, the contest for the oil-rich city of Kirkuk could spark new bloodshed and should be the focus of intense “US diplomatic and economic leverage to make sure it doesn’t happen,” said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey at a speech in New York in March to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion.
There is also the question of Iraq’s security forces and the slow pace of their training.
American commanders would like to see the Iraqis take more of a front-line role in the fighting, but their ability to operate without American support could still be years away.
“We are always quick to note that the progress is tenuous and that it is reversible,” said the top US commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, “and that there are innumerable challenges out there.”
US Death Toll in Iraq Hits 4,000
(March 24, 2008) — The death toll of US military in Iraq has passed 4,000 after the US Central Command announced that four more troops had died in an attack.
The soldiers were killed on Sunday by a roadside bomb during a patrol in southern Baghdad, the military said on Monday.
At least 50 Iraqis, most of them civilians, also died on Sunday in violence including bomb blasts and shootings.
More than 29,000 American soldiers have been wounded after years of conflict in Iraq, according to the icasualties.org website, which also carried the 4,000-strong US death toll.
At least 97 percent of the deaths have come after George Bush, the US president announced the end of “major combat” in Iraq on May 1, 2003.
After the US military toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s president, they have faced an-American campaign and witnessed violence between the country’s sectarian communities.
The milestone death toll comes day after Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq, saying the US would remain in Iraq and promising American soldiers that they would emerge victorious.
Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera’s Iraq correspondent, said the high death toll showed that the conflict had not been fully contained by the US.
“The Bush administration keeps saying that things are getting better and better. Reaching such a milestone is a reminder that the war is far from over in Iraq,” she said.
“We are at a transition period. Despite the fact that the surge is working, despite the fact that the violence has dropped … things could get much worse underground.”
Abdel Hamid said that the “surge” could not work effectively unless it was accompanied by national reconciliation of Iraq’s sectarian communities.
Cause of deaths More than 80 percent of soldiers killed have died in attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq, Sunni and Shia fighters, icasualties.org said.
The remainder died in non-combat related incidents.
Around 40 per cent of those killed were struck by roadside bombs, according to the website, making these weapons the main cause of fatalities.
Small-arms fire was the second biggest killer, the website said, with helicopter crashes, ambushes, rocket attacks and suicide bombings also the cause of many deaths.
The deadliest year for the military in Iraq was 2007 when it lost 901 troops, the icasualties.org website figures said.
This figure compares with 486 deaths in 2003, the first year of the conflict, 849 in 2004, 846 in 2005 and 822 in 2006. Since the start of 2008, 96 soldiers have died.
Vietnam has been the deadliest war for the US military, apart from the two world wars, with 58,000 soldiers killed between 1964 and 1973, an average of 26 a day.
On average, just over two US soldiers die each day in Iraq.
American soldiers in Iraq interviewed by news agencies said that while they were sad about the losses, the conflict was justified.
“It’s sad that the number is that high. It makes you wonder if there is a different way of approaching things. Nobody likes to hear that number,” said senior Airman Preston Reeves, 26, from Birmingham, Alabama.
“Every one of those people signed up voluntarily and it’s a shame that that happens, but tragedies do happen in war.
“It’s a shame you don’t get support from your own country, when all they want you to do is leave Iraq and all these people will have died in vain.”
Against the backdrop of the rising US military death toll, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination, are calling for the withdrawal of troops.
Clinton has said that she may consider pulling troops out of the country after 60 days, she should win the nomination and the presidency.
But John McCain, who is set to become the Republican candidate in the presidential race, has advocated US soldiers remaining in Iraq.
McCain remains a strong supporter of Bush’s controversial “surge”, which saw 30,000 extra soldiers deployed in an attempt to improve security in Iraq.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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