Friday, September 28, 2007

Behind the Numbers (September Edition)

Call it Spook's Inverse Law of Iraq War Reporting: if you don't see a spate of stories on U.S. casualties at the end of the month, then there must be some good news the MSM is ignoring.

If you want proof of that, consider the latest numbers from Iraq. With only two days remaining in September, U.S. forces are on pace for the lowest number of monthly fatalities in more than a year. According to the icasualties.org website, a total of 59 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this month, compared to 79 in August--a 26% decline.

As we've cautioned in the past, casualty totals should be taken with a grain of salt. The number of military personnel killed during a certain period isn't always an accurate reflection of what's happening on the battlefield. A decrease in casualties may reflect a lull in the fighting; conversely, a jump in fatalities may portend a decisive battle that secures final victory.

Still, the September numbers from Iraq are good news, no matter how you analyze it. Not only did the overall military death toll continue its decline, the number of troops killed by hostile fire was at its lowest level in fourteen months. So far this month, a total of 36 U.S. troops have been killed by enemy fire, the lowest total since July 2006, when 35 died. The other 23 fatalities for September were attributed to non-hostile causes, including accidents and illness. The table below provides a break-out of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq over the past six months:

Month/Total Fatalities/Hostile Fire/Non-Hostile

Apr/104/94/10
May/118/110/8
Jun/101/92/9
Jul/79/66/13
Aug/79/54/25
Sep/59/36/23

As in past months, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained the primary killer of American troops, accouting for 26 combat fatalities in September. Still, the number of deaths attributed to IEDs has decreased dramatically over the past six months, as evidenced by the following table, which is (again) based on data from icasualties.org.

Month/Total Hostile Fire Fatalities/Number Killed by IED

Apr/94/72
May/110/90
Jun/92/74
Jul/66/47
Aug/54/34
Sep/36/26

In other words, the number of fatalities from roadside bombs and other IEDs has dropped by 64% in the past six months--a time when the overall ops tempo among U.S. forces has increased dramatically. During that period, Army and Marine units have entered a number of former terrorist strong-holds and cleared them, suffering fewer casualties than many analysts had predicted. And, the declining number of IED deaths shows that the troop surge is hitting the bad guys where it hurts most--in their bomb-making networks.

While the September casualty totals are encouraging, they do not mean that the Battle for Iraq has been won. But the troop surge and its accompanying operational strategy are producing desired results. No wonder Congressional Democrats are still pushing for a rapid withdrawal, and their friends in the MSM have moved on to "other" coverage angles, including the deaths of Iraqi "civilians" in a recent U.S. airstrike.

Our progress in Iraq has been hard-won, measured (in large part) by the men and women who took the fight to the enemy and gave their lives in the process. The turning tide in Iraq proves that their sacrifice was not in vain--assuming we stay the course and finish the job.

8 comments:

Conservative Futurist said...

This is fantastic news. Your blog is one of my favorite resources, I'll have you know. Keep up the good work.

Mike said...

Great work. I've posted a few times about how the casualty figures have kept falling even as US forces have been going increasingly on the offensive. This month you've saved me the trouble of crunching the numbers.
Have linked you at
http://monkeytenniscentre.blogspot.
com/2007/09/holed-up-and-waiting-for
-death-al-qaeda.html

Boghie said...

Spook,

We all know the truth!!!

Darth Vader Cheney and BusHitler have ordered the military to ‘air-brush’ the facts. I think I read at DailyKOS and/or 10DowningStreet that there is a YouTube video of BusHitler (not Stalin) airbrushing out coffins at Dover and ordering the CIA to fly the caskets to Guantanamo and other top secret prisons. Bush next orders the families and friends be kidnapped and sent to Putin’s Gulags. It’s on tape, but that tape has been mysteriously ‘disappeared’.

You’ve been duped.

These aren’t the facts.

They can’t be the facts.

We can’t handle the facts.

tbrosz said...

You want some more encouraging news, go back to icasualties.org and check out the Iraqi civilian casualties for September.

At last count, (night of September 29) the count was 711, or less than half of either the July or August figures. During Ramadan.

It would take at least another month or two of lower numbers before a legitimate trend might be declared, but it's still pretty good news. Last month that numbers on icasualties.org were this low was in February of 2006.

cfc said...

tbrosz,

Check out the blog Back Talk for an outstanding analysis on the reduction in civilian deaths. The trend is already well-established and coincides with the troop surge and change in tactics. The professor who blogs at Back Talk has made this one of his specialities. There are many excellent posts there on his methodology and interpretation. Here's one of the most recent: http://engram-backtalk.blogspot.com/2007/09/casualty-trends-according-to-iraq-body.html

CFC

Dave said...

The Army’s new COIN manual explains it thus:

Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be

1-149. Ultimate success in COIN [Counter-insurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained. . . . These practices ensure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.

From “Counterinsurgency/FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33”

lbyron said...

In response to Dave's post of COIN methods:

It is pretty much the opposite of what Hillary said she would do, keep a much smaller contingent on bases and not allow them to go out on patrol or get involved in any operations.

Eric

BrianFH said...

As a minor numerical observation, total hostile fire deaths dropped by a slightly greater % than IED deaths. (94/36 > 74/26).