Tuesday, February 24, 2004

U.S. casualties in Iraq decline, but will the trend last? 

Global Security posts a running tally of American casualties in Iraq, broken out by KIA and wounded. As is clear from the graphs, January was a big improvement over November and December, and February is even better. The question is whether this is the result of real progress against the insurgents and terrorists -- a reduction in their offensive fighting power -- or the fruits of better defensive tactics by American soldiers, such as more armor, better detection of roadside bombs, sharper street sense, and so forth.

I have a question (credit both Stratfor and the Christian Science Monitor): Will American casualties spike during the upcoming troop rotation? Not only will there be targets everywhere (huge convoys driving around and so forth), but we will be replacing saavy veterans with new soldiers who are unfamiliar with the environment and its risks. The flipside is that there will be a huge number of soldiers in Iraq during the peak period this spring, more than 220,000 in March. Will they be on their game, killing and deterring guerrillas, or will they be arriving and confused or departing and therefore focused on getting home?

The impact of the troop rotation on American casualties this spring may decide the Presidential election this fall.


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