Monday, January 23, 2006

Insurgents launched 34,131 attacks last year

By Rick Jervis
USA TODAY
1/22/2006

BAGHDAD — The number of attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces and civilians increased 29% last year, and insurgents are increasingly targeting Iraqis, the U.S. military says.

Insurgents launched 34,131 attacks last year, up from 26,496 the year before, according to U.S. military figures released Sunday.

Insurgents are widening their attacks to include the expanding Iraqi forces engaged in the fighting, said Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a coalition spokesman.

He added, "It tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy."

The number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces has grown to 227,000. They outnumber U.S. forces in Iraq. They are often more exposed and are taking a more visible role in fighting the insurgency.

"They're easier targets," said Andrew Krepinevich, a counterinsurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington-based defense think tank.

In 2005, 2,713 Iraqi police and military were killed, according to the Brookings Institute, a Washington-based think tank. Similar numbers for 2004 were not available, and Iraq's government has not released comprehensive casualty numbers for Iraqi security forces. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have also been killed, but no precise tally is available.

U.S. forces have become more effective at protecting against attacks. In 2004, 714 U.S. troops were killed in action and 673 last year, despite the increase in attacks. The number of wounded dropped 26%, from 7,990 to 5,939 during the same period.

The U.S. military attributes that to an increase in effectiveness in protecting its forces against roadside bombs and other attacks. Maj. Gen. William Webster said recently that 10% of the attacks against U.S. forces cause casualties, down from about 25%-30% a year ago.

The new statistics show:

•The number of car bombs more than doubled to 873 last year from 420 the year before. The number of suicide car bombs went to 411 from 133.

•Sixty-seven attackers wore suicide vests last year, up from seven in 2004. Suicide and car bombs are often targeted at Iraqis, causing high casualties.

•Roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices, as the military calls them, continue to be the most common weapon. Roadside bombs increased to 10,953 in 2005 from 5,607 the year before. Those numbers include roadside bombs that are discovered and defused. These bombs account for nearly one-third of all insurgent attacks.

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