Over 2500 US Troops Dead in Iraq
Time to Leave?
AFP reports that the Iraqi Civil War claimed at least 27 lives on Thursday:
“Three successive roadside bombs targeting Iraqi army patrols killed five soldiers and injured six others in the northern town of Tal Afar on Thursday, police said. Four soldiers were killed when the first roadside bomb hit their vehicle. A second bomb went off as soldiers on foot rushed to the site. The third bomb hit an Iraqi army vehicle nearby. Gunmen stormed a Sunni mosque near Tikrit, killing four people and wounding 15, police said.
At least 18 more people were killed in other violence-related incidents across the country. In Baquba, gunmen killed 10 people, including two brothers, police said. Police found seven bullet-riddled bodies across Baghdad. A policeman was also shot dead by armed men.”
According to al-Sharq al-Awsat [Ar.], a joint US-Iraqi force arrested Shaikh `Aqil Fahim al-Zubaidi, head of the governing council for Karbala province, on charges of abetting terrorism. Hundreds of angry protesters rallied in his defense. Al-Zubaidi belongs to the Virtue Party (Fadhila) of Shaikh Muhammad Yaqubi.
The number of US troops killed in Iraq, whether in combat or through incidents such as vehicle collisions (often occuring during the heat of battle), has now passed the 2500 mark. An average of two die each day. Among the 18,490 wounded are thousands with serious injuries that will affect them the rest of their lives. Those suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome, which can lead to alcoholism or mental disease and disability, constitute more thousands.
I agree with Congressman Murtha that the main lesson of the killing of Zarqawi is that we don’t need all those ground troops in Iraq, who mainly take casualties when driving around. If we didn’t have so many troops there, they would not have to drive around so much. They aren’t trained as police, aren’t mostly doing counter-insurgency, don’t have the language or local cultural skills to track down the guerrillas, and their search and destroy missions probably alienate more Iraqis than they are worth. We’d be ahead of the game with some Jordanian intelligence units coordinating with Iraqi forces,and maybe some US special ops teams who could call down the 500 pound bombs once the terrorist location is identified.
The argument coming from the American military-industrial complex that the US could not have killed Zarqawi if there had been a troop draw-down is simplistic, as with all purely interest-driven arguments. It depends on which troops are withdrawn. The onces in Najaf province are acting really just as an occasional support to the Badr-infiltrated police in their struggle against the Mahdi Army militia. Those troops did not help get Zarqawi. Most of the US troops in Iraq don’t have the linguistic or cultural knowledge to do effective counter-insurgency. In fact, my own suspicion is that it was the enlistment of Jordanian agents that was crucial. That, and Zarqawi stupidly alienated the Dulaim by blowing up police recruits in Ramadi. Tribal feuds tend to follow you once you start them.
Most of the ground troops in Iraq are either not needed or are engaged in counter-productive activities. Keep the ones that are really needed for counter-insurgency (they would be few), and stop trying to use them to do routine police work in Baghdad or Karbala.