If reported accurately by USA Today, the numbers are suspect and fallacious.
WASHINGTON -- Iraqi insurgents have hit American troops with more remotely detonated bombs in the past year, but the attacks are killing and wounding fewer troops, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Since April 2004, bomb attacks have risen from an average of 25 a day to 30 a day, but the percentage of those attacks that injured or killed U.S. troops fell from 90% to about 25%, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Rodney, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
Rodney attributed the declining injury and death rates to a number of factors, from better protective armor and better intelligence to a dramatic improvement in U.S. troops' ability to electronically jam the devices that detonate the bombs.
The Pentagon has made a major push over the past year to armor Humvees and other trucks used by the Army and Marines, to better protect them from roadside bombs and other weapons.
"It's tough to say we'll ever eradicate (the remotely detonated bombs) completely," Rodney said. "But we're continuing to improve our ability to mitigate the number of casualties."
Marines have seen a decline in the number of remotely detonated bombs in western Iraq, the service's top general said Thursday.
- The number of daily IED attacks year-over-year is erroneous in some manner. This article says daily attacks from IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) have risen from 25 to 30 per day since April 2004. However, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency reported just last week that hostile engagements of all kinds in Iraq have risen from 25 per day in early 2004 to 60 per day now. This can be found on page 6 of his report to the House Armed Services Committee. So does that mean that all 25 attacks in early 2004 were from IEDs or does it mean that the number given by Lt. Col Rodney is in error for early 2004? Either the number of attacks in early 2004 by IEDs were overstated by Lt. Col. Rodney on Friday or the total number of hostile engagements in early 2004 were understated by the DIA. My guess based on declassified information is that hostile attacks of all kinds rose from about 25 per day to 60 per day year-over-year and of those, IED attacks rose from approximately 8 per day in early 2004 (708 IED attacks over 90 days ending Jan. 16, 2004) to perhaps 30 per day now.
- The effectiveness of IED attacks in early 2004 appears overstated by Lt. Col. Rodney. USA Today reports that Lt. Col. Rodney told them that those IED attacks which injured soldiers fell from 90% certainty of a U.S. casualty per bombing in April 2004 to 25% today. That 90% number seems extraordinarily high even with unarmored vehicles and inadequate body armor during that period. This number is likely to be erroneous. Please review this Coalition Provisional Authority power point briefing from January 2004 which analyzed the prior 90 days of IED attacks. It reported on Slide 3, "90 Day Review of IED attacks: -- 708 IED attacks; -- 599 IEDs found -- 298 IED attacks which caused injury (718 casualties)". So as of January 2004, there were about 8 IED attacks a day. Also in January 2004 and for the prior 90 days, 42% (298/708) of IED attacks caused injury. When injury occurred there were 2.4 casualties per IED attack (718/298). By overstating the success of IED attacks in early 2004 and contrasting it with a stated current success rate of 25% one would conclude as Lt. Col. Rodney states there are huge improvements being made. But if the starting figures in early 2004 are fallacious then the favorable trend is at best overstated and perhaps nonexistent. My guess is that attacks with casualties involved have fallen from 42%, not 90%, to 25%, assuming Lt. Col. Rodney's current numbers are accurate.
- 74% of Hostile Fire Casualties From IEDs in 2005. So are IEDs killing more Americans or not? The answer appears to be yes. In an analysis of hostile fire casualties where the cause was stated from January 1, 2005 to February 6, 2005, 74% of the killed in action were from IED attacks and another 5% from car bombs. My intention is to update this report through February 2005 at the end of the month, but a cursory look at the February figures indicates that IEDs are the leading and overwhelming cause of death to hostile fire in Iraq in 2005. Also evident in February is the extraordinary level of vehicular accidents which may be caused by inexperienced drivers in a troop rotation and by driving in an aggressive combat mode to avoid IEDs resulting in more rollovers and off road fatal accidents. Unfortunately the missing information to complete this analysis is now classified and has not been disclosed by the Marines since April 2004. A cursory review of local news sources for 15 Marine casualties in the first 6 weeks of 2005 indicates that they are likely indicative of Army statistics for the period.
Indeed, despite admirable efforts by the Marines to armor-up vehicles going into the second rotation, in whatever manner possible, the Marines are more lightly armored than the Army with the exception of Army transportation companies.
- Does that mean that the push for body armor, vehicular armor and jammers has been for nothing? No. All are evidently contributing to keeping daily casualties at nearly consistent year-over-year levels despite an increase in hostile engagements according to the DIA rising from 25 to 60 per day. Also the IEDs are getting more powerful and their operators more experienced. In short the war is evolving. From May 2, 2003 to June 28, 2004 when we officially handed sovereignty to Iraq, military fatalities per day were 1.89; from June 29, 2004 to election day in Iraq on January 30, 2005 military fatalities were 2.93 per day. From the election to February 25, 2005, military fatalities were 2.15 per day. If the DIA numbers are right and hostile engagements are up to 60 per day from 25 year-over-year then these investments may be paying off. I'll roughly speculate that military fatalities would be up at least 24% or about 16 more per month with a proportional increase in WIAs (Wounded In Action) using this calculation ((42%/25% effectiveness) x 74% of KIAs x 2.15 current military fatalities per day).
Perhaps someone in the press should ask Lt. Col. Rodney for some clarification on those numbers lest one get the wrong impression. A cynic might conclude that the briefing was more about damage control than protecting the troops. Noting the low February figures belies the historically high January 05 ones (4.1 per day) which evidently were omitted from the discussion. Last week, after two years, the Army finally enforced rules preventing military vehicles from moving from Kuwait to Iraq without some level of armor. Also it knows that the up-armored M1114 humvee production lines are going down hard after May of this year, and that the trucks and about 9000 humvees are in country with hillbilly armor or none at all.
Scathing comments made at the Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings earlier this month have led to more damage control at the Pentagon.
Statements like this from Rodney, "It's tough to say we'll ever eradicate (the remotely detonated bombs) completely ..." evades the dire truth of the situation and doesn't dissuade the insurgents from using these effective tactics. These puff pieces also don't protect our soldiers. They misdirect the American public from fully understanding a deadly problem by implying there isn't one. Tangible solutions require more money, more jammers and more armor.
The only behinds not fully covered within the Department of Defense are in Iraq.