Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pentagon Belies IED Stats

The Pentagon held a briefing on Feb. 25, 2005 described by USA Today in an article with the headline, "Pentagon Reports Fewer U.S. Casualties." The article leads off with what on first blush looks like good news.

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.

If reported accurately by USA Today, the numbers are suspect and fallacious.

  • 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.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sgt. Ryan Kelly & Wife. WIA Ramadi. Posted by Hello

Spec. Aaron Blakely of 173rd Airborne and buddies who came to see him. Posted by Hello

Behind the walls of Ward 54

I got a call today from Mark Benjamin, a reporter for In the course of our discussion, he referred me to recent articles he wrote. Last year when he wrote for UPI he broke the stories on how ill and wounded soldiers had been stacked up, held up and poorly treated at Ft. Stewart and Ft. Knox. His articles alerted congress. The public outrage that followed quickly caused action which rectified the problem. Soldier's gripe about the fourth estate, but shining a public spotlight on a great injustice has a sanitizing effect. The heat of scrutiny melts the offending bureaucracy.

So as I talked to Mark about what he had seen at Walter Reed regarding the treatment of PTSD, several things stood out. First, Walter Reed is great if you want an artificial limb or your eyes repaired. But as for mental health, the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and combat related mental health problems, it does a poorer job. Second the Dept. of Veterans Affairs is recognized by activists and healthcare providers as doing a better job for soldiers than the military on mental health. PTSD is better treated by the VA. Third, the Army, seems set on minimizing PTSD's financial impact and understating its prevalence.

The army reports 1 in 6 troops coming out of Iraq have PTSD. My own anecdotal observations are that this number is probably higher. The treatment shown in this article gives one the impression the situation is far worse for those in treatment. It's going to be a long-term issue for the country without doubt.

His article about Ward 54 is linked. Its disturbing, but important that it be read by those who care. Its starts like this:

They're overmedicated, forced to talk about their mothers instead of Iraq, and have to fight for disability pay. Traumatized combat vets say the Army is failing them, and after a year following more than a dozen soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, I believe them. ...

Looking for direction Posted by Hello

Robot for bomb detection Posted by Hello

Sadr rising

Here is an interesting read from Baghdad regarding the re-emergence of armed supporters of Sadr.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What reconciliation?
Al Mehdi Army demonstrates in Basra From Al Qabas Kuwaiti newspaper (Arabic link): 4000 men of Sadr's militia, Al Mehdi army marched through the streets of Basra in a demonstration of power. The militia men were dressed in black shirts and khaki trousers and had their ammunition on.The American, British and Israeli flags were painted along the road where the demonstration took place for the militia to step on them. This happened despite that some of Sadr followers joined the elections and actually won some seats under the banner of the "Unified Coalition list". The Iraqi and multinational forces did not respond in any way to that demo.Why is this happening and how should we react to it?

al-Qaeda Complains Its Not Getting Media Coverage

According to Counterterrorism blog, al-Qaeda in Iraq is complaining that western media outlets are ignoring their attacks. They've posted this video. A couple of observations:
  • Insurgents posted video on internet within 48 hours of attack.
  • Insurgent selected a weak vehicle to attack avoiding lead armored humvee probably with jammer.
  • Insurgent detonated weapon just in front of vehicle either by accident or to take advantge of lack of ballistic glass on the truck.

Feb. 24 video of roadside bomb attack on U.S. convoy in Al-Yusifiyya

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Another picture of a Stryker box addition Posted by Hello

Stryker Box with Iraqi soldiers inside. Posted by Hello

MTVR hit by SVIED. Posted by Hello

MTVR Medium Armor. Note door and turret protection. Posted by Hello

In Fallujah's wake, marines go west

Here is a good article about follow-on marine activities in the Sunni western province. What is discouraging is that the local police and government appear to be entirely compromised. In fact the first action by the marines is to detain the police as they move into Hit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Soldier on patrol in Iraq. 2-23-05 Posted by Hello

Eyes saved by good equipment. Posted by Hello

Wiley X Posted by Hello

Wiley X Glasses Posted by Hello

Saudi Connections to Alleged Assassination Plotter

So when I saw the headline about an American kid getting held in Saudi Arabia who was a valedictorian I had a mental image quite different from this.

Mainstream media identified Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the US citizen charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush, as “a former Virginia high school valedictorian.” Sounds pretty respectable, eh?

What they didn’t tell you: he was valedictorian of the American madrassa known as the Islamic Saudi Academy, and his father worked at the Royal Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, DC. Rusty Shackleford has details: Terrorist Son of Saudi Embassy Worker Attended Saudi Run School.

Here are some previous LGF entries about the Islamic Saudi Academy.

This is definitely bothersome.

New England Heroes Video from Channel 7 at Landstuhl

Here is an excellent video interview of local wounded soldiers from Iraq at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. Unfortunately I can't get the link to the video to work for me so what you do it click on the link to the article and then look to the right of the webpage and you will see a Real Video feed button. Click it and watch the interview.

Coming home: Returning soldiers welcomed back by thousands in Paris

So last fall, I got a call from a reporter from the Seattle Times. He was doing a series of stories on how support vehicles, namely trucks weren't armored. He had been up in Mosul with Stryker units from his area. To his surprise the Strykers did fine, but he quickly noticed, evidently shortly after the insurgents, that it was easier to effectively hit the soft sided supply trucks bringing fuel and other supplies to the armored vehicles than to hit the Americans head-on. The casualties started mounting for the transport companies supporting them.

Hal started looking at the stats about the same time some of the national guard units started to balk about running convoys without some protection. He mentioned to me the unusually high casualty rates coming from an Illinois unit; this one the 1544th Transport Company in particular.

So I came across this coming home article from Paris, Illinois today. Its worth the read.

In small town America, the men cheered, the boys did shout, and the ladies turned out. Some of them were deployed.

And the town gave something more -- armor. Donated armor. Here are the last few paragraphs of the story.

Staff Sgt. Terry Artis, 30, a member of the company's Decatur detachment who served as a convoy commander, said the support of people from Paris during the rough tour of duty was "unbelievable." Artis said the community raised about $30,000 to purchase armor for the company's vehicles as well as other necessities.

He said it was very difficult to lose five friends during the past year, but he does not believe they were totally missing the festivities in Paris.

"I think they're looking down and getting a chance to enjoy it a little bit," Artis said.

Tavern adjacent to Lexington Green where the Minutemen rallied to face the Red Coats. Posted by Hello

David Geer shows off his tattoo in memory of his friend Fletcher from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Fletcher was killed in Nov. 03 in a convoy. David and Chad visited the Fletcher family in Long Island on their way to see us in Bedford, MA on March 04. If we haven't said we appreciated the visit, let us do it now. Thanks guys. It meant a lot to us. Posted by Hello

White on Lexington Green. The American Revolution started here two miles from our house in Apirl 1775. John Hart loved to go to the re-enactments held there. Posted by Hello

David Geer, Chad Shearer and Rebecca Hart at Lexington Green in front of statue of John Parker, leader of the Lexington Minutemen, April 1775. Posted by Hello

Rebecca Hart, David Geer and Chad Shearer at North Bridge. Concord MA. St. Patrick's Day 04. David and Chad came to visit after rotating out of Iraq with the 173rd Airborne.  Posted by Hello

Rebecca Hart, David Geer, Chad Shearer, Elizabeth and Alma Hart. March 2004. Posted by Hello

Power plays preoccupy Iraqi leaders

"Islamist Dawa Party leader Ibrahim Jaafari had been heavily favored to take the post last week. But a challenge by the head of the secular Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, threw the process into extended negotiations, even as Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi first withdrew and then reappeared as a possible compromise candidate. ..."

So while we've been paying attention to Jaafari being selected as the next leader of Iraq and whether nor not his call for islamic law earlier this year was genuine or not, it bears noting that Chalabi has cut a deal to be Finance Minister.

Chalabi was the CIA operative whose organization evidently turned out to be providing information to Iran earlier this year. We raided his offices early in 2004 and it may be the case that his party ran a counterfeiting ring. So who better to put in charge of Iraq's major contracts and U.S. financial aid? Oh, did I mention he's wanted in Jordan for embezzlement?

What's more, as this article from the Christian Science Monitor points out, he got the support needed to get this appointment by allying with Sadr. Yup, that Sadr, the one that killed Americans and several thousand Iraqi's in 2004.

The Mess in the Defense Budget

This article in Defense Watch is worth reading as it outlines recent manipulations of the defense budget between normal fiscal year appropriations and "Emergency Supplemental" appropriations.

Some pointed excerpts:

Consider the budget’s immense size and its inadequacy for its declared purposes. At $421.1 billion, it is the largest Defense Department budget in real terms since the Cold War ended in 1990. If you add the $85 billion the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects combat in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost in 2006 – not to be confused with the $82 billion the administration requested this week for the war for 2005 – it makes the highest DoD budget since 1952. With the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs and other defense costs, the total goes up another $20.7 billion to outdo any national defense budget since World War II.


The grand total, $667.2 billion, exceeds any annual sum this country has ever paid for security in any war at any time. It is also more than all the other nations on the face of the earth, put together, pay for their own security.

Unbelievably, this amount is thoroughly inadequate.

For years, the Congressional Budget Office has been comparing the Pentagon’s budget to the actual cost of the programs sought. CBO’s study from September 2004 shows a $250 billion shortage in the Pentagon’s 2005-2009 plan. Advocates of big defense spending call this “underfunding.”
The sunk costs do exceed even the original skeptics’ initial estimates, but today the inadequacies abound. ...

Rumsfeld has just submitted a new supplemental to pay for the war for the fiscal year that is already four months old (2005); it is again inadequate to the shortages Rumsfeld should be rushing to address. ...

These expenses clearly belong in the regular budget, but putting them there would contest the image of an annual plan growing only modestly in the face of domestic program cuts. ...

If past is prologue, Congress will go along with all this, while also raiding parts of the Pentagon’s operating accounts – such as the ones that pay for training and spare parts – to support additional pork barrel spending in members’ home states and districts.

... It’s quite a mess."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Washington Post picture of Iraqi soldiers praying at memorial to US troops at Camp Paliwoda. Feb 05 Posted by Hello

Humvee Tragedy Forges Brotherhood of Soldiers

You see a glimmer of hope reading this article. Here's to hope.

BALAD, Iraq -- When the Iraqi troops arrived that morning, three American servicemen lay dead at the bottom of the Isaki Canal.

The body of a fourth, Sgt. Rene Knox Jr., 22, had been recovered from a submerged Humvee. Patrolling without headlights around 4:30 a.m., Knox had overshot a right turn. His vehicle tumbled down a concrete embankment and settled upside down in the frigid water.

During the harrowing day-long mission to recover the bodies of the Humvee's three occupants on Feb. 13, an Air Force firefighter also drowned. Five U.S. soldiers were treated for hypothermia. For five hours, three Navy SEAL divers searched the canal before their tanks ran out of oxygen.

What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark. ...

MTVR hit by car bomb. Posted by Hello

MTVR Armor Kit. Posted by Hello

Flank armor. Note in the next picture that the armor seemed to have held though the front of the vehicle and cab is completely destroyed. Posted by Hello

Hmmwv destroyed by IED. Nov. 04. Posted by Hello

Disposable robot used to blow up IEDs. Posted by Hello

Army 5 ton hit with IED. No ballistic glass. Homemade armor spot welded. Posted by Hello