Monday, March 20, 2006

240,000 strong, Iraqi army shoulders more of the war burden in Iraq :: "Deaths fall for U.S., rise for Iraqis
Changes in roles shift casualties

By Thomas Frank

BAGHDAD — U.S. military deaths during the past month have dropped to an average of about one a day, approaching the lowest level since the insurgency began two years ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. military data.

The decline in U.S. deaths comes as Iraqi casualties are the highest since the U.S. military began tracking them in 2004.

In the past month, nearly five times as many Iraqi forces and civilians were killed as troops in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, U.S. military data show.

The shift from spring 2004, when U.S. and Iraqi casualty rates were comparable, reflects an insurgency that increasingly targets Iraqis and the growing presence of Iraqi forces on the front lines.

“The Iraqi army is far bigger in number, far higher in training capability and far more willing to go where the fight is and take casualties,” British Defense Secretary John Reid said in an interview."


The U.S. military also has cut the number of American deaths by thwarting the homemade bombs that are the insurgency's prime weapon. Soldiers and Marines now find and neutralize more than 40% of the bombs, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said in an interview. That compares with 30% in September. Lynch said that 41 insurgent bombmakers have been killed or captured. Insurgents “are losing skilled bombmakers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iraq's 240,600 security forces increasingly are fighting insurgents directly, the Pentagon says. Sixty-three Iraqi units are operating independently or in a lead role with coalition support, up from 37 in September. Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari says military recruiting remains strong, despite the rising casualties.

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