WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- The striking lull in U.S. casualties we reported in our previous column did not last. Figures for U.S. troops killed and wounded in Iraq over the past week rose sharply and showed a remarkable statistical consistency with trends prior to the lull.
This suggests that the most active Sunni insurgent groups may have taken a breathing space in their operations to regroup and reassess following the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's chief of operations in Iraq. However, Zarqawi's death and the seizure of what U.S. officials called "a treasure trove" of information following his death, don't seem to have had any appreciable impact on organization and military capabilities of the insurgency.
The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Wednesday, June 28, since the start of operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,524, according to official figures issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Therefore, 24 U.S. soldiers were killed during the eight-day period from June 21 through June 28 at an average rate of three per day. This was 77 percent higher than the rate of 1.75 U.S. soldiers killed by in Iraq per day during the seven-day period from June 14 through June 20. It was also 20 percent worse than the eight-day period of June 6-13 when 2.5 U.S. soldiers were killed per day in Iraq. And those June 6-13 figures had been an increase of almost 39 percent on the rate of fatalities suffered during the previous six-day period of May 31-June 5 when some 11 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average rate of 1.82 per day.
The latest figures, therefore, show a return to the steadily deteriorating trend in increasing U.S. fatalities in Iraq through the month of June. They were also significantly worse than the longer-term trend of the 48-day period from April 13 to May 30, when 107 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average rate of just over 2.2 per day. And they were almost twice as bad as during the 68-day period from Feb. 4 to April 12, when 112 U.S. troops died in Iraq at an average of 1.65 per day.
The rate at which U.S. soldiers are being injured in Iraq also rose sharply over the past week. As of June 28, 18,696 U.S. soldiers have been injured in Iraq since the start of hostilities. That was an increase of 124 wounded in eight days at an average rate of 15.5 U.S. soldiers wounded per day. This was more than 25 percent worse than the previous figure of 82 wounded in seven days at an average rate of 11.7 per day.
The latest figures, however, were still far better than the eight-day period of June 6-13, when 236 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq at an average rate of 29.5 per day. But it was notably worse than the average rate of U.S. troops wounded during the six-day period before that, from May 31 to June 5, when 70 U.S. soldiers were wounded at an average rate of 11.67 per day.
The latest figures were very close to, though marginally worse than, the average rates at which U.S. troops were wounded during the previous three-and-a-half months. Some 635 U.S. soldiers were wounded in the 48-day period from April 13 to May 30 at an average rate of just over 13.2 wounded per day. That figure showed a remarkable statistical consistency compared with the previous 68-day period from Feb. 4 to April 12 when 943 U.S. soldiers were wounded in 68 days, an average rate of just below 13.9 wounded per day, according to figures issued by the Department of Defense.
As of June 28, 8,560 of these U.S. troops were wounded so seriously that they were listed as "WIA Not RTD" in the DOD figures -- in other words, Wounded in Action Not Returned to Duty. This marked an increase of 52 such casualties in eight days at an average rate of 6.5 per day. This was dramatically worse than during the pervious week's lull when U.S. forces suffered only seven such casualties in seven days, or an average of one a day. However, the latest figures, while discouraging, were not half as bad as during the day period from June 5 through June 12 when U.S. forces suffered 115 such casualties in eight days, an average of 14.38 per day.
These figures were also a little better than the previous six-day period of May 31-June 5 which saw 42 such casualties, at an average rate of seven per day. But they were also somewhat worse than the longer-term trends we recorded during the first three and a half months of this year. There were 286 such casualties over 48 days from April 13 through May 30, at an average rate of just under six per day. The time period from Feb.4 through April 12 saw a rate of 5.5 such casualties per day over 68 days for a total of 375 seriously injured.
Both the surge in U.S. casualties suffered during the week Zarqawi was hunted down and killed, and the remarkable drop in casualties the following week now appear to have been statistical anomalies. The current figures appear to reassert the longer term trends we have recorded over the past six months based on the Pentagon's own official figures. These trends clearly show an insurgency that is not diminishing in any way but that is slowly increasing its capability to inflict casualties on U.S. forces.