Iraq toll still high a year after US combat halt
Baghdad, September 1, 2011
At least 2,400 civilians, police and soldiers, along with 35 US military personnel, have been killed in violence in Iraq since Washington formally ended combat operations a year ago, US and Iraqi statistics show.
As US troops prepare to leave Iraq by the end of the year, the new figures show that while violence is down sharply since the peak of sectarian slaughter that followed the 2003 US-led invasion, a lethal Sunni insurgency and attacks by Shi'ite militias continue to take a serious toll.
President Barack Obama officially declared an end to combat in Iraq on Aug. 31, 2010, at the time saying "extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals."
Iraqi Health Ministry statistics indicate 1,449 civilians died in violence in the 11 months from Sept. 1 of last year to the beginning of August.
Figures for August are not yet available, but the month saw some major attacks, including an Aug. 28 suicide bombing at an important Sunni mosque that killed 32 people and a series of coordinated assaults on Aug. 15 that killed at least 60.
During the same 11 months, 543 Iraqi police and 379 soldiers were killed, according to figures from the interior and defence ministries.
Pentagon statistics show 56 US military deaths since the start of Operation New Dawn on Sept. 1, 35 in hostile incidents. Since that start of the war, more than 4,400 US personnel have died in Iraq.
There were no US military casualties in August.
"Iraq remains a very dangerous place," said Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the US military spokesman in Iraq.
Washington still has about 43,000 troops in Iraq, down from a peak of around 170,000. The United States maintains 43 bases, down from 92 last Aug. 31 and a high of 505.
US forces are scheduled to leave by Dec. 31 under a bilateral security agreement. Iraqi politicians are discussing the possibility of having some US forces stay as trainers beyond the end of the year.
US and Iraqi military officials say they have seriously damaged al Qaeda's capabilities by killing or arresting scores of leaders and operatives. But US statistics show there are an average of 14 bombings and other attacks every day.
"Broad trend-wise, I do think Iraq is making progress in the security side," Buchanan said. "Broad trend-wise we've seen an overall reduction in the number of attacks, a reduction in the lethality of the attacks, how many casualties are they causing."
According to Iraq Body Count, between 102,344 and 111,861 people have died in the Iraq War. Nearly 4,800 members of the US-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein have died, according to icasualties.org. – Reuters