Attrition: Counting The Dead In Iraq


July 4, 2008: Even though the Iraqi government does not have the most accurate record keeping (which is understandable, given the terror campaign there), it appears that about 70,000 civilians and 10,000 members of the security forces have died since early 2003. About 6,000 of Saddams troops and security forces died during the 2003 invasion, and about 20,000 terrorists since then. Most of these were Sunni Arabs, either pro-Saddam, or Sunni Arabs who simply wanted another Sunni Arab dictator in charge. These  included over a thousand foreigners. There were also a few hundred Kurdish terrorists associated with al Qaeda. Some of these were killed by Iranian troops.

Many more members of the security forces deserted, and it's only in the last three years that large numbers of Iraqi police and troops have stood and fought. The desertion rate is still high (by U.S. standards), but it always was high, even under Saddam (and earlier).

Thus about four percent of the dead in Iraq have been foreigners, mostly American. About two-thirds of the dead have been civilians, most of them killed by Sunni Arab terrorists. However, nearly half the Iraqi dead have been Sunni Arabs, either terrorists, Saddam's forces or civilians killed by Sunni and Shia terrorists. Thus while the Sunni Arabs comprise only about 20 percent of the population they have suffered three times as many dead (about one in a thousand) as the Shia (about one in three thousand). While most of the civilian dead were Shia, the Sunni Arab terrorists took much higher casualties.

All this, except for the coalition losses, are estimates. There is only fragmentary data on civilian and terrorist losses. But based on historical losses in similar conflicts, good estimates can be made. Many partisan groups have issued bad estimates, but that's part of the enemy Information War, something that also has a long historical record.



Article Archive

Attrition: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close