In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

Analyzing the US Military’s Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Tariq M. Ashraf


Author's Note:
This study was carried out when the number of US military's death losses in Iraq reached a figure of 500 and has not taken into account the subsequent events. As such, it should be taken purely as a representative analysis pertaining to the initial period of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Introduction

This paper began initially as an analysis of the US military casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom and then expanded to include Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan primarily because a need was felt to analyze the losses in at least one more recent conflict that the US forces were involved in so that a comparison could then be drawn. After an analysis of the US military casualties in these two wars had been completed, the striking similarities and differences between the two necessitated the writing of the third part which essentially is a comparative analysis of the US losses in both these military conflicts.

Part 1: Analysis of the US Military’s Personnel Losses in

Operation Iraqi Freedom (Feb 2003 – Jan 2004)

George Bush Jr has not been as fortunate as his father in fighting America’s wars. Already the casualties suffered by the US military in Iraq during the approximately one year that Operation Iraqi Freedom has completed, have crossed a figure of 500 deaths1 – more than Bush Sr got killed during the 1991 Gulf War.

While the figures of the US casualties are available on numerous websites on the internet and a summary of these was also printed in the previous issue of the Strategic Vision, I felt the need for these casualties being analyzed in order to highlight the pattern of casualties that have occurred.

From the data that I have been able to collect and analyze, it surmises that the total US casualties during this 22 month period have reached 542. This figure is almost corroborated by the official US data released on the internet by the Directorate of Information Operations and Reports (DIOR) of the Us Department of Defense (DoD). According to the data available on the DIOR website, American deaths now number 5302. This figure includes 138 American deaths during the War against Iraq and 392 deaths after the fall of Baghdad.3

From the perspective of analysis, I have determined the following aspects on the basis of which I intend to analyze the data of these deaths:

    • Monthly record of US military deaths
    • Service-wise casualties suffered
    • Casualties on the basis of Domicile (State/City of Origin)
    • Casualties on the basis of Ethnicity/Race
    • Casualties by age of victims
    • Casualties by rank / status of victims.
    • Female casualties
    • Casualties suffered by regular US forces and second-line forces (Reserves, National Guards etc)
    • US military deaths due to hostile action and non-hostile reasons.


Monthly record of US military deaths

Figure 1: Monthly US Military Deaths during OIF (Feb 2003 – Jan 2004)

These figures indicate that of the 542 deaths that have occurred so far, the maximum occurred in the month of November 2003 with the monthly average for the 12-month period working out to slightly in excess of 45 US military deaths. Current trends do not indicate any significant reduction in this rate and unless the situation changes radically, it could be expected that US military personnel would continue to die at this rate for the foreseeable future. Other than the sharp rise in the month of November 2003, no discernible trend is visible in this data.

Breakdown of Service-wise casualties suffered

Figure 2: Service-wise US military Deaths4

As could be expected, the maximum casualties have been suffered by the US Army since its elements are the ones that are actually on the ground and are facing the brunt of the Iraqi resistance. Since the US Marines were also employed in a supportive ground combat role so their casualty rates are also high. The rates for the US Navy and the USAF, however, are fairly low since these Services were not involved either in the ground fighting or in the conduct of the ensuing anti-Iraqi resistance operations.

Another relevant aspect of the deaths suffered by the personnel of the various services becomes apparent when the operations prior to April 10 or the capture of Baghdad city are compared with the subsequent operations. This data is presented in a tabular format below.




      Number of Dead Percentage

      Remarks

      Stage of Operations5 Percentage

      Before After Before After
      US Army 367 66 93.62% 47.83% Sharp decrease
      US Marine Corps 17 65 4.34% 47.10% Sharp increase
      USAF 3 4 0.76% 2.89% Slight increase
      US Navy 5 3 1.28% 2.17% Slight increase
      Totals 392 138



Figure 3: Details of US Military Deaths Service-wise

This data serves to substantiate the earlier statement that during the war, the US army’s deaths were understandably high but these reduced sharply after the so-called war was over and Baghdad has fallen since this marked the commencement of irregular Iraqi resistance to the US occupation. This brings out the following significant aspects:

    The US relied heavily of its elite US Army elements during the ‘war’ phase and did not rely as much on the US Marine Corps.

    Unlike the previous Gulf War where the USAF, USN and USMC aircraft assets were extensively employed to soften the enemy ground forces, the same was not done during this war on the same scale. The softening of the enemy ground forces definitely contributed to the limited number of casualties subsequently suffered by the US land forces. It appears that this lesson from the previous Gulf War was not paid heed to fully this time.6

    After Baghdad city had fallen, the US military leadership fully integrated the US marines units into the operations and this led to the sharp increase in deaths suffered by troops belonging to this service. The question here is, were the Marines adequately trained and equipped to conduct military operations against irregular Iraqi resistance or should this task have been left to the US Army with the Marines protecting the US military strongholds rather than venturing on patrols into hostile territory.

Casualties on the basis of Domicile (State / City of origin)

Depicting the US military deaths on a map of the US States indicates several interesting aspects. First of all, the maximum number of US servicemen killed in Iraq belong to the state of California followed by Texas. More interestingly, the map reproduced below highlights that most of the dying troops belonged to the peripheral states of continental US with much lesser casualties belonging to the central region states. Another interesting aspect is that all of the US states are included in the list with no exception although the northern state of Alaska has just suffered one casualty up until now.

The map shows an concentration of the dead troops belonging to California, Texas and the north-eastern states.7

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Figure 4: US Military deaths State-wise

An even better picture of the geographical spread of the domicile of the dead US troops can be had from the following map of US cities that these troops belonged to. This map further strengthens the conclusion that most of the US military dead belonged to the peripheral / coastal regional of the continental United States. One can easily discern the concentration of the red dots towards the North East, the extreme South and the extreme West of the United States landmass.

This distribution generally corresponds to the pattern of US population distribution and its demography. It could also be taken to be an indicator that most of the US military personnel hail from these states and cities that are concentrated along the periphery or the seaboard of the United States. One of the conclusions that could be drawn from the concentration of US military dead belonging to California and the US territory adjacent to the Mexican border is that most new immigrants from Mexico could be gravitating towards military service in the US armed forces due to lesser job and settlement opportunities being available for them elsewhere.

It would be interesting to compare this city-wise casualty data with some of the other major wars that the US has been involved in, especially during the past 2-3 decades since by collating similar data from all possible recent wars would enable one to arrive at certain specific conclusions and findings regarding this aspect of the manpower that makes up the US military forces.

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Figure 5: US Military deaths City-wise

Analysis of casualties on the basis of Ethnicity/Race

The data available on the DIOR website indicates that a total of 392 US military personnel were killed in Iraq prior to the occupation of Baghdad city while another 138 have been killed since8. For the purposes of a clearer explanation, I have taken the three major ethnic groups of the US (whites, black or African Americans and Hispanics or Latin Americans) for a comparative analysis

For reasons of simplification, I have grouped all the other ethnic communities and races (American Indian and Native Alaskan, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hawaiians etc) into the ‘Others’ category.

The data of US military deaths prior to the occupation of Baghdad city and after its occupation is depicted separately on the following table.


    Number of Dead Percentage

    Remarks

    Stage of Operations9 Percentage
    Race / Ethnicity Before After Before After
    Blacks / African Americans 56 23 14.28 16.66 Increase of 1.38%
    Hispanics / Latin Americans 38 24 9.69 17.39 Increase of 7.70%
    Whites 280 84 71.42 60.86 Reduction of 10.56%
    Others 18 7 4.58 5.07 Increase of 0.49%
    Totals 392 138



Figure 6: US Military deaths ethnicity and race-wise

The figure for US military deaths during the actual war leading up to the capture of Baghdad are more than twice those suffered during the period after Baghdad has fallen to the Coalition forces. This is understandable since the earlier period saw the Iraqi military contesting the allies and as such more US casualties ensued.

After the fall of Baghdad where the coalition forces were essentially in a civil police role aimed at crushing any remnants of the Iraqi military resistance that might have survived the initial onslaught. The second phase, surprisingly, saw a significant increase in the percentage of deaths suffered by the US troops belonging to all the ethnic groups and races other than the Whites who registered a corresponding drop in their percentage of casualties. As an instance, while the percentage of Hispanic troops as a percentage of the dead almost doubled (it registered an increase of almost 80%), that of the Whites reduced sharply by a figure of over 10%. Although adequate data is not available with the author to justify this pronounced shift, it could be surmised that some, if not all of the following factors could have contributed to it:

    The prime military formations of the US Army are predominantly White and as such these were employed during the ‘war phase with the other formations being relegated to a secondary role during this time. It must also be kept in mind that since the ‘White’ ethnic group constitutes almost two-thirds of the active US military strength, their number during any operational deployment would remain higher than the other ethnic groups and races.

    After the annexation of Baghdad, it is possible that some of the elite White formations were withdrawn under the pretext of ‘recycling’ and gradually replaced with units that are manned mostly by Hispanics, Blacks and other ethnic groups.

    Being relatively second-tier forces as compared with the White units, the Hispanic and Black military formations could have been employed more on the policing duties after the fall of Baghdad city and this exposed them to greater danger. Conversely, being more reliable, trustworthy and better trained / equipped, the White formations of the US military could have been assigned static assignments within defended perimeters while the others could have been tasked to undertake patrols and security duties outside the strongholds. This again would have exposed them to greater danger.

    It is significant to note that while the ‘White’ troops lost much more than their percentage strength within the US military prior to the occupation of Baghdad. Their losses after this event roughly correspond to their presence in the US armed forces.


US Military Casualties by Age of victims

The data collected by the author from a variety of sources was then collated to analyze the US military deaths that have occurred in Iraq from the point of view of the age of the victims. The table below presents a summary of the data.

      Age Group Number of Deaths Percentage of Total
      Teenagers (>20 yrs) 42 7.74%
      20 – 25 years 238 43.91%
      26 – 30 years 123 22.69%
      31 – 35 years 64 11.81%
      36 – 40 years 43 7.93%
      41- 45 years 23 4.24%
      46 - 50 years 5 0.92%
      50 years + 4 0.74%
      Total 542

Figure 7: Age-wise Death Casualty Data for US Military

More than half the total deaths (51.60%) were in the under 25 year categories. This indicates the youth, immaturity and the limited military training and experience of the victims.

The youngest victims (two) were barely 18 years of age. These youngsters could at best have just completed boot-camp training and were too young to be exposed to the cruelty of war. The oldest US soldier to die in Iraq was aged 55 years.

Almost 20% of the dead fell in the 30-40 years of age category. This appears high since this bracket of individuals, having had adequate training, maturity and experience, would have reached the status of middle-level leadership that makes them the backbone of any combat organization. Such an inordinately high percentage of deaths in this age category must worry the US military planners and leadership.

US Military Casualties by Rank / Status of victims

The ratio between the number of officers and enlisted men who die in any military operation varies with the type of operational leadership that a particular military force advocates and trains its personnel for and also by the type of military operations that are being undertaken.

Data taken from the DIOR website and then analyzed indicates a sharp increase in the percentage of officers being killed after the fall of Baghdad as compared with the period before Baghdad was captured. The data which indicates a significant change (increase) in the number of officers being killed during the period after the fall of Baghdad than during the preceding period of the conflict is presented in a tabular form below.


      Number of Dead Percentage

      Remarks

      Stage of Operations10 Percentage
      Rank / Status Before After Before After
      Officers 52 27 13.27 19.57 47% Increase
      Enlisted Men 340 111 86.73 80.43 Corresponding decrease
      Totals 392 138



Figure 8 : US Military Deaths during OIF – Rank / Status-wise

Analysis. Notwithstanding the fact that number of officers actually dying reduced after the capture of Baghdad city, the ratio between officers and enlisted personnel who were killed in action works out to 1 : 6.5 before the fall of Baghdad, the same ratio changed to 1 : 4.11 after the capture of Baghdad, thus registering a sharp increase. This increase in the proportion of officers being killed after the capture of Baghdad could have been caused by either or all of the following:

    Officers and leaders are distinct and easily recognizable by their behaviour and as such, in the time frame after the fall of Baghdad, the officers proved to be easier targets for the resistance and their snipers who could pick them out. Also, irregular enemy fighters prefer to take out officers and leaders because of the resultant disorganization and confusion that it is liable to create in the ranks of the adversary. The senior-most officer to be killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom was a Lieutenant Colonel.

    The seriousness of the situation especially in the urban areas required the US military to send out officers with all or most of their patrols rather than leaving this responsibility to the senior enlisted personnel. Experience enlisted personnel, though competent and trained, are more at home on the traditional battlefield rather than in a situation of urban guerrilla warfare.

Female Casualties

Although female military personnel form a substantial part of the US military, their death losses have been fairly low. The author has been able to collect data about a total of 14 US military female personnel having been killed in Iraq between February 2003 and January 2004. Once again, as was the case in the case of the male death casualties, the maximum number of female US soldiers killed in Iraq also belonged to the US Army. Also, there was a sharp reduction in the female deaths after the fall of Baghdad probably because of their lesser operational involvement.


      Number of Female Dead Percentage
      Service Before After Before After
      US Army 13 1 100% 100%
      US Marine Corps 0 0 0 0
      US Navy 0 0 0 0
      USAF 0 0 0 0
      Totals 13 1


Figure 9: Data of Female Casualties

All the female deaths that have occurred were suffered by female personnel of the US Army, both prior to the occupation of Baghdad as well as later. None of the female personnel from any of the other US military services got has been killed so far in Iraq. This is understandable since the females working in the US Army could have been deployed on combatant duties while those in the other services were or are not involved in such assignments. This low figure of female casualties also indicates that women soldiers are generally not assigned on first-line operational duties.

Casualties suffered by regular US forces and second-line forces (Reserves, National Guards etc). The US justifiably prides itself on having a well-trained array of second-line military forces that can be mobilized rapidly and brought into action at a short notice. These second-tier forces comprise the Reserves and the National Guards. So high is the level of training and so well are these equipped that these formations often engage in war alongside their regular compatriots. The data given on the table below highlights a comparison between the deaths suffered by the US regular forces and the second-tier forces during the invasion of Iraq.


Number of Deaths Percentage

Remarks
Service Before After Before After
Regulars 319 125 81.37% 90.58% Increase
Reserves 32 9 8.16% 6.52% Reduction
National Guards 41 4 10.46% 2.90% Reduction
Reserves and National Guards combined 73 13 18.62% 9.42% Reduction
Totals 392 138



Figure 10 : Comparative Death figures - Regular Military / Reserves / National Guards

Although the figures do not indicate any specific trend, the following aspects merit a mention:

    While the casualties amongst the regular forces have remained high, it could be said that while this was understandable during the ‘war’ phase, the second-tier forces should have assumed a greater load and burden of casualties afterwards.

    Some media sources in the US are quoting a much higher percentage of casualties amongst the second-tier forces than can be discerned from this data. According to one source 26% of the deaths in October 2003 and 14% in November 2003 were suffered by the personnel of the second-tier forces.11

Casualties by Cause Factor

While casualties are a necessary albeit undesirable part of military conflicts, one very disturbing aspect of the US military casualties in Iraq is the causes that these deaths have been attributed to. Two significant areas of concern emerge in this analysis; the large number of deaths that have been attributed to non-hostile action or accidents etc and the significant number of deaths that have been attributed to fratricide of one form or the other. Both these areas on concern are elaborated upon in the subsequent text.

Casualties caused by Hostile enemy Action and due non-hostile reasons12. As per the official US data available at the DIOR website, the following categorization and detail of deaths due hostile action and non-hostile reasons has been prepared:


    Number of Deaths Percentage

    Remarks
    Service Before After Before After
    Due to Hostile enemy action 255 115 65.05% 83.33% Increase
    Due to non-hostile action or factors 137 23 34.95% 16.66% Decrease
    Totals 392 138



Figure 11: Breakdown of US Military Casualties by Cause Factor

Considering the ‘fog of war’ that permeates all aspects of military activity, it is understandable that deaths due to non-hostile incidents of accidents etc were significantly higher during the period of operations leading up to the capture of Baghdad city than during the subsequent period of operations. Notwithstanding this accepted truth, however, losing more than one-third of the dead due to accidents and non-hostile reasons is a very high figure and should create a lot of worry amongst the US military planners and leaders. The fact that the stability of the post-Baghdad capture time frame allowed them to reduce these incidents drastically is, in my opinion, a very small and insignificant consolation and in fact should not be considered as a redeeming factor.

According to another website, the figure for US military deaths due to non-hostile factors almost constitutes 30% of the total deaths that have occurred so far. This is a very large percentage figure and must be addressed to by the Pentagon and its war managers.

Casualties caused by own military action (fratricide). The undesirable element of fratricide has been a part of wars ever since man decided to venture into military conflicts to achieve his objectives. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, this element has assumed alarming proportions and has emerged as a major source of worry for the US military leaders.

Being the most sophisticated and advanced military machine that this world has ever seen, the US military boasts of a very high standard of technology assimilation especially as regards communication and identification aspects are concerned. It is quite disconcerting, therefore, that even such an advanced military machine is liable to being forced into committing deadly errors that lead to or result in the death of own military personnel.

While the collection of data on fratricides is difficult since even the normally reliable US sources do not make any mention of this, I have managed to arrive at some data based on an analysis of the causes of the deaths of the US military personnel. This is by no means a comprehensive list and also excludes the known confirmed cases of suicide that have occurred amongst US troops deployed in Iraq. It, however, would highlight that even in a military force as advanced and as technologically aware as the US Armed Forces, such undesirable and unwanted acts of fratricide can and will continue to occur.13

    Date Rank and Name Age Cause of Death
    May 18 Army Spc. Rasheed Sahib 22 Accidental weapon discharge by fellow soldier
    April 13
    Army Spc. Gil Mercado 25 Non combat weapons discharge
    Apr 14 Marine Cpl. Jason David Mileo 20 Friendly fire
    April 24 Army Sgt. Troy David Jenkins 25 Blown up by own CBU
    22 Mar Army Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert 27 Grenade attack by fellow soldier
    25 Mar Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone 40 Grenade attack by fellow soldier
    27 Mar Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus A. Suarez Del Solar 20 Blown up by US CBU

    Navy Lt. Nathan D. White 30 Pilot of F/A-18C Hornet hit by own Patriot SAM
    Sept 22 Army Spc. Paul J. Sturino 21 Accidental discharge of firearm by Fellow soldier
    23 Aug Army Spc. Stephen M. Scott 21 Non hostile gunshot wound
    July 11 Army Spc. Christian C. Schulz 20 Non hostile firearms discharge
    9 Jul (female) Army Sgt. Melissa Valles 26 Non combat gunshot wound
    26 Jun Navy Hospitalman Joshua McIntosh 22 Non hostile gunshot wound
    15 Jun Marine Pfc. Ryan R. Cox 19 Non combat weapon discharge

Figure 12: Confirmed / Possible cases of US Suicide / Fratricide during OIF

Conclusion

The aim of this article was to analyze the available data regarding the death of US military personnel during the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom so as to be able to analyze any specific pattern for these casualties. The objective of this analysis was to highlight why these casualties were occurring the way these were and what needs to be done by the US military leaders to correct the imbalances if any.


Analyzing US Military Losses in Afghanistan

Introduction

After having undertaken and completed an analysis of the US military casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was but logical to analyse the US military casualties in Afghanistan for a number of reasons; firstly, this war is much closer to Pakistan and a lot depends for us on its outcome, secondly, the events in Iraq have tended to overshadow the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and thirdly, because the number of US military personnel that have been killed in Afghanistan has recently crossed the one hundred mark and these losses are also assuming serious proportions.

Readers would recall that Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched less than a month after the tragic episodes of September 11, 2001. It commenced on 7 October 2001 and has continued since then with varying intensity. Unlike Iraq where the Americans have deployed almost 130,000 troops, the entire strength of the ISAF is 11,000 of which roughly 8,000 are Americans. In order to link this analysis with the previous article on the US military casualties in Iraq, I will keep referring to the figures in that so as to be able to draw out relevant comparisons wherever required.

This article will tackle the US military casualties in Afghanistan in two parts; firstly, it will deal with the death figures of US military personnel and then move on to elaborating on the data for those US military personnel who were wounded in action during operations in Afghanistan.

Analysis of the US Military’s Personnel Losses (Deaths) during OEF in Afghanistan


Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
Hostile Action 33 3 1 8 45
Non-hostile factors 36 7 11 11 65
Total 69 10 12 19 110
Percentage 62.73% 9.1% 10.91% 17.27%


37.27%

Figure 13: US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Service14

Two salient aspects emerge from an analysis of this data:

    Firstly, OEF being a predominantly army-run operation, the number of casualties suffered by the US army are the maximum but unlike the Iraq War where the other Services were not too intensively involved, here they also participated very actively and suffered almost two-fifth of the total casualties.

    As was the case in the Iraq operations, the deaths due to non-hostile forces related reasons have again been very high. In fact, for all the four Services, as well as for the US Military involved in Afghanistan as a whole, the number of military personnel who died because of non-hostile factors outnumbers those who were killed by enemy hostile action. Considering that the non-hostile reasons include illness, homicide, suicide and accidents of various sorts, this does not paint too happy a picture for the US Military. A more detailed analysis of the specific non-hostile factors that caused these deaths has been included towards the concluding portion of this article.15


    Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
    Male 69 10 11 17 107 97.27%
    Female 0 0 1 2 3 2.73%
    Total 69 10 12 19 110

Figure 14 : US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Gender

Once again, just like the Iraq Operations, the number of female casualties remained very low when compared with those suffered by their male counterparts. During OEF the female deaths which constituted less than 3% of the total could possibly be attributed to one or more of the following factors:

    The realization that they were venturing into an environment of fundamentalist Taleban-style Islam, the US military leaders purposely included lesser female personnel in the forces earmarked for OEF operations.

    The US military generally avoids deploying female soldiers on the actual frontline and employs them more on headquarters and staff related functions that are carried out in the rear.

    Employing female soldiers on a large scale in a fundamentalist Islamic society where even the native women were not permitted to venture outside the four walls of their homes without being covered from head to toe could have created adjustment and functional problems for the US female soldiers.


    Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
    Officers 9 0 3 3 15 13.64%
    Enlisted E5-E9 37 6 6 13 62
    Enlisted E1-E4 23 4 3 3 33
    86.36%
    Enlisted Total 60 10 12 19 95
    Total 69 10 12 19 110

Figure 15 : US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Rank / Status

While the US military operations in Iraq commenced with full-fledged war against the regular elements of Saddam Hussain’s army and his over-rated Republican Guards, the situation in Afghanistan was entirely different. Here the Americans were confronted with an entirely irregular and unconventional adversary right from the outset. Since small-scale operations had to be undertaken against the scattered Taleban elements and these required officers as leaders, one would have expected the percentage of officers being killed in Afghanistan to be more than those that died in Iraq when compared with number of enlisted personnel who lost their lives. This, however, is not what the data indicates. The relative percentage of US military officers who died during OEF is almost the same that were killed during the war in Iraq prior to the fall of Baghdad but is appreciably lesser than the percentage of officers who were killed subsequently.

The above anomaly suggests that unlike the Iraqi resistance that was able to focus ob the officers as a target, the Taleban did not or could not do the same. One reason could be that most of the operations in Iraq were taking place in urban areas where the resistance is more active while this was not and is still not the case in Afghanistan.



Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
<22> 10 3 3 0 16 14.54%
22-24 yrs 8 2 1 4 15 13.63%
25-30 yrs 19 1 6 5 31 28.18%
31-35 yrs 18 3 0 3 24 21.82%
>35 years 14 1 2 7 24 21.82%
Total 69 10 12 19 110

Figure 16 : US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Age

Unlike the data for the US military operations in Iraq where a number of US websites provide detailed information about each and every individual who has been killed or wounded in action, I could not find similar data for the US forces fighting in Afghanistan. Of the total 110 deaths, I was able to find out the exact ages and domicile data for only 84 and as such, I was forces to resort to this generic format data to highlight the age of the US military personnel who lost their lives during OEF in Afghanistan.

Analysis of the above data and its comparison with the situation in Iraq highlights the following significant aspects:

    The average age of the US combatants who were and are deployed to Afghanistan is significantly higher than those despatched to Iraq. While in the case of Iraq more than half of the US troops who were killed were below 25 years of age, in the case of Afghanistan this percentage dropped to barely above 28%16. This indicates the US forces sent to fight the Taleban in Afghanistan were more mature and seasoned soldiers. This leads one to the obvious conclusion that the Americans thought that fighting the Taleban would probably be much more difficult than fighting Saddam Hussain’s army.

    A similar noticeable anomaly exists between the US forces deployed for OEF and those deployed in Iraq when one considers the troops who fall in the above 30 years age category. In the case of the OEF troops, a significantly higher proportion of such personnel were killed in action as compared with the operations in Iraq. This again strengthens the assertion that assuming the Taleban to be a more stronger adversary, the US military planners deployed more senior and trained troops to Afghanistan than to Iraq.


    Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
    Active 55 10 10 17 92 83.64%
    Reserves 6 0 2 1 9 8.18%
    National Guard 8 0 0 1 9 8.18%
    Total 69 10 12 19 110

Figure 17 : US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Service/Reserves

As was the case with the analysis of the Age-wise breakdown of the casualties, the comparison of the involvement of the active and the reserve / National Guard elements also presents a similar picture.

The losses suffered by the US military regular forces in Afghanistan in comparison with the Reserve and the National Guards elements were significantly higher than the similar figures for Iraq probably because of the following reasons:

    Considering the Taleban to be a far more formidable foe than the Iraqi armed forces, the Americans deployed more active troops and lesser Reserve / National Guard elements to Afghanistan.

    The fear of higher human losses led to the Americans to use the active troops as the front-tier fighting elements with the Reserves / National Guard units being deployed for static defence of the US military strongholds in Afghanistan.


    Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
    American Indian / Alaskan 0 0 0 1 1
    Asian American 0 0 0 0 0
    Black / African American 2 2 2 0 6
    Hispanic / Latin American 6 0 2 2 10
    Multiple / Unknown 0 0 0 0 0
    Hawaiian / Pacific Islander 0 0 0 1 1
    White 61 8 8 15 92
    Total 69 10 12 19 110

Figure 18 : US Military Deaths in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Ethnicity / Race

Traditionally, the troops belonging to the Hispanic and the African American ethnic groups have been just behind the Whites as regards war casualties. In Afghanistan, however, one sees predominantly White troops suffering significantly higher casualties than the other racial and ethnic groups. This could be attributable to one of more of the following reasons:

    The American were unduly worried about the capabilities and combat potential of the Taleban forces and decided to rely mostly on their elite Whites-only military units.

    Black and Hispanic troops were considered inferior to the White servicemen and not employed for front-line combat duties in Afghanistan.

    With a sizeable number of Black Americans embracing Islam, it would have been inadvisable to deploy units with a high percentage of African Americans to a fundamentalist Islamic country such as Afghanistan

The above analysis of the US military casualties sustained during OEF operations in Afghanistan pertained only to the deaths that occurred. This analysis brought out several interesting differences when compared with the US military operations in Iraq. In order to present the reader with a comprehensive overview of the pattern of casualties suffered, the subsequent portion of this article will dilate on those US troops who were wounded in action during operations in OEF.


Analysis of the US Military’s Personnel Losses (Wounded) during OEF in Afghanistan


    Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
    Hostile action 184 0 9 20 213
    Non-hostile factors 0 0 0 0 0
    Total 184 8 9 20 213

Figure 19 : US Military Wounded in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Service

The data for the US troops who were wounded in action during OEF operations depicts a similar trend as for those who were killed with the US Army suffering the brunt of the casualties followed by the USAF and the US Marine Corps.


Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
Male 183 0 9 20 212
Female 1 0 0 0 1
Total 184 0 9 20 213

Figure 20 : US Military Wounded in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Gender

Female US troops suffered significantly less wound casualties than their male compatriots. This indicates that female troops were either not deployed on dangerous assignments or were deployed at more secure locations which reduced their exposures to the hazards of combat.


Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
Officers 28 0 1 1 30 14.08%
Enlisted E5-E9 93 0 2 19 114
Enlisted E1-E4 63 0 6 0 69
Enlisted Total 156 0 8 19 183 85.92%
Grand Total 184 0 17 39 213

Figure 21 : US Military Wounded in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Rank / Status

No significant trend is visible from an analysis of the US troops who were wounded in action in Afghanistan when viewed from a comparison of the breakdown of the wounded on the basis of their rank and status.

The percentage of officers who were wounded (14.08%) is only slightly higher than the percentage of officers who died or were killed in action (13.64%). The total number of US military personnel who were wounded in action during OEF works out to slightly more than double the number of personnel who were killed in action or died as a consequence of wounds suffered in action.


Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
<22> 23 0 3 0 26 14.13%
22-24 yrs 25 0 3 0 28 15.22%
25-30 yrs 57 0 2 9 68 36.96%
31-35 yrs 34 0 0 7 41 22.28%
>35 years 33 0 1 0 37 20.11%
Total 184 0 9 20 213

Figure 22 : US Military Wounded in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Age

This data again indicates that the US forces deployed for OEF operations in Afghanistan comprised of more seasoned and experienced servicemen. The highest number of wound casualties was suffered by the troops in the 25-30 years bracket (36.96%) followed closely by the youngest group that was below 25 years of age (29.35%) while more than two-fifth (42.39%)of those wounded in action belonged to the above 30 years age group.


Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Percentage
American Indian / Alaskan 1 0 0 1 2 0.94%
Asian American 1 0 0 0 1 0.47%
Black / African American 10 0 0 0 10 4.7%
Hispanic / Latin American 7 0 1 1 9 4.23%
Multiple / Unknown 13 0 1 0 14 6.57%
Hawaiian / Pacific Islander 0 0 0 0 0 0
White 152 0 7 18 177 83.10%
Total 184 0 7 20 213

Figure 23 : US Military Wounded in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Ethnicity / Race

As has been the case with the deaths, the maximum personnel who were wounded in action in Afghanistan belonged to the White ethnic group (83.1%) followed distantly by the Blacks / African Americans (4.7%) and the Hispanics / Latin Americans (4.23%).

One of the surprising factors is the high number of wounded military personnel (14, or almost 7%) who have been categorized as belonging to multiple or unknown ethnic backgrounds. For a military force as advanced as the US armed forces, it is difficult to comprehend why the ethnic or racial background of the combatants could be classified as unknown.

More interestingly, a majority of those categorized as belonging to multiple or unknown racial groups were from the US Army with only belonging to the US Marine Corps. As was the case with those who were killed in action the losses suffered by the various ethnic groups and races are not in accordance with their actual numerical presence in the US military.


Total Army USN USMC USAF
45 (41%)
Killed in Action 26 17 2 1 6
Died of Wounds in Action 19 16 1 0 2
Total Hostile 45 33 3 1 8







Accidents 51 27 3 10 11

65 (59%)
Illness 4 3 1 0 0
Homicide 0 0 0 0 0
Self-inflicted 6 3 2 1 0
Undetermined / not finalized 4 3 1 0 0
Total non-hostile deaths 65 36 7 11 11







Total in theatre deaths 110 69 10 12 19







Total wounded in action but not mortally 213 184 0 9 20







Grand total Casualties 323 253 10 21 39 646

Figure 24 : Summary of US Military Casualties in Afghanistan – Breakdown by Service

The most serious anomaly that is highlighted from this summary of the Us military casualties during OEF operations in Afghanistan is the unacceptably high rate of deaths an injuries due to non-hostile reasons.

On the whole, the deaths and injuries suffered by the US military in Afghanistan have been caused more by non-hostile factors such as sickness and suicide (59%) rather than by hostile enemy action (41%).

Amongst the non-hostile factors two prominent aspects stand out – the very high number of accidental deaths (51 or 46.36%) and the significant number of suicides (6 or 5.45%). It is considered essential that these two aspects must be studied and analyzed in much greater details by the US military planners and leadership before they embark on yet another military adventure. While the details for the suicides and the fratricide incidents are difficult to come by, I have prepared a list of the confirmed and suspected cases of suicide and fratricide for five US military personnel participating in OEF.

    Date Rank and Name Cause of Death
    12 Nov 2003 Suicide Army Staff Sgt. Nathan J. Bailey Non hostile gunshot wound in Camp Arifjan, Afghanistan.
    5 Dec 2001 Army Staff Sgt Brian Cody Prosser B-52 aircraft bomber missed its target

    Army Master Sgt Jefferson Donald Davis

    Army Sergeant First Class Daniel Henry Petithory
    29 Nov 2001 Suicide Teenager Army Pvt. Giovanny Maria

Figure 25: Confirmed and Suspected cases of Suicide / Fratricide during OEF

Conclusion

An in-depth analysis of the casualties (deaths and injuries) suffered during a military campaign is essential so as to arrive at a list of urgent corrective measures that the military needs to incorporate in its planning to avoid recurrence of the same in any future conflicts that it embarks upon.

While the number of casualties would vary radically from situation to situation and from adversary to adversary, some of the common strings that are highlighted by an analysis of the events of recent military conflicts would go a long way in ensuring that the errors and mistakes of the previous conflicts are not repeated subsequently.

As the reader, especially one who has read the previous article on an analysis of the US Casualties in Iraq would have discerned, there are certain significant differences that emerge from a comparison of how the US military conducted the two campaigns – the one in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan. I plan to write the third of the articles in this series on a comparative analysis of the US military personnel losses during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.


Iraq and Afghanistan: Comparing the US Military Personnel Casualties

In two previous parts of this paper, I have analyzed the US military personnel losses in the war against Iraq and during the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan separately. While analyzing the data about the US operational and non-operational casualties in these two wars, it struck me that while there were several similarities in the data, there were also several differences that stood out prominently. This realization provided the impetus for this third and concluding portion in which I intend to compare the US military losses in these two wars and try to highlight and bring home some lessons that could be learnt from the way that the military operations were conducted. For the purpose of this comparative analysis, I intend to focus on the following key aspects relating to the casualties suffered by the US military during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan:

    • Casualties vis-à-vis Troops Deployed
    • Service-wise casualties suffered
    • Casualties on the basis of Ethnicity/Race
    • Casualties by Age of victims
    • Casualties by Rank / Status of Victims
    • Female casualties
    • Casualties suffered by regular and second-line forces (Reserves/National Guards)
    • Casualties due to hostile action and non-hostile reasons

Casualties vis-à-vis Troops Deployed


      Operation Iraqi Freedom Operation Enduring Freedom
      Total US Troops Deployed 130,000 8,000
      Total casualties (deaths) 54217 110
      Time Period (months) 12 29
      Deaths as % of Deployed Forces 0.42% 1.375%
      Deaths as % of Deployed Forces / Month 0.035% 0.047%
      Average Deaths of Deployed Forces / Month 45.16 3.79

Figure 26: Comparative Deaths vis-à-vis Deployed Strength

Analysis of the comparative data depicted in Figure 25 highlights the following significant aspects:

    While the average US military personnel who were killed as a function of the total deployed force is significantly higher in the case of Operation Enduring Freedom (1.375%) when compared with the rate for Iraq (0.42%), it has to be considered that this is attributable to two reasons; firstly, because the number of US troops deployed to Afghanistan is much lower than those that were sent to Iraq and secondly, because the duration for which the operations in Afghanistan have been going on is almost 2.5 times the duration of the Iraq war (12 months against 29 months).

    Because of lesser US troops being sent to Afghanistan and due to the prolonged duration of the conflict, the average monthly deaths of US military personnel in Afghanistan (3.76) is fairly low as compared with the figure for Iraq (45.5). This is attributable to the fact that whereas the operations in Iraq commenced with a full-fledged war against regular adversary forces, those in Afghanistan did not involve any war and were confined to operations against an irregular and unconventional adversary.

Considering that the operations in Afghanistan bear more similarity to the operations conducted in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad on 9 April, 2003, a comparison of the casualties suffered by the US forces in Afghanistan with those suffered in Iraq after 9 April would be in order.


    Operation Iraqi Freedom18 Operation Enduring Freedom
    Total US Troops Deployed 130,000 8,000
    Total casualties (deaths) 138 110
    Time Period (months) 10 29
    Deaths as % of Deployed Forces 0.106% 1.375%
    Deaths as % of Deployed Forces / Month 0.0106% 0.047%
    Average Deaths of Deployed Forces / Month 13.8 3.79

Figure 27: Comparison of Deaths vis-à-vis Deployed Forces:

OEF and OIF19 (after fall of Baghdad)

Since the post – 9 April operations in Iraq bear more similarity with the OEF operations in Afghanistan, one can see a sharp drop in some of the calculated data which appears to be more akin to the data for the OEF operations than when the war casualties in Iraq had also been included.

Service-wise Casualties

Although all the Services of the US military have actively participated both, in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, the degree of involvement has varied during different stages of these conflicts. Even a cursory look at the way these military operations unfolded reveals that both these conflicts were essentially army-centric and involved major participation by the US Army. This was, and still is more noticeable in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) than in the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.

As could be expected, the maximum casualties have been suffered by the US Army since its elements are the ones that are actually on the ground in large numbers and are facing the brunt of the adversary resistance. Since the US Marines were also employed in a supportive ground combat role to the US Army, their casualty rates are also fairly high. The rates for the US Navy and the USAF, however, are fairly low since these Services were not involved either in the ground fighting or in the conduct of the ensuing anti-Iraqi resistance operations.


OIF OEF
Service Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
US Army 433 81.7% 69 62.73%
USMC 82 15.47% 12 10.91%
USAF 7 1.32% 19 17.27%
USN 8 1.51% 10 9.09%
Total 53020
110

640

Figure 28: Details of Comparative US Military Deaths Service-wise

Since both the operations were essentially army-centric conflicts requiring the extensive involvement of the US Army, this service suffered the maximum casualties in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. In OIF the Army’s casualty rate reduced substantially after the fall of Baghdad but still remained the highest.

    In OIF the involvement of the other Services was of a minimal nature, especially as regards USN and USAF. As such, the losses sustained by them were the least. The death casualty figures indicate that the OIF, though a tri-service operations, was dominated by the Army. In the case of the OEF, however, the involvement of the other Services was substantially more and that is why the OEF was more of a joint service operation than the OIF. During OEF more than one-fourth of the casualties were suffered by personnel belonging to the USN and USAF while these services suffered less than 3% of the total death casualties during OIF.

    The factor of the degree of involvement of the Services emerges as an important one. In OEF, due to the requirements of bombing Taleban hideouts and transporting troops rapidly from one location to another, the involvement of the USAF increased substantially as compared with OIF. This is probably why the USAF is the only one of the four US military services to have lost more personnel in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

Casualties on the basis of Ethnicity/Race

The data available on the DIOR website indicates that a total of 392 US military personnel were killed in Iraq prior to the occupation of Baghdad city while another 138 have been killed since21. For the purposes of a clearer explanation, I have taken the three major ethnic groups of the US (whites, black or African Americans and Hispanics or Latin Americans) for a comparative analysis, For reasons of simplification, I have grouped all other ethnic communities and races (American Indian and Native Alaskan, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hawaiians etc) into the ‘Other’ category. The comparative data of US military deaths during both the conflicts is depicted on the following table.


    OIF OEF
    Race/Ethnicity Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
    Blacks / African Americans 79 14.91% 10 9.09%
    Whites 364 68.68% 92 83.64%
    Hispanic / Latin Americans 62 11.70% 6 5.45%
    Others 25 4.71% 2 1.82%
    Total 53022
    110

    640

Figure 29: Comparative US Military deaths ethnicity and race-wise

The death casualty rate for ‘Whites’ has remained the maximum in OIF as well as OEF operations. In comparative terms, a significantly higher proportion of the deaths during OEF were suffered by White US servicemen than during OIF. This could indicate that either more White troops were deployed during OEF or that personnel belonging to the other racial and ethnic groups were not deployed in large numbers in Afghanistan. One reason for employing more White troops could be that the Black soldiers would have been much more easily recognizable and identifiable because of their complexion while the Whites could have mingled with the locals, most of whom have fair complexions and the troops from the other coalition partners. Another reason could have been that having determined the Taleban to be a more formidable enemy, the Pentagon wanted to use its prime and elite assets, most of which are units manned by White personnel. In this regard, the factor of more and more blacks embracing Islam every day in America can also not be discounted as a contributory factor especially when one considers that the opposition in Afghanistan was a fundamentalist Islamic regime.

Another significant aspect to note is the large difference in the casualties suffered by US troops belonging to racial groups and ethnicities other than the main groups of Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. Having contributed almost 5% of the dead troops in Iraq, this ethnic amalgam accounted for less than 2% of the deaths that occurred during OEF. Once again the reasons could be reluctance to deploy these individuals or preference being given to the more reliable and better trained White troops.

On the whole, the rate of deaths amongst the ethnic communities in the US military other than the White majority also does not correspond to their percentage strength in the Services. According to official US Government data, the minorities (including blacks, Hispanics and other races) constituted over one-third of the US active military personnel strength in the year 2000 and if at all, this percentage should have increased further subsequently.23 Another discrepancy exists in the casualties sustained by the ‘Whites’ which were much more than their percentage share of two-thirds in the US military would have warranted.

US Military Casualties by Age of victims

The data collected by the author from a variety of sources was collated to analyze the US military deaths that have occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan from the point of view of the age of the victims. The table below presents a summary of the data.


    OIF OEF
    Age Group Deaths % age Age Group Deaths % age
    <20> 42 7.74% <22> 16 14.54%
    20 – 25 years 238 43.91% 22-24 yrs 15 13.63%
    26 – 30 years 123 22.69% 25-30 yrs 31 28.18%
    31 – 35 years 64 11.81% 31-35 yrs 24 21.82%
    36 – 40 years 43 7.93% >35 years 24 21.82%
    41- 45 years 23 4.24%


    46 - 50 years 5 0.92%


    50 years + 4 0.74%


    Total 542

    110

Figure 30: Comparative Age-wise Death Casualty Data for US Military24

The overall age of those US military personnel who were killed during OEF appears to be significantly higher than the similar figure for OIF. This assertion is substantiated by the fact that while more than half (51.6%) of those who died in OIF were less than 25 years of age, the corresponding figure for OEF is just 28.17%. This could have occurred because of one or more of the following reasons:

    Considering the Taleban to be a much more potent adversary than they actually turned out to be, the US deployed more mature and experienced personnel to Afghanistan. This is also borne out by the fact that in OEF the percentage of troops over the age of 35 years who lost their lives is much higher than during OIF.

    Since a much lesser number of personnel had to be sent to Afghanistan, the US could afford to be selective in sending mostly senior and experienced personnel. The large scale of the deployment in Iraq, however, precluded them doing the same in the case of OIF and the large number of personnel that had to be deployed necessitated the US sending a fair number of younger and inexperienced troops to Iraq.

US Military Casualties by Rank / Status of victims

The ratio between the number of officers and enlisted men who die in any military operation varies with the type of operational leadership that a particular military force advocates and trains its personnel for and also by the type of military operations that are being undertaken.


    OIF OEF
    Rank / Status Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
    Officers 79 14.91% 15 13.64%
    Enlisted Men 451 85.09% 95 86.36%
    Total 53025 110

Figure 31: Comparative Rank-wise US Military Deaths

This data indicates that the ratio of officers and enlisted personnel who lost their lives during OIF and OEF has remained roughly the same with no significant deviation being recorded. In fact the percentage of officers who lost their lives during OEF reduced slightly in comparison with the data for OIF.

The ratio between the losses for officers and enlisted personnel during works out to 1 : 6.71 or one officer for every 6.71 enlisted persons during OIF while the same figure for OEF operations is 1 : 6.33 or one officer being killed for every 6.33 enlisted persons.

Interestingly, the rate of officers being killed rose significantly after the fall of Baghdad during OIF. This probably occurred because the officers, being prominent as leaders became a choice target for the resistance fighters in Iraq. Surprisingly, this trend does not appear in an analysis of the OEF operations where the entire operations were conducted against a fleeting an irregular adversary.

Female Casualties

Although female military personnel form a substantial part of the US military, their death losses have been fairly low. The author has been able to collect data about a total of 14 US military female personnel having been killed in Iraq between February 2003 and January 2004 with only three such female fatalities occurring in Afghanistan. Once again, as was the case in the case of the male death casualties, the maximum number of female US soldiers killed in Iraq also belonged to the US Army. Also, there was a sharp reduction in the female deaths after the fall of Baghdad since females in subsequent operations were probably generally stationed within the US military strongholds and not tasked to venture outside. The consolidated data on US female casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan is presented below.


OIF OEF
Gender Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
Male 516 97.36% 107 97.27%
Female 14 2.64% 3 2.73%
Total 53026 110

Figure 32: Comparative Data of Female Casualties

All the female deaths that have occurred during OIF were suffered by personnel of the US Army. In the case of OEF, however, the female casualties were from the Marine Corps (one) and the USAF (two) with none belonging to the US Army.

The low percentage of female casualties in both, the OPIF as well as the OEF operations is not commensurate with the representation of females in the US military since females account for almost 15% of the US active forces27. This clearly indicates that despite the high representation of females in the US military, their involvement in front-line active operations is extremely limited.

Casualties suffered by regular US forces and second-line forces (Reserves, National Guards etc). The US justifiably prides itself on having a well-trained array of second-line military forces that can be mobilized rapidly and brought into action at a short notice.


OIF OEF
Category of Troops Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
Regulars 444 83.77% 92 83.64%
Reserves 41 7.74% 9 8.18%
National Guards 45 8.49% 9 8.18%
Reserves and National Guards combined 86 16.23% 18 16.36%
Total 53028 110

Figure 33: Comparative Death figures - Regular military/Reserves/National Guards

The second-tier US military forces comprise of the Reserves and the National Guards. So high is the level of training of these elements and so well are these equipped that these formations often engage in war alongside their regular compatriots. The data given on the table above highlights a comparison between the deaths suffered by the US regular forces and the second-tier forces during OIF and OEF.

The figures for comparative death casualties suffered by the active US military and the second-line forces such as the Reserves and the National Guard elements do not show any significant difference between OIF and OEF with the relative casualty rates remaining roughly the same.

Some media sources in the US are quoting a much higher percentage of casualties amongst the second-tier forces involved in the fighting in Iraq than can be discerned from this data. According to one source 26% of the deaths in October 2003 and 14% in November 2003 during OIF operations were suffered by the personnel of the second-tier forces.29

Casualties by Cause Factor

As alluded to earlier, one of the most serious aspects that has been highlighted during this research into the US military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan is the inordinately high number of casualties that have been attributed to non-hostile reasons including accidents, illness, homicide/suicide and fratricide or friendly fire. These aspects of concern have been elaborated upon in the subsequent text.As per the official US data available at the DIOR website, the following categorization and detail of deaths due hostile action and non-hostile reasons has been prepared:


OIF OEF
Cause Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
Hostile action 370 69.81% 45 40.91%
Non-hostile factors 160 30.19% 65 59.09%
Total 530 110

Figure 34: Comparative Cause-wise data for US Military deaths in Iraq

While the ratio for the deaths in Iraq is still slightly acceptable since almost 70% of the casualties were caused by hostile action, the percentage figure of over 30% for deaths attributed to non-hostile reasons or factors is considered very high.

In the case of the OEF operations, however, the ratio is completely lopsided with more US military deaths having been caused by non-hostile factors than by enemy action. This is a completely unacceptable situation and could be construed to mean that the US military is not well-trained or equipped to undertake unconventional warfare against an irregular adversary. A more detailed analysis of the specific non-hostile factors that these deaths are attributed to has been made in the subsequent text.

Some factors that need to be considered in this regard are:

    Analysis needs to be conducted of the state of familiarization of the US military personnel with the heavy machinery and equipment that they could be required to operate during contingencies. The safety awareness of these personnel about the operational safety precautions for their equipment also needs to be assessed.

    While the entire war in Afghanistan was more akin to a low intensity conflict against an irregular adversary, the war in Iraq also became the same after the fall of Baghdad. It needs to be studied whether the heavy equipment and machinery that the US forces are using is suited for such low intensity conflict situations that they were confronted with. Considering the combined data for OIF and OEF, it surmises that slightly less than two-third (64.84%) of the deaths were attributable to hostile action while the remaining one-third (35.16%) deaths were caused by non-hostile factors

Details of US Military Personnel Deaths caused by non-hostile reasons

Considering that some reports are suggesting a high number of suicides being committed by US military personnel, a detailed analysis of the specific reasons behind the deaths caused by factors other than hostile factors is necessary. Essentially, the non-hostile reasons that have led to the deaths of US military personnel in Iraq include illness, homicide and suicide30


    OIF OEF
    Category of Troops Deaths Percentage Deaths Percentage
    Killed in Action 334
    26
    Died of Wounds in Action 36
    19
    Total Hostile 370 69.81% 45 40.91%
    Accidents 102 19.24% 51 46.36%
    Illness 19 3.58% 4 3.64%
    Homicide 3 0.57% 0 0
    Self-inflicted 18 3.39% 6 5.45%
    Undetermined / not finalized 18 3.39% 4 3.64%
    Total non-hostile deaths 160 30.19% 65 59.09%
    Total in theatre deaths 530
    110

Figure 35: Comparative Details of Causes of Death

Deaths due non-hostile category of reasons constitute over 30% of the total deaths that the US military personnel have suffered during operations in Iraq and this figure goes up sharply to almost 60% of the deaths that have occurred during OEF in Afghanistan. In order to elaborate on this critical area, I have discussed briefly the aspects of deaths by suicide, accidents, illness and fratricide separately.

    Homicide and Suicide. While the three cases of homicide in Iraq are worrying in their own regard, the high number of suicides (18) is an even more worrying aspect. The deaths due to homicide and suicide account for almost 4% of the total death toll in Iraq while in Afghanistan this percentage goes beyond 5%. The psychological factors that could have contributed to high stress and ultimately to suicide or homicide also merit a much more detailed study. These deaths, especially the homicides also point to the level of discipline and control being maintained in the US military. Fortunately there have been no deaths that have been attributed to homicide in Afghanistan but the suicides by themselves have accounted for over 5% of the total deaths in this theatre.

    Accidents. As mentioned earlier also, the very high rate of deaths caused due to equipment and weapons related accident is the most serious cause of worry since it indicates that either the equipment operators have not been imparted adequate training or that the users are not aware of the safety precautions that have to be taken while operating the equipment or weapon system. It is difficult to comprehend that over 23% or almost one-fourth of the total US military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined were attributed to accidents.

    Illness. Considering that active-duty military personnel are extremely fit from the medical perspective and also undergo regular physical training, the conclusion from this data of over 3.5% of the US military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan being attributable to illness should be extremely worrying for the US military leadership. While deploying abroad to third-world countries does increase the vulnerability of personnel to a variety of serious diseases, the US military’s medical support units should be qualified enough to tackle such situations effectively. It also needs to be considered that several of the seriously sick and wounded US military personnel had to be evacuated to the Continental US or Europe for provision of good medical care that was not available in-theatre.

    Fratricide. The undesirable element of fratricide has been a part of wars ever since man decided to venture into military conflicts to achieve his objectives. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, this element has assumed alarming proportions and has emerged as a major source of worry for the US military leaders.

Being the most sophisticated and advanced military machine that this world has ever seen, the US military boasts of a very high standard of technology assimilation especially as regards communication and identification aspects are concerned. It is quite disconcerting, therefore, that even such an advanced military machine is liable to being forced into committing deadly errors that lead to or result in the death of own military personnel. For details of the confirmed and suspected suicide and fratricide cases during OIF and OEF, please refer to Figure 12 in Part-1 and Figure 25 in Part-2 respectively.

Conclusion

What started off as a brief analytical article on the US military’s personnel losses in Iraq ultimately ended up in the form of this detailed research paper which not only covers the entire spectrum of US military deaths suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan but also provides a comparison between the two most recent military conflicts that the US military has been involved in.

The purpose of this paper is not to criticize the way these conflicts unfolded and how the conduct of these campaigns was managed but rather to objectively analyse the causes of the US military deaths in these two conflicts so as to derive some lessons that could become handy for future such operations.


Tariq Ashraf may be contacted at t.ashraf"at"grandestrategy.com
Vision Without Glasses

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to know where are the elite all white units are? I am a SGT at Fort benning and I have plenty of friends who are in spec ops I have done some training with The RANGERS, There are plenty of Whites and then hispanics third are blacks. In an infantry unit there are also huge number of hispanics since others don't usually want to do the dirty work and It is easier to get into education score wise. in the USMC there are an array of hispanics, whites and few blacks. I know of many soldiers who are classifed as white instead of hispanic this just may be the case.

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