Focus on Attack Numbers In Iraq Is Meaningless

--Figures like "800 attacks per day" have no meaning unless tied to a given time period and analyzed by type of attack and target. The more normal form of US reporting is based on significant attacks per week. These totaled around 470 per week during the period before the constitution was signed (February-August 2005), and have risen steadily ever since. They averaged around 540 during the referendum and election period (29-8-05 to 10-2-06), rose to 625 per week during the transition to the new government (11-2-06 to 19-5-06), and reached about 790 per week during the period of government operation (20-5-06 to 11-8-06). (p. 31)

--This is a rise of some 70% during the period in which a new constitution and new government were supposed to bring stability. These attacks concentrated more and more on Iraqi targets and Iraqi civilians, particularly in the Baghdad area -- which is the only area where counts of attacks on civilians have anything approaching minimal accuracy. The percentage of attacks on civilians in the Baghdad area rose from 15% in April to 22% in June, but such counts and percentages are so uncertain that they have limited value. (pp. 31-32)

-- The US regularly claims that almost all attacks are concentrated in four provinces - Anbar, Baghdad, Salah ad Din, and Diyala - with only 37% of Iraq's population. For example, this included 81% of US-reported attacks during May 20th to August 4th, 2006. The problem is that such counts focus heavily on the insurgency and reflect a systematic undercount of ethnic violence, intra-Shi'ite attacks, and attacks outside urban areas where the US has at least limited confidence in its sources. It simply is not clear what such claims mean.

--There is no correlation between the increase in the number of attacks during these periods and US casualties. (p.32) US casualties actually dropped during the peak periods from 1 April 2004 to November 28, 2004, when they averaged some 22-24 per day. Since that time, they have consistently remained under 20 per day. The US also has reported steady increases in IED attacks that have not led to anything approaching proportionate increases in US casualties.

--In contrast, Iraqi government, security, and civilian casualties per day have risen very sharply. These totaled less than 40 per day until the election period began on November 27, 2004. They rose to 45 per day during the election period. (27-11-04 to 11-2-05). They rose to around 50 per day during the period before the constitution was signed (11-2-05 to 28-8-05. They averaged around 48 per day during the referendum and election period (29-8-05 to 10-2-06), rose to 81 per day during the transition to the new government (11-2-06 to 19-5-06), and reached about 118 per day during the period of government operation (20-5-06 to 11-8-06). (p. 32) This is a roughly threefold increase.

Another illustration of the danger in focusing on attack counts - which say nothing about attack effectiveness is that the number of attacks on Iraqi infrastructure have steadily gone down, but Iraqi oil facilities and exports have continued to experience serious problems, and much of the economic aid effort has been paralyzed or had to be limited to "secure areas.

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