Insurgent ‘body count’ records released
Military says numbers released to give context to the fight
By JOSEPH GIORDONO AND LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 1, 2007
American and coalition troops have reported killing and capturing more suspected insurgents in the first half of 2007 than in any other similar period of the Iraq war, while military officials said so-called “body count” reports are meant to give “scale” to the fight.
Last week, USA Today reported that since June 2003, the U.S. military in Iraq has kept a count of insurgents killed, injured and detained. Those figures were later released by the military to Stars and Stripes.
Through August 2007, those figures show, 18,832 suspected insurgents had been reported killed, 5,196 injured and 119,752 arrested by U.S. and coalition forces.
In 2007, the figures show, coalition troops arrested an average of around 100 suspected insurgents each day. Military officials have said both the increased casualty and capture figures are attributed in part to the “surge” and more aggressive tactics by units throughout the country.
The figures are compiled from “significant action” reports received from the field, said Capt. Michael Greenberger, who released the statistics to Stars and Stripes.
“The number of individuals detained does not represent the number of detainees currently held in Iraq. The number of individuals detained is an aggregate number and does not reflect the length of time individuals may have detained,” Greenberger said.
Since the beginning of the war — indeed, since the Vietnam War, when the practice was derided — the U.S. military has eschewed body counts.
In 2005, though, press releases began being issued with numbers of enemy fighters believed killed and captured in operations. At the time, military officials said there was no top-down order to report the numbers; instead, they were reported at the discretion of ground commanders releasing information about their operations.
On Friday, a top American general in Iraq began a briefing with Pentagon reporters by noting the death of a senior al-Qaida in Iraq leader earlier that week. His recounting of six separate operations leading to the operative’s death included specific numbers of alleged enemy fighters killed and captured.
When asked about the numbers, Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the chief of staff for Multi–National Corps–Iraq, said, “We’re not focused on the numbers.”
“On most operations we have fairly quantifiable data, but that’s not the genesis of what we’re trying to determine. But if we have it, we release it. So in most releases you see us do, it will tell you: wounded, killed detained/captured, it will lay that out.”
Anderson said he had seen the USA Today article, but that “we’re not focused on” overall numbers.
“There’s no attempt to sit down and tally it all up and keep track of it. We just try and do it operation by operation, and yes, try and talk concretely about those things that we can, based on what we know. But it is not any desire to change any tactic, or any way we deal with the media or anybody else, about numbers being released.”
However, he said, “I think it’s important to have it all in context.”
“I think if you’re, obviously, doing a very good job of reporting our casualties, it’s very important to understand it — particularly if they are foreign fighters or what network they belong to in Iraq, to try and give you some benefit, some value of understanding who these insurgents, militias, terrorists, foreign fighters, other elements are…” Anderson said. “You’re going to see many reports that are going to give you that.”
Greenberger, asked after Anderson’s briefing, said the data released does not include any of the identifying metrics mentioned by Anderson.
“But the data is maintained, to get a feel for ‘scale-of,’” Anderson said.
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