Violence rises in Iraq every month in 2009

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Unfortunately, violence in Iraq has been rising for the past 3 months.  In Baghdad alone, more than 200 people have been killed in attacks so far in April, compared with 99 last month and 46 in February.  This may be a sign that Iraq’s security gains are beginning to reverse to the levels prior to the US surge. (There were 200 civilian deaths in March 2008).  Large-scale bombings targeting civilians are once again rising, and there is widespread concern among Iraqis that the violence may quickly spread as the U.S. begins to withdraw.

Nationwide, political violence has killed at least 451 people in April, up from 335 in March, 288 in February, and 242 in January, according to the Associated Press tally.

So far, US officials have maintained that the rising violence will not affect plans for US withdrawal of troops. However, the violence will likely translate into higher costs for the US taxpayer — because we will need to provide even more continuing assistance to the struggling Iraqi security forces and police.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and Iraq expert with the Brookings Institution, called the rise in violence “significant” in an interview with McClatchy News.  “There almost surely won’t be a complete reversal” in the progress that’s been made”, he wrote. “But there could be an end to the progress and even a new, somewhat higher level of ongoing violence.”

The ongoing violence in Iraq is in itself another cost of the war, borne by Iraqi civilians.

Five US soldiers killed in Mosul: war deaths approach 5000

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Despite improvements in the security situation, Iraq is still a very dangerous and violent place.

  • A suicide bomber attacked a police headquarters in Mosul on April 11, killing five US solders, 3 Iraqis, and injuring 60 others.  It was the second suicide attack on a police base in Mosul in the past 2 weeks — the previous one on March 31st killed 8 people.
  • Earlier in the week, President Obama visited Baghdad (where the poor security situation still forces US dignitaries to make only “surprise” visits) and touted recent security gains.  But the day before Obama arrived, 36 people were killed in six separate car bombings in Baghdad alone.
  • The latest bombings brings the total US troops killed in Iraq to 4271.  In Afghanistan, 672 US troops have been killed, which brings the total to 4941 — almost 5000.

While the numbers of US troops being killed in Iraq has dropped during the past year, the death rate in Afghanistan is increasing.   The deteriorating situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is largely due to the fact  that the US neglected this vital area during the past 5 years while it has been preoccupied with Iraq.

Obama requests $83 bn more for Iraq and Afghanistan

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President Obama has now requested another $83 billion in emergency supplemental funding for FY 2009 to fund current operations in Iraq and to expand operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This brings the up-front operating costs of the war to nearly $1 trillion.   After you adjust that figure to reflect inflation since 2001, is actually well above the $1 trillion mark.  For 2009 alone, this means that we will be spending $12 billion each month to support an average of 140,000 US troops in Iraq and to increase US troops in Afghanistan to 45,000.

As we document in the Three Trillion Dollar War, this amount is still just the tip of the iceberg. It does not include all the payments we will need to make for care and benefits to the more than 80,000 US troops who have been wounded or injured in the war, or the health care for the more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are seeking medical care from the VA.   Nor does it include the costs of rebuilding the military, of replacing equipment, or paying interest on the money we are borrowing to pay for the war (all of it).  It also doesn’t include the money for future years.  When you add these up,  the true cost of the war will exceed $3 trillion, even making conservative assumptions.