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Q&A | Iraq

5 years into Iraq war, cost and casualties still rising

Residents talk to U.S. soldiers standing guard Sunday at a checkpoint south of Baghdad.


Residents talk to U.S. soldiers standing guard Sunday at a checkpoint south of Baghdad.

On Wednesday, it will be five years since the start of the U.S. war on Iraq. Here is a rundown of where it stands.

How many troops are deployed?

About 155,000. Under current plans, there would be about 140,000 in 15 brigades by the end of July. However, an increase in violence might slow the withdrawal of most of the 28,500 extra troops deployed last year. Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, will present his recommendations to Congress next month. The multinational force includes 9,895 troops from 26 other nations, likely to drop to 7,000 by midyear.

There are about 200,000 Iraqi military and national guard troops, although the "effective" number is lower. Including police and the border patrol, there are about 425,000 security forces. U.S. officials estimate there are 25,000 insurgents, the Iraqis say 40,000, plus 150,000 supporters. That includes 800 to 2,000 foreign fighters.

How many U.S. soldiers have died in the conflict?

As of Sunday, at least 3,988 members of the U.S. military had died, according to an Associated Press count. At least 3,241 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military. About 29,400 troops have been wounded in action. More than 31,000 others were treated for noncombat injuries and illness.

What about civilian deaths?

Estimates vary widely. War-related violence has killed at least 75,000 Iraqi civilians. Iraq Body Count, a British group that uses media accounts, estimates between 82,000 and 89,000. A controversial Johns Hopkins study put the toll at roughly 600,000 just between 2003 and 2006, with an additional 54,000 dying of diseases and other causes. A World Health Organization study estimated that 151,000 died during the same period. Deaths have been dropping the past six months, after peaking in fall 2007 at more than 3,500 per month. The Associated Press reported that at least 739 Iraqi security forces and civilians died last month.

How much has this cost?

Estimates also vary here. According to the National Priorities Project, a group that examines the local impact of federal spending, it's $502-billion. The Congressional Research Service's estimate is $526-billion. The Pentagon says $406.2-billion through December. War appropriations have risen from $50-billion in fiscal year 2003 to about $135-billion for 2007. In 2003, the White House estimated the cost would be between $50-billion and $60-billion, with Iraqi oil revenue paying for long-term costs. CRS estimates the stepped-up military operations in 2007 cost $10.3-billion a month.

On a wider scale, the Democratic-led Congressional Joint Economic Committee estimated total economic costs were $1.3-trillion for 2002 to 2008. This includes interest on borrowed money, lost investment, veterans' health care and oil market disruptions.

What's happened with the benchmarks of progress?

In January 2007, President Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq, including 18 security, economic and political benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. The U.S. troop surge was to improve security enough to allow the government "breathing space" to move toward reconciliation. There are no specific penalties if these goals are not met.

A September 2007 White House progress report indicated that Iraqis had made progress toward 11 of the benchmarks. However, much of the key legislation designed to spur reconciliation among Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arabs and the Kurds still languishes. The National Assembly reconvenes Tuesday.

Sources: Times wires; Congressional Research Service; Defense Department

5 years into Iraq war, cost and casualties still rising 03/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 9:16am]
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