Guerrilla Warfare in Iraq

Analysis of casualties since 1st of May

Certified Iraqi casualties during the occupation (after 1st of May)
2112 Imprisoned
165 killed
– 145 killed in firefights
– 7 shot during demonstrations
– 13 killed on checkpoints or during routine patrols

Certified coalition casualties during the occupation (after 1st of May)
82 soldiers killed
7 Iraqi collaborators
– 38 killed by traffic accidents, helicopter crashes, drowning, non-combat gunshots and unspecifies non-combat incidents
– 39 killed in ambushes, firefights and sniper attacks
– 10 killed by mines or in accidental detonation of unexploded ammunition
– 2 killed by disease or died of natural reasons

The attacks against coalition troops in Iraq have continued unstopped since the 1st of May when president Bush announced that major combat operation in Iraq were over. During the last weeks a clear pattern of change in the nature of coalition casualties has emerged as an increasing number of coalition troops have been killed in firefights, sniper attacks and ambushes.

During the occupational period of the war 82 coalition troopers have been killed, 32 of which as a direct result of enemy action. The coalition has also lost two helicopters and a fighter plane during the occupation period. One of the helicopters was a trasport UH-60 called for medevac and rammed by M2 Bradley during a chaotic firefight, another was a AH-64 Apache shot down during a raid north of Baghdad. The reason of the F-16 crashing is still unclear but it also happened during this raid so low flying and anti-aircraft fire probably contributed in the crash. During the first weeks of occupation many of the ambushes against colaition troops were clumsy affairs of drive-by shooting which almost invariably resulted in the ambushers themselves being cut down by overwhelming american firepower. Lately the strikes have become more effective and a number of old but effective guerrilla tactics like sniping, road-side ambushes and remote controlled explosive chrages have been used. The weapons have also evolved and an increasing number of attacks have been made with mortars and RPGs instead of assault rifles.

38 of the 82 killed coalition troopers have died in helicopter crashes, traffic accidents and other similar reasons. Recent evidence suggests that in many of the incidents the accidents and crashes happened during very chaotic situations during or immeadeatly after an ambush or attack against coalition troops. In many incidences helicopters have crashed while flying very low at high speeds, during the night and probably in great haste. Similar situation also aplies to many of the traffic accidents which have happened during a firefight following ambush or while the vehicle was on its way to respond to an ambush. Enemy fire may also have contributed to the deaths.

At the same time 1830 Iraqis have been imprisoned by coalition troops and 165 have been killed as a direct result of the use of weapons by coalition troops. So far no reliable data is available on how many of the 165 Iraqis were resistance fighters and how many were innocent civilians shot by accident or caught in the crossfire. As there the coalition command has so far been very hesitant on releasing any information on Iraqi casualties during the fighting it can be concluded that the real number of Iraqi casualties due to coalition use of weapons is probably much higher. As at least 145 of the 165 killed Iraqis were found carrying weapons at the time the were shot so it is safe to assume that the number of actual resistance fighters killed is 100-150 individuals.

It is impossible to have realiable data on the number of Iraqi casualties that have resulted due to secondary effects of coalition and Iraqi weapons or whose circumstances have been inadvertly caused by ambushes or firefights nearby. As many of the firefights, ambushes and following traffic accidents have happened in populated areas and heavy firepower has been used it is more than probable that a significant number of people have been killed and injured by stray bullets, shrapnel, mines exploding at the wrong time and Iraqi cars crashing in the traffic accidents and ambushes.

At this point it is impossible to estimate how many of the attacks agains coalition troops have been made by volunteer Fedayeen fighters, how many by the remnants of the Iraqi Special Forces trained to conduct guerrilla warfare and how many by ad hoc units of resistance fighters without formal training. It is, however, most probable that all these have contributed to the attacks. This means that any attempt to plant the responsibility to “common criminals” or “terrorists” is propaganda aimed for getting more popular support for coalition actions against these elements opposing the occupation.

So far it can be conclude that 32 coalition troopers have been killed due to direct result of enemy action and another 30-40 due to indirect result of the conditions where coalition troops are forced to operate. During the same time the Iraqi resistance fighters have lost at least 100-150 men. Secondary casualties suffered by the Iraqi civilians cannot be reliably estimated but most probably exceed these numbers. The ratio of casualties is within the usual perimeters of a guerrilla-style campaign. If anything it is amazing how the number of attacks have been continuing on an upward streak and the number of coalition casualties have been on the rise even after almost 2000 Iraqis have been imprisoned and thousands of weapons impounded in operation Peninsula Strike, operation Desert Scorpion and operation Sidewinder.

At the same times as the attacks are continuing the popular support coalition troops have enjoyed in many occupied areas is beginning to erode. No sign of democratic government of even free elections are in sight and an increasing number of common Iraqi civilians are beginning to see coalition troops as another form of opressive goverment instead of liberators delivering the people from tyranny. As the occupation continues the moral of the coalition troops is also put to test. Recent reports have suggested that an icreasing number of young soldiers serving in Iraq are suffering from combat fatigues and stress-based psychotic reactions. Some of the veteran NCO’s serving in the US troops have already expressed their worry at the fact that the same troops that contributed in the bulk of the fighting during the start of the war are still cerving in the area as occupation forces. It is a wonder and a great copliment to the veteran NCO’s of the US troops that the number of misdeameanors, crimes and excessive use of force by the US combat troops against the Iraqi civilian population has stayed as low as it has. During the following months it is probable that such incidents will increase as combat fatigue, stress and traumatic stress disorders continue to plague the troops.

Sources: Department of Defense (US), Ministry of Defence (UK),, CNN and BBC