WASHINGTON, Nov 25: November has been the second deadliest month for US troops in Iraq since the invasion, and the Pentagon is braced for rising violence before parliamentary elections set for Jan 30.
At least 109 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq this month, about half of whom died in an offensive that began on Nov 8 to crush guerrillas in Falluja, according to Pentagon figures.
Only this past April, with 135 military deaths, produced a higher monthly US death toll. The Pentagon's latest official count, provided on Wednesday, listed 1,230 US military deaths. It also listed more than 9,300 US troops wounded in action, more than 5,000 of whom were too badly injured to return to duty.
While Pentagon officials have hinted at the possibility of reducing troop levels if elections go well and Iraqi government security forces prove capable, the officials warned not to expect any decline in attacks in the near future.
"We are intent on trying to provide a secure and stable enough situation to be able to conduct nation wide elections in January. Now, I will not pretend that that's not a challenge at this stage," said Air Force Lt Gen Lance Smith, the No 2 officer in Central Command, responsible for US military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
'ATTACKS WILL CONTINUE': Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters on Wednesday: "No doubt attacks will continue in the weeks and months ahead, and perhaps intensify as the Iraqi election approaches. I suppose this has to be expected."
Opinion polls have shown the US public has been willing to stomach the continuing casualties. "I think the greater problem, frankly, is going to be within the ranks of the military itself, particularly the families," said defence analyst Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute, citing stress from mounting casualties, lengthy deployments and units being sent back to Iraq not long after coming home.
"We are in the process of attempting to reassert control," Mr Goure said. "Having said that, one has to recognize that there's a fair amount of bloodshed that will take place, largely because the other side is willing to shed blood."
Falluja figured prominently in both of the two deadliest months for American soldiers. In April, Marines began and then aborted an offensive in that city in the weeks after four private security contractors were killed there, and pictures of their charred and mutilated corpses hung from a bridge seen globally. -Reuters
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.