The numbers are flying around — so much so that one cannot be sure of where force levels will be in a few months. However, based upon press reports and data provided by the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, we can make some educated guesses.
Assuming 10,000 of the estimated 28,000 plus troops of the President’s planned escalation are in place as of March, there will be some 160,000 US troops in theater by sometime in the summer; I will assume that this means by September of 2007.
Figure 1: US (green) and total non-Iraqi coalition (black) force levels. Estimated September 2007 US force levels (green triangle) based upon assumption of 10,000 of 28,000 escalation in theater in March; and estimated non-Iraqi coalition force September levels (black square) based on assumed 2,100 reduction in UK forces, and holding constant all others. Sources: Brookings Institution Iraq Index and author’s calculations.
However, at the same time, the British are reducing forces: 1,600 in the next few months, 2,100 by the end of summer. I’ll assume this means by September as well. This means that while US forces will be back up to peak levels attained in late 2005, coalition forces ex-Iraqi will be down from peak levels.
Some other trends are worth mentioning. Figure 2 plots fatalities in theater through February. The red line plots trend fatalities through December 2008, based upon data over the entire period since 2003. However, as the tempo of US operations have picked up over the past year, and insurgent forces have become more effective, the trend has steepened. At this faster pace, US fatalities will exceed 4,000 by February 2008, instead of June 2008, and will reach 4,747 by end-2008.
Figure 2: Fatalities in Iraqi theater of operations, through February 28 (blue), and trends based on entire sample (red), and 2006M02-07M02 (green). Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count accessed on 24 March 2007.
The pace of non-fatal casualties has also accelerated in the recent year (February ’06 to February ’07). As displayed in Figure 3, at current rates, cumulative wounded will exceed 30,000 by January 2008 instead of June of that year.
Figure 3: Wounded in Iraqi theater of operations, through February 28 (blue), and trends based on entire sample (red), and 2006M02-07M02 (green). Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count accessed on 24 March 2007.
At this higher trend rate, cumulative wounded will reach 36,817 by end-2008. Given that we will be increasing troop levels in Iraq, I would think that these higher estimated trend rates of casualties incurred would not be implausible.