I thought that it was proper and fitting to evaluate the state of affairs in Iraq four years after President Bush declared the end of major military combat operations in Iraq.
First, regarding casualties, one finds that the current pace of fatalities exceeds by far the trend rate over the March 2003-February 2007 period (red). Indeed, the pace through April exceeds even the February 2006-February 2007 trend (green). To some extent, one might expect this to occur (as I noted earlier) since there is a higher concentration of US troops, and many of those troops are now more active and more exposed to combat and attacks by way of IEDs.
Figure 1: Cumulative fatalities in Iraqi theater of operations, through April 30 (blue), and trends based on entire sample up to February 2007 (red), and 2006M02-07M02 (green). Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count accessed on 30 April 2007.
This graph indicates approximately 463 fatalities have been incurred since the release of the Iraq Study Group’s report in early December 2006. Nonfatal casualties are not yet reported for April; cumulative nonfatal casualties through March are on track to match the trend recorded for the February 2006-February 2007 period. By end-March, there had been approximately 2267 additional nonfatal casualties since the release of the ISG report.
Figure 2: Cumulative nonfatal casualties in Iraqi theater of operations, through April 30 (blue), and trends based on entire sample up to February 2007 (red), and 2006M02-07M02 (green). Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count accessed on 30 April 2007.
With the on-going escalation, US troop levels in-theater have increased substantially. However, as non-US coalition forces have decreased over time, total coalition force levels at 159,000 have only re-attained their November 2006 values, and remain substantially below peak levels in November-December 2005 (at 183,000). In addition, they also remain far, far below those figures former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki indicated would be needed to stabilize Iraq (see ).
Figure 3: US (blue) and total non-Iraqi coalition (red) force levels. Source: Brookings Institution Iraq Index.
The escalation in force levels carries a price tag, of course. There is some question about what the ultimate budgetary fiscal impact will be, especially since the duration of “the surge” has been lengthened in recent discussions. The CBO has released in the past few days an analysis of the budgetary and readiness of implications of this escalation (see . The Administration fleshed out some of the details, and submitted a slightly more realistic appraisal of likely costs in a March 9 revision to its earlier funding request (the earlier estimates of the surge’s cost were difficult to reconcile with basic math; see ). This revised request is incorporated into the CRS’s assessment of the Administration’s budgetary requests. Using the information in CRS’s analysis, I have calculated the implied average monthly burn rates, in billions of dollars per month (bdpm).
Figure 4: Monthly burn rate for Iraq Theater of Operations, in billions of dollars per month (bdpm), by fiscal year (blue line). Source: For FY2003-08, Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global
War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” Congressional Research Service Report RL33110, March 14, 2007, Table 1. Baseline (green), from September 2006 CRS report. For FY 2007-08 “Hi” estimate (red), author’s calculations based upon reported figures (see this post).
My estimate from December (red) matches pretty closely the most recent CRS estimate of the monthly burn rate for FY’07. (Note FY’08 figures assume there is no revision to the amount necessary for “the surge”, an assumption that seems to me somewhat dubious.)
Those who view the Iraq venture as a success — or potential success — often argue that other indicators should be recounted. Hence, I add in one important measure of reconstruction, namely the average electricity production nationwide. (Other indicators are examined in the SIGIR’s report; see , as well as the website.)
Figure 5: Average electicity generation, nationwide, in MW. Source: Brookings Institution Iraq Index.
While electricity production lags far below the US interim target of 6000 MW (to have been reached by July 1, 2004), it is not far below the pre-war level. So certainly there has been some success. On the other hand, if one focuses on electricity provision in Baghdad, the focus of current efforts, then the picture is not so rosy.
Figure 6: Average hours of electricity supply, in hours per day (blue). 2006M05-07M04 trend (red). Source: Brookings Institution Iraq Index and author’s calculations.
Since there are no figures for electricity production for Baghdad proper, I have reported the hours/day figure. This series is now substantially below the US interim target of 10-12 hours/day. Now, to be fair, hours/day production is higher in the country overall, at 11.7 hours, solidly in the middle of the US interim target, and far above the pre-war level of 4-8 hours. But to the extent that securing Baghdad is critical, one must pay attention to trends there (the red line depicts the one-year trend, which has a negative slope).
If the Administration’s budget request (as amended in March) were fulfilled, then cumulative expenditures in Iraq (excluding many Reset costs and implied VA costs) would sum to $564 billion. That figure also — obviously — excludes opportunity costs associated with deferring and/or stretching out other military procurement programs (see ).