U.S. Toll In Iraq Reaches 3,000

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 1, 2007

BAGHDAD, Dec. 31 -- The number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003 reached 3,000 on Sunday, a symbolic milestone at a time when the Bush administration is rethinking its strategy for the increasingly violent conflict.

As the year drew to a close, the U.S. military announced that a soldier was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb while on patrol in a southeastern neighborhood of Baghdad. Two soldiers were injured in the attack. Their names were not released.

The Defense Department also announced that Spec. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Tex., was killed by small-arms fire Thursday in Baghdad.

According to the Associated Press and the independent Web site iCasualties.org, both of which keep counts of war fatalities, the deaths raised the American toll to at least 3,000.

Reaching that threshold has significance at a time when President Bush is considering a change in strategy that could include sending in more troops. The 140,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq have not been able to reduce the daily violence caused by an aggressive insurgency in the western province of Anbar and an increasingly bitter sectarian conflict in Baghdad.

"What you see is the U.S. deeply involved in this fight against an insurrection and increasingly trying to bring order to a low-level civil war," Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said by telephone in Washington. "There's no way you can do that with 140,000 troops in a country of 27 million without having casualties."

He added: "This pace of casualties is likely to go on until we can change or find a new approach."

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended that the focus of U.S. troops in Iraq be shifted from combat to training Iraqi soldiers and police officers, and that most combat brigades be withdrawn by early 2008.

The most recent deaths happened during a particularly costly month of the war. With 111 fatalities, according to iCasualties.org, December was not only the deadliest month of 2006 for U.S. troops, but the deadliest in two years.

Most of December's deaths occurred in Anbar province, and most were the result of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, according to a Washington Post analysis of the data. But insurgents have found other ways to attack troops, among them sniper fire.

The number of service members who have been wounded has continued to climb as well. More than 22,000 troops have been injured so far, according to the latest Defense Department data.

A Pentagon report in December gave a grim assessment of the war, acknowledging that violence soared to its highest level this fall, with anti-U.S. fighters achieving "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni Arab and Shiite Muslim death squads. According to the report, the violence had reached record highs, with 959 attacks per week.

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