Number Of U.S. Airstrikes In Iraq More Than Double Rate For 2006
By CHARLES J. HANLEY The Associated Press
Published: Jun 6, 2007
BAGHDAD – Four years into a war that opened with “shock and awe,” U.S. warplanes have stepped up attacks in Iraq, dropping bombs at more than twice the rate of a year ago.
The airpower escalation parallels a nearly four-month-old security crackdown that is bringing 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Baghdad and its surroundings, an urban campaign to restore order to an area riven with sectarian violence.
It also reflects increased availability of planes from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, and it appears to be accompanied by an increase in Iraqi civilian casualties.
In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, U.S. aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 229 expended in all of 2006, according to Air Force figures obtained by The Associated Press.
“Air operations over Iraq have ratcheted up significantly in the number of sorties, the number of hours” in the air, said Col. Joe Guastella, Air Force operations chief for the region. “It has a lot to do with increased pressure on the enemy by [the Multinational Corps-Iraq] combined with more carriers.”
The Air Force report did not break down the locations in Iraq where bombings have been stepped up, but U.S.-led forces are locked in new and dangerous fronts against insurgents outside Baghdad in places such as Diyala, a province northeast of the capital.
A second aircraft carrier on station since February in the Persian Gulf has added about 80 warplanes to the U.S. air arsenal in the region.
At the same time, the number of civilian Iraqi casualties from U.S. airstrikes appears to have risen sharply, according to Iraq Body Count, a London-based antiwar research group that maintains a database compiling media reports on Iraq war deaths.
The rate of such reported civilian deaths appeared to climb steadily through 2006, the group reports, averaging a few a month in early 2006, hitting some 40 a month by year’s end and averaging more than 50 a month so far this year.
Those are maximum tolls based on news reports, and they count civilians killed by Army helicopter fire as well as by warplanes, said John Sloboda, of Iraq Body Count. The count is regarded as conservative, since it doesn’t include deaths missed by the international media.
The U.S. military says it doesn’t track civilian casualties.
“The reality of civilian deaths is a year-on-year increase,” said Sloboda,. “This particular part of it, airstrikes, have rocketed up more than any other.”
Examples of attacks, as reported in the Air Force’s daily summary:
•Friday, an Air Force F-16 dropped a guided 500-pound bomb near the northern city of Tal Afar that destroyed a vehicle laden with explosives to be used as a bomb.
•Thursday, an F-16 dropped a similar bomb on “an inaccessible building being used by insurgents” near Samarra, north of Baghdad, with “good effects.”
•Wednesday, an F-16 dropped bombs on “an illegal bridge and an insurgent vehicle in Baghdad.”