According to the US Department of Defence (DOD), 24 occupation soldiers died in the first nine days of July, bringing the total to 1002. Twenty-two of the military fatalities in July have been US soldiers.

 

Of the total figure, there have been 881 US military fatalities, 60 British, and 60 listed as other. More than 650 of the 881 US fatalities have been attributed to what the DOD lists as "enemy fire".

 

April 2004 was the most costly month in terms of casualties – the DOD listed 135 US fatalities, mostly due to fighting in and around Falluja.

 

The number of wounded also soared for that month, reaching 1157, eight times higher than the monthly average since the March 2003 invasion.

 

The total number of wounded as of 26 June is 5394, with May and June registering higher-than-average figures: 742 and 444, respectively. However, the DOD does not report the number of non-combat related wounded.

 

A quagmire?

 

In recent weeks, political analysts have warned that the US military could be in an untenable situation in Iraq. Recent reports that the number of heavily-armed Iraqi fighters is more than 20,000 have added to fears that the US, and by default, the US-appointed Iraqi government, may be facing a quagmire.

 

More than 5390 US soldiers have
been wounded in Iraq

US reports that foreign fighters were behind the attacks on US-led forces were debunked last week when American officials admitted that foreigners accounted for less than two per cent of 5700 "security risk" detainees currently held throughout Iraq.

 

The transitional government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has continued to blame Syria and Iran for allowing fighters to slip through the porous borders with Iraq.

 

But US officials say the greatest threat is the figurehead of 38-year-old Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who they accuse of personally coordinating and mounting attacks that have seen dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraq police killed.

 

The US military recently started a campaign of aerial bombings of Falluja targeting what it claims are 'terrorist safe houses' used by al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaida cohorts and claimed victory in having killed many "terrorists" and coming close to killing the man himself.

 

But on the ground, Falluja medical sources told Aljazeera.net that many of those killed in the air raids were women and children. The incidents fuelled anger against US forces as well as Allawi, who was reported to have condoned the aerial bombings.

 

Carnage continues

 

The much-hyped handover of authority to a transitional Iraqi government has done little to quiet the violence and carnage in Iraq. Since the 28 June handover, there have been 25 US, one British and nine "other" military fatalities.

 

Iraqi national guardsmen are
supporting US-led forces

The number of Iraqis killed by bombings, US military action, or resistance attacks since 26 June exceeds 200. In November, the now-defunct Iraq Governing Council stopped counting the number of Iraqis killed.

 

However, Iraqbodycount.org, an independent group of academics and activists monitoring the number of civilian fatalities, puts the number as high as 13,000.

 

The US government has not set a deadline for their troop withdrawal from Iraq although some reports indicate that its military will maintain a sizable contingent in Iraq for up to another five years.

 

"We can do that and we've got plans to do that for as long as it takes, because this will be event-driven, not time-line driven," US General Richard Myers told PBS television. He said that was how long it would take to train Iraqis to retain security of their country.

 

US senator Edward Kennedy said the depth of US involvement in Iraq - and its committment for a prolonged stay - was analogous to the quagmire of the Vietnam conflict, a war that ended in a humiliating defeat in 1973.