Iraq has largely kept quiet about the number of casualties it has suffered while fighting the Islamic State. The average bombing of a patrol or shooting at a checkpoint that kills and wounds a few gets mentioned in the press, but losses from heavy fighting in places like Tikrit or Ramadi rarely do. At the end of 2015 Baghdad finally began to come clean about what the war has cost in terms of human lives.
In the middle of December 2015 Iraq’s Defense Minister Khalid Obeidi gave details about the war. He said that 2,649 soldiers had been killed and another 11,230 wounded since June 2014. The press had 4,419 dead and 2,591 injured during that period. The news also often reports about Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) casualties that could be either police or soldiers. When those were taken into account Minister Obeidi added 5,920 new wounded.
This was the second time the Iraqi government had officially talked about casualties. In November the Interior Ministry issued a number of statistics that included 1,096 police fatalities and 3,633 wounded from November 2014 to November 2015. Again, when compared to previous news that revealed 1,322 police had been wounded that had not been reported before.
Finally, Obeidi said that 13,000 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the war. That was similar to numbers the Interior Ministry gave as well. From January to November 2015 there were 36,740 dead insurgents mentioned in the press alone. That did not include the “dozens of militants killed” refrain that is included in government releases every few days. The huge gap between the two was due to propaganda by the Iraqi forces. They want to show success against the Islamic State so they regularly exaggerate how many insurgents they have killed.
What the Defense and Interior Ministries’ announcements revealed was that a large part of the war is being distorted. Thousands of ISF members have been wounded and are only now being acknowledged. At the same time, the government is claiming that it is killing huge numbers of IS men each month even though the true numbers are only a fraction of that. The goal is to maintain the public’s morale by keeping official losses at a minimum, while claiming the other side is being devastated. Since most war reporting within the country is based upon official releases, Baghdad’s campaign is working because Iraqis have nothing else to go by. The result is that the true costs of the conflict are only now being made public.
NINA, “MoD: 23% Of Anbar Liberated, The Final Announcement Of liberation In A Short Period,” 12/19/15
Sotaliraq, “Interior: the killing and wounding of 4729 security members in terrorist attacks during the year,” 11/23/15