Monday, February 9, 2015

Iraqi Officials Continue To Under Report Casualties

When the insurgents launched their summer offensive in June 2014 the Iraqi authorities stopped reporting on their casualties. Huge losses were likely incurred with no real accounting for them. Today official disclosures are still shoddy. An improvised explosive device or a small shootout likely results in some figures on the dead and wounded for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), militias, tribes, or Kurdish forces, but there is usually silence after major confrontations. A perfect example of this trend was shown when the Peshmerga Ministry recently announced losses from June 2014 to the start of February 2015, which were far off from figures in the press.

On February 4, 2015 the Peshmerga Minister Jabbar Yawar released official numbers on Kurdish losses since June. Yawar said that 999 Peshmerga had died and 4,569 had been wounded from June 10, 2014 to February 3, 2015. Kurdish officials have released casualty figures a few times before, and actually had higher numbers than what had been released in the press up to that point, but this time there was a huge divergence. According to news reports 1,136 Peshmerga have been killed and 5,331 injured during the time period Yawar mentioned. That was a total of 6,467 compared to 5,568 announced by the Ministry, a difference of 899. To add to this issue is the fact that the media only covers a percentage of the actual casualties. That means the difference between the Ministry’s numbers and the real number of dead and wounded is probably even larger.

Official vs Media Reports On Peshmerga Casualties

Peshmerga Ministry
Media Reports

The Iraqi central and Kurdish regional governments have a number of reasons for not reporting their losses. First if the actual numbers were released, and they are quite large, which they probably are, it could undermine morale in the country. Second, they could undermine the authorities. One reason why Nouri al-Maliki did not return for a third term was that he was blamed for the fall of Mosul in June. Letting the public know how many lives this cost would have opened him up to even more criticism. This same concern applies to new Premier Haider Abadi and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. Finally, neither Baghdad nor Irbil is known for transparency. There are plenty of government activities that are never made public. When the war broke out there was every reason to keep casualty figures secret. That doesn’t mean losses are never given as the Peshmerga announcement makes clear, but the actual totals are still apparently under wraps.


Agence France Presse, “Nearly 1,000 Iraq Kurds killed fighting IS since June,” 2/4/15

eKurd, “999 Kurdish Peshmerga troops killed in fighting with Islamic State: Yawar,” 2/4/15

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