I reported before that for those soldiers who are designated as "trigger-pullers", the risk of becoming a casualty of Iraq was pretty significant.
Well, suffice it to say that with this new turn in the war, it has just gotten worse. Infact, I suspect the risk of becoming a casualty may now be as bad on a per-soldier basis as the Vietnam War.
During the Vietnam War, there were approximately four times as many U.S. troops in field on average as there are in Iraq. Fatalities in the Vietnam War were approximately 27 per day. A tour-of-duty in Vietnam was shorter, however, and was capped at one year. In Iraq, however, soldiers are, in effect, drafted, using the "stop-loss" provisions to prevent them from leaving active service. As of February, approximately 45,000 soldiers have been ordered to indefinitely extend their service. The use of "stop-loss" is widespread, especially for reservists and those who have skills that are high-in-demand. As a result, tours of duty in Iraq are expected for many to last in excess of 18 months. Obviously, the departure of some Coalition partner troops from Iraq and the increased level of resistance would only serve to extend this length of service.
That means that if you have about 4.5 casualties per day in Iraq, your risks of dying before you get back home would be about the same as a soldier in Vietnam. So far this month, the casualties per day are at about 4.2, but those numbers fail to take into account that the risk of becoming a casualty went up steeply over the past few days. It is quite possible that the risk will stabilize at around 4-5 U.S. soldiers killed per day, if not more, which is somewhat higher than the casualty levels that were seen in Iraq during the month of Ramadan last year.
If this trend continues, U.S. soldiers might find themselves facing a level of personal risk -- and personal anguish -- that they haven't experienced for over thirty years.