This year's U.S. troop buildup has succeeded in bringing violence in Baghdad down from peak levels, but the death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago.
Some of the recent bloodshed appears the result of militant fighters drifting into parts of northern Iraq, where they have fled after U.S.-led offensives. Baghdad, however, still accounts for slightly more than half of all war-related killings — the same percentage as a year ago, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.
The tallies and trends offer a sobering snapshot after an additional 30,000 U.S. troops began campaigns in February to regain control of the Baghdad area. It also highlights one of the major themes expected in next month's Iraq progress report to Congress: some military headway, but extremist factions are far from broken.
In street-level terms, it means life for average Iraqis appears to be even more perilous and unpredictable.
The figures are considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual numbers are likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted. Insurgent deaths are not a part of the Iraqi count.
The findings include:
• Iraq is suffering about double the number of war-related deaths throughout the country compared with last year — an average daily toll of 33 in 2006, and 62 so far this year.
• Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. AP reporting accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006. The United Nations and other sources placed the 2006 toll far higher.
• Baghdad has gone from representing 76 percent of all civilian and police war-related deaths in Iraq in January to 52 percent in July, bringing it back to the same spot it was roughly a year ago.
_According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, the number of displaced Iraqis has more than doubled since the start of the year, from 447,337 on Jan. 1 to 1.14 million on July 31.
However, Brig. Gen. Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said violence in Iraq "has continued to decline and is at the lowest level since June 2006."
He offered no statistics to back his claim, but in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon on Friday he warned insurgents might try intensify attacks in Iraq to coincide with three milestones: the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., the beginning of Ramadan and the report to Congress.
STOP ALLOWING THE BULLSHIT TO BE SPEWED!