President Obama’s Casualty Estimates

Well, looks like President Obama is giving out casualty estimates for a potential intervention.

That used to be our job.

His estimate was for “sending significant ground forces back to the Middle East”

The results were:

1. “…could conceivably result in the deaths of 100 American soldiers every month.”
2. “…could take up to $10 billion a month…”
3. “….and leave as many as 500 troops wounded every month in addition to those killed…”

“Mr. Obama explained that his refusal to redeploy large numbers of troops to the region was rooted in the grim assumption that the casualties and costs would rival the worst of the Iraq war. “

Clearly this was a worst case situation based upon some study or analysis done. Do not know who did the study and I not think the study is in the public domain.

This is clearly just applying the Iraq War model to the current situation. In the case of Iraq, we had over 100,000 troops deployed and were directly and often by ourselves engaged with a major insurgency. This was generating 100 deaths on some months. This is 1200 a year. We lost people at that rate for four years in Iraq (2004 = 849, 2005 = 846, 2006 – 823, 2007 – 904).

On the other hand, it appear that most people talking intervention in Syria and Iraq appear to be discussing training missions with some ground support. I do not think anyone is seriously talking about putting a 100,000 troops back in. I think most people are talking about 10,000 to 20,000 troops primarily as trainers for the Syrian insurgents, the Kurds and the Iraq government. This is in effect what we currently have in Afghanistan. Our post surge losses there are more like 100 a year (2013 = 127, 2014 = 55, 2015 = 16).

Needless to say, loss rates are tied to the force size. A force fully engaged of 20,000 is not going to suffer the same number of losses as a force fully engaged of 100,000. And, we are looking at missions that are primarily training and support, which should suffer losses less than forces that are fully engaged.

Of course, The Dupuy Institute did a casualty estimate for a peacekeeping force of 20,000 for Bosnia, and we have done a casualty estimate for major counterinsurgency force of 100,000+ for Iraq. An estimate for a training and support mission of 20,000 people would be much lower than our estimate for Iraq.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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