Scotland's The Herald newspaper is claiming a scoop today after it obtained a body count of opposition casualties that has been kept since 2003, despite repeated denials by the Pentagon.
Brigadier-General Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for the multinational corps in Iraq, said: "We're not focused on the numbers, but on most operations, we have fairly quantifiable data. That data is maintained to allow us to get a feel for the scale of what's happening on the ground."Of course, there's no way of knowing how many of those 19,000 dead would have confessed to actually being insurgents - and the figure of 119,752 arrested undoubtably includes many who are currently slated for release because there's little proof of their guilt. If that were not the case, then these figures would point to a massive regenerational ability in the Iraqi insurgency.
The figures compiled by the US show that 19,429 insurgent suspects had been reported killed, 6994 wounded and 119,752 arrested since 2003.
Soldiers normally sustain three wounded for each man killed in action. Improvements in body armour and front-line medicine have changed that ratio to eight wounded for every man dead.
A source said: "The high level of enemy combatant dead to wounded is not a product of any shoot-to-kill policy. The insurgents, either Iraqis or foreign jihadis, tend to drag their wounded off after firefights.
"We capture a relatively low number as a result, usually when the rest of their cell or ambush group has been wiped out or forced to flee by the arrival of coalition reinforcements. There's nothing sinister in the ratios.
"They also sustain more fatalities because they do not have access to effective body armour or immediate medical treatment.
"Our figures are compiled from significant after-action reports received from units in the field. Where air strikes involving large munitions are involved, it often has to be an estimate. On other occasions involving gunfire, there is an actual body count of armed combatants."
A US military spokesman said reports of enemy casualties were gleaned from routine reports after every firefight involving coalition troops.
If we take the military's words at face value then 19,000 dead plus three times that many wounded plus 110,000 captured would mean over 180,000 insurgents have been killed, wounded or taken out of combat since the invasion - and the insurgency is still going strong with casualty rates inflicted by insurgents recently still comparable to those of a year ago.
Either way, it also strongly suggests that the Iraqi intelligence estimate of the total strength of the insurgency - about 200,000 - is far more realistic than the U.S. military's estimate of 20,000 to 30,000. If the latter were the case then the insurgency would have regenerated itself entirely several times over - even accounting for any misidentification - and that would in turn mean that any drop in violence due to the Surge would be a temporary thing at best.