50,000 Iraqi Insurgents Killed or Captured

A former Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army claims U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or arrested more than 50,000 Iraqi insurgents in the past seven months.

50,000 Iraqi insurgents dead, caught (Washington Times, p. 1)

U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or arrested more than 50,000 Iraqi insurgents in the past seven months, a former top general who has headed repeated Pentagon assessment missions to Iraq said yesterday. Gen. Jack Keane, a former deputy chief of staff for the Army, also said the United States has a good picture of the leadership of the vicious insurgency but less of an idea about its mid- and lower-level ranks. “We know who they are,” he told a lunch gathering sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said the eight to 10 leaders “occasionally meet — we’ve recorded that — not just in Iraq, but in Jordan and Syria.”

Gen. Keane’s remarks provided a rare insight into the extent of U.S.-led operations against an insurgency that has been responsible for hundreds of deaths in the past few weeks alone. Pentagon officials previously had been quoted as saying 15,000 to 16,000 Iraqis were in custody in Iraq, but spokesman Lawrence DiRita was unable to comment last night on the 50,000 figure offered by the general. “I would highly doubt that anyone has a good handle on the numbers,” he said. “I’m not aware of what General Keane has been told, but I know of no number that has been provided to the secretary, briefed by the commanders, or is being tracked by anyone.”

Gen. Keane, noting that the numbers probably were higher now, said, “In the past six to seven months, we have killed or captured 50,000 insurgents.” The retired general has traveled to Iraq twice in uniform and twice as a civilian to assess progress there for the U.S. military. He did not explain how the number had been obtained.

A Defense Department consultant, retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew, said Gen. Keane’s figure likely includes some Iraqis who were swept up in military operations and subsequently released. “Does that mean all of them are terrorists or still being held? Probably not. It means we are making inroads, but not that we captured 50,000 terrorists,” he said.

Many Iraqis feel that a number of innocent people have been caught up in military raids. A slow-moving judicial system and constant intimidation of judges means that a majority of those behind bars have not been tried, Gen. Keane said. “There are thousands of people in jail who have a body of evidence against them — some should be receiving death sentences, some should be in jail for life sentences,” Gen. Keane said. He noted that he did not know how large the insurgency was, but said that, in spite of the number of people imprisoned or killed, “we are still dealing with a rather formidable force out there.”

Presuming the 50,000 figure is somewhere close to accurate, one wonders about the internals. How many of the 50,000 have been killed vice captured? What percentage of those captured are legitimate terrorists or insurgents vice innocents caught in the net? Of the latter, how quickly are they being cleared and released? What is the nature of their treatment while detained?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. killBil says:

    Presuming the 50,000 figure is somewhere close to accurate, one wonders about the internals. How many of the 50,000 have been killed vice captured?

    This is clearly a PsyOp. With regard to civilian casualties, the Pentagon said a few months ago that they “have no reliable means of gathering that information.”

    The fact that the insurgency is an irregular military force makes distinguishing between civilians and fighters difficult.

    The Pentagon is basically just thowing numbers out there hoping to discourage an expansion of the insurgency and to make a case for their military effectiveness. Significantly, Keane didn’t explain how the numbers were computed.

    This is a non-story.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    That would really suck if these numbers weren’t pulled out of DOD’s @ss. It would mean the insurgents could suffer hors de combat losses of 50G effectives and INCREASE the tempo of their operations throughout the year.

    It must be an anxious life for people who take Pentagon PR at face value.

  3. DC Loser says:

    I admire Keane as he’s a soldier’s soldier and a straight shooter, but I have to wonder about these numbers. He must have pulled out the body count manual from the Vietnam days.

  4. blixa says:

    Even if the 50k number were true, there is a logical error in concluding from a stated 50k/7month casualty rate that “The Insurgency” must therefore have consisted of at least 50k people at some point during that time. “The Insurgency” is not a fixed group of people.