Friday, November 16, 2007

Interview with RAF Liasion Officer Reveals MOD Casualty Figures have been Drastically Under-reported

A recent interview, published on the MOD web site, has revealed that at least half of the British troops medically evacuated to the UK in 2007 have been combat casualties. This is a new development that reflects the increased intensity of fighting. Squadron Leader Kenny Duffy, the aeromedical liaison officer at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak describes the work of his unit.
"Each year we produce statistics with a breakdown of those aeromedically evacuated. The total for each month includes disease and non-battle injuries from across the world. Historically, the numbers of casualties suffering from disease and non-battle injury has always been much greater than the number of battlefield injuries."
"Although statistics have still not been completed for the year 2007, to date this is the first year the number of battlefield injuries has been higher than disease – there has been a steady rise in the operational tempo."
This apparently benign omission in fact reveals that figures for combat casualties have been consistently under-reported by the MOD.

For example, current MOD statistics say that only 65 service personnel have been seriously or very seriously wounded in Iraq during 2007. However, we also know that there have been 510 medical evacuations and, following the published interview, we now know that at least half of these were evacuated because of combat injuries. That means that in reality at least 255 serious combat casualties have occurred. In other words, the MOD are only reporting a quarter (26%) of serious combat casualties! A shocking level of data manipulation and obfuscation.

Perhaps the situation in Iraq is unusual and not reflected elsewhere. So lets also look at the data from the war in Afghanistan. Here the official MOD figures report 47 seriously or very seriously injured combat casualties so far during 2007. However, the medical evacuation figure is 451, which equates to at least 225 serious or very serious combat casualties. In this context the the MOD appears to have been reporting a mere 21% of these casualties in their official version of events.

It could be argued that the combat casualties that are medivaced are not necessarily seriously injured. But why evacuate if these people if their injuries are not serious? Clearly, these latest, perhaps inadvertent, revaluations indicate that MOD data on classified combat casualties is unreliable.

This has implications for the graphical analysis we present on this site. In particular, we now know that the graphs showing annual comparisons of classified combat casualties are presenting only a small proportion of the actual casualty burden. They do remain useful in identifying trends in the conflict but are of little utility for understanding the real casualty burden. The graphs showing the cumulative total monthly casualties and the figures for the year to date are much better indicators of burden.

Currently, these show that total British casualties in 2007 stand at 1564 in Iraq and 1173 in Afghanistan.