When president George W. Bush declared on May 2 that major combat operations in Iraq had concluded, he stopped short of saying the war was over. And with good reason. Since then U.S. and British soldiers have been dying at the rate of more than one a day. Last week alone, according to Central Command, 11 soldiers died, possibly as many as eight from hostile fire, bringing total postcombat deaths to more than 30 U.S and British soldiers since May 2. That is more than 15 percent of those killed during the war. On Monday, near the western Iraqi town of Hit, more than a dozen Iraqis with rocket- propelled grenade launchers and mortars ambushed a U.S. Army convoy, killing one American soldier. A photographer on assignment for NEWSWEEK was among those who escaped the attack unhurt. The next day in Al Fallujah, a hotbed of pro-Saddam sentiment, several Iraqis attacked soldiers of the Third Armored Cavalry from their vehicles during a nighttime weapons search on the outskirts of town, killing two more Americans. A U.S. Black Hawk that rushed in to rescue seven other wounded soldiers was grounded when its tail rotor was clipped by a Bradley fighting vehicle maneuvering to counterattack. Four more soldiers died from Thursday to Saturday, making last week the worst by far for U.S. and British troops since Bush's speech.
Even Baghdad is far from safe, despite 25,000 Americans on guard. Looters have started shooting at troops trying to halt their rampages, and flyers have begun appearing in some neighborhoods calling on children to stay away from Americans, saying they'd be targets in the coming intifada.
The stream of incidents prompted the U.S. military's Central Command to announce that it may increase the number of troops inside Iraq, now at 150,000, reinforcing trouble spots like Hit and Al Fallujah. The Third Infantry Division, which spearheaded the drive to take Baghdad, had expected to be heading home by now; instead, its stay has been indefinitely extended. With American generals planning for at least a year-long military presence, at this rate more American soldiers may end up dying after the war than during it.