- The war on ISIS, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, started December 27, 2014
- The vast majority of the combat has been by airstrike or drones, limiting combat casualties
- Thirty-one troops have died since the operation began – 11 were suicides, eight were combat fatalities
Suicide, not combat, is the leading cause of death of soldiers deployed to the Middle East to fight ISIS.
Of the 31 troops who have died since December 27, 2014 when the campaign began, 11 were suicides, reports USA Today. Eight died in combat.
The other deaths were a result of accidents, illness or injury and, one case is being investigated.
Combat fatalities as a result of direct contact with ISIS have been limited, according to the outlet, thanks to airstrikes and drones that have killed 50,000 ISIS fighters.
Suicide outstrips US troop combat casualties in the war on ISIS
There were eight US troop combat deaths since December 2014 in Operation Inherent Freedom compared to 11 suicides
In fact, the largest loss of life in the military operation thus far was when three Special Forces soldiers were shot by a guard as they tried to enter an air base.
Operation Inherent Resolve includes casualties that occurred in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the Mediterranean Sea east of 25° Longitude, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea, according to the Department of Defense.
The numbers do not include other operations in the Middle East, such as Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, both of which saw far higher combat fatalities that also outstripped suicides by a significant margin, according to the Department of Defense.
As for why suicide would be more common than combat fatalities in the war on ISIS, one expert says it can’t be easily explained.
Suicides by troops fighting ISIS outnumber combat casualties because of airstrikes and drones
‘I don’t think there’s one single cause for it,’ Rajeev Ramchand, a senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. who has studied military suicide told the outlet. ‘There are a multitude of factors.’
Ramchand says factors could include mental illnesses that enlistees had before enrollment, post-traumatic stress, and multiple combat deployments as the military has been at war for 16 years.
‘I don’t think there’s one single cause for it’ said an expert on suicide in the military
However, there is an upward trend toward suicide in the US in general, and that could be reflected in the military population, said Ramchand.
‘Maybe there’s a universal stress on everyone in the military that affects them in profound ways,’ he said.
Between 2011 and 2010, the rate of suicide in the military doubled, said Ramchand, with a spike around 2005 when Iraq and Afghanistan casualties soared and the Army was doing most of the fighting.
The Army has the highest percentage of suicides, with 28 percent of the 269 suicides of active duty troops in 2014 being soldiers.
As a whole, the rate of suicides of military in 2014 is about equal to the general population, 20 per 100,000 troops in 2014.
‘This really is an illness. It’s not because you’re weak,’ said retired general Peter Chiarelli, who made suicide a top issue when he was Army voice chief of staff. He noted that depression and anxiety change brain chemistry.