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Iraq Transition

Study: Anxiety, depression, acute stress in combat troops

Story Highlights

• Pentagon study checks mental health, ethical opinions of U.S. troops
• One-third of troops report mental conditions, including acute stress
• Significant numbers endorse torture under certain circumstances
• U.S. says two more senior al Qaeda in Iraq figures killed
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The latest Pentagon survey assessing the mental health of troops in Iraq found one-third of soldiers and Marines in high levels of combat report anxiety, depression and acute stress.

The survey also dealt with ethical attitudes on the battlefield.

A key finding was that more than a third of soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a comrade.

Fewer than half of the U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq would report a comrade for unethical behavior, according to the results of the survey by the Defense Department's Mental Health Advisory Team.

The survey of more than 1,300 soldiers and nearly 450 Marines was conducted last year. It was the fourth in a series of surveys on troops' mental health but the first to include Marines and the first to look at ethics in Iraq. (Read the report)

While fewer than half of the troops agreed that "all noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect," a quarter of those surveyed said, "I would risk my own safety to save a noncombatant in danger."

When mistreatment of noncombatants was reported, the most common behavior was cursing or verbal insults (28 percent of soldiers and 30 percent of Marines). Physical abuse was reported by 4 percent of soldiers and 7 percent of Marines.

The survey found the death of a team member led to an increase in ethics violations.

Soldiers who deployed more than six months or multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue, the survey found.

"Effective small unit leadership" -- or when officers closest to the troops did a good job -- promoted better mental health, according to the survey.

Results concerning combat stress in the latest survey were similar to those from a more extensive study of veterans who sought care from the Department of Veterans Affairs after returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Full story)

In that study, published in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 31 percent of more than 100,000 veterans studied were diagnosed with mental or psychological problems.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was the most common condition reported, affecting 13 percent of all Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who sought VA services, according to the study.

That's slightly less than the 15.2 percent tallied for veterans of the Vietnam War, but far above the 3.5 percent reported in the general population.

U.S. military: Top al Qaeda in Iraq figures killed

The U.S. military said Friday it had confirmed the identities of two more senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders killed this week during an operation near Taji, Iraq.

The military identified the men as Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi, the religious adviser to Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, and Abu Ammar al-Masri, a foreign fighter facilitator.

Both terrorists were identified by associates at the site, according to the military.

On Thursday, the military said al-Jubouri was killed in the same raid in which al-Shihawi and al-Masri died. Al-Jubouri was the senior minister of information for al Qaeda in Iraq. (Full story)

Other developments

  • Insurgents killed five U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in separate attacks Thursday and Friday, the U.S. military said. Since the start of the war, 3,354 U.S. troops have been killed; seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department also have died.
  • Sixteen unidentified bodies were found Friday in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. Slain bodies are dumped across the Iraqi capital every day, although fewer have been found since a new security crackdown began in February.
  • U.S.-led coalition raids Friday in Baghdad's Sadr City led to the arrests of 16 "suspected terrorists," part of a cell thought to have links to Iran, the U.S. military said.
  • Five Iraqi police were killed and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting their patrol detonated Friday in western Baghdad's Amel neighborhood, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
  • A car bomb killed three civilians and wounded three dozen in an attack Thursday in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said Friday.
  • Iraqi security forces detained a former military officer from Saddam Hussein's regime and an associate Thursday in Tikrit, Hussein's ancestral homeland, the U.S. military said. The two are suspected of being involved in "corrupt activities" in the Salaheddin province city, the military said. Two suspected insurgents were captured with them, the military said.
  • CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

    U.S. Marines run for cover on a lookout post at a military observation point in Ramadi, in January 2007.


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