(CNSNews.com) – An American soldier was killed in Iraq on Sunday, three days after the last combat brigade left the country ahead of the month-end deadline for the formal end of combat operations.
The death of the soldier in Basra brings to four the number of U.S. deaths in combat so far this month, making August even with April as the deadliest month in Iraq since last fall.
The Pentagon has yet to release the name of the fallen soldier, or to confirm reports of an earlier death, that of a soldier from Kentucky last Thursday.
In the previous two combat deaths this month, Spc. Faith Hinkley, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., died of injuries sustained when her unit came under enemy fire in Babil province on August 7; and Spc. Jamal Rhett, 24, of Palmyra, New Jersey, was killed when his patrol was attacked in Baquba, Diyala province on August 15.
One U.S. soldier was killed in combat circumstances in Iraq in July, two in June, two in May, four in April, three in March, one in February and two in January.
Last Thursday the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team became the last U.S. combat brigade to withdraw from Iraq, crossing the border into Kuwait.
September 1 marks the beginning of Operation New Dawn, in which some 50,000 troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011, to train and advise Iraqi forces.
U.S. Army General Ray Odierno, the senior commander in Iraq, said on Sunday that while it was possible, he did not foresee the need to resume a combat role in Iraq after the end of the month.
It would require a “complete failure” of Iraqi forces to make a change of mission necessary,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union.
“[The Iraqi forces] have been doing so well for so long now that we really believe we’re beyond that point,” Odierno said.
“We continue to see development in their planning, their ability to conduct operations. We continue to see political development, economic development, and all of these combined together will start to develop an atmosphere that means better security.”