Iraq Combat Deaths Down 50 Percent in November

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

( - Combat-related casualties for U.S. military personnel in Iraq have been reduced by half in the first 28 days of November compared to the same timeframe for last year, a Cybercast News Service analysis of Pentagon reports shows.

There have been 24 combat-related deaths in Iraq reported in the current month thus far in comparison with the 48 combat-related deaths reported in the first 28 days of November last year. This reflects a 50 percent drop.

Total casualties, which include non-combat deaths, are down about 45 percent from where they were in the same 28-day period a year ago. There have been 29 casualties reported in Iraq so far this month versus 53 causalities for the same period in 2006.

There is often a delay between the time a casualty occurs and when the Defense Department releases its final casualty numbers. Nevertheless, a Cybercast News Service analysis shows there has been a consistent decline in the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the 30,000 U.S. troop surge went into effect in June.

Although more U.S. troops have been killed in 2007 than in any other previous year, the spike in casualties occurred before the surge went into effect. Recent figures show a correlation between the influx of new troops and declining casualty rates.

November marks the sixth consecutive month that military deaths have declined in Iraq. The casualty rate has reached its lowest level since March of 2006.

For the full month of September 2006 versus September 2007 the drop in combat-related casualties fell by almost 40 percent, the analysis of Pentagon data shows. There were 41 such casualties in September 2007, down from 57 combat-related casualties for September 2006.

However, the decline in the total causality rate for September 2007 was just 5 percent compared to a year ago.

The decline in causalities for the full month of October was steeper. In October 2006, the Pentagon reported 96 casualties of which 91 were combat-related, compared with 37 total casualties for October 2007 of which 31 were combat-related. This amounts to almost a 66 percent drop in combat-related casualties in the year-to-year monthly comparison. See spread sheet

There are other factors beyond the troop surge that figure into military progress on the ground, Jay Carafano told Cybercast News Service in an interview. Although additional equipment and resources are helpful, U.S. tactics are primarily responsible for the reduction in casualties, said Carafano, a senior research fellow specializing in defense and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"This has less to do with equipment and more to do with the headspace between the eyes and ears," he said. "It's about fighting smarter, and this is what always wins wars. This is about Americans being creative, innovative and brave."

Members of Congress from both parties have credited Gen. David Petraeus for employing an effective counter-insurgency strategy - Petraeus is in charge of the coalition forces in Iraq.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), for instance, recently described the decline in casualties as "a positive sign." However, Hoyer remains critical of the Bush administration for its management of the war. Hoyer has also said the stated goal of political reconciliation in Iraq appears beyond reach at the moment.

The number of combat-related causalities reported in November has also declined somewhat from combat-related casualties in the prior month. These numbers are down by about 23 percent.

However, the number of U.S. troops who died in combat this month versus the number of combat causalities reported this past September has fallen by almost 60 percent, according to the Cybercast News Service analysis.

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