(CNSNews.com) – August marked the first month since March 2003 that not one member of the U.S. military was reported to have died in Iraq or while deployed in neighboring areas in support of operations in Iraq, either in combat or non-hostile circumstances.
According to a CNSNews.com database of Iraq casualties since the invasion, three previous months – December 2009, October 2010 and February 2011 – also saw no combat deaths recorded, but on each occasion several U.S. personnel died of other causes – three in Dec. 2009, two in Oct. 2010 and three in Feb. 2011.
August’s significant news comes just two months after the deadliest month for American military personnel in Iraq in more than two years.
Figures from the database for previous Augusts show how dramatically the situation has changed over the eight-year long mission.
In August last year, three soldiers were killed, all three in combat. Aug. 2009 saw six killed, four in combat; in Aug. 2008 23 were killed, 14 in combat; Aug. 2007 – 83 killed, 56 in combat; Aug. 2006 – 68 killed, 59 in combat; Aug. 2005 – 86 killed, 77 in combat; Aug. 2004 – 65 killed, 53 in combat; and Aug. 2003 – 34 killed, 19 in combat (see graph).
The total number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, which began on Sept. 1 2010, is almost 4,500. The Pentagon puts the number at 4,477, with 3,524 deaths recorded as having occurred in combat; the icasualties.org Web site puts the total number of U.S. fatalities at 4,474.
Some 46,000 U.S. soldiers are still in Iraq, and are due to withdraw by the end of the year, based on a security pace signed in 2008. Bilateral talks are being held about the possibility that some may remain beyond Dec. 31 for training purposes.
A U.S. Army commander told a Pentagon briefing from Iraq Thursday that any extension beyond year’s end was “something that’s a matter of policy and is being discussed between the Iraqi government and the U.S. government.”
In the meantime, said Col. Brian Winski, everything was proceeding in compliance with the security pact.
Winski said the training of Iraqi forces was now mostly being led by Iraqis themselves.
“We are now training and certifying and preparing Iraqi trainers to continue the training that we were doing over the course of this past year,” he said. “So where we had a substantial number of forces committed to training Iraqi army forces on those traditional army tasks I described, we’re now assisting their trainers as they conduct that.”
Winski said he was confident that the Iraqi forces “have a foundation for an external defense and they, more importantly, have training systems that will endure past our departure, that will continue to build that foundation and capability for external defense.”
August, which coincided this year with the Islamic fast-month of Ramadan, was a far from peaceful month for Iraqi civilians or security force members.
According to the Health Ministry, 155 civilians were killed during the month. More than half of the deaths occurred in a series of bombings and attacks across the country on August 15 and in a suicide bombing at a Sunni mosque on August 28.
The official figures show August to have been the fourth deadliest month over the past year – only Sept. 2010 (185 deaths) and January and July 2011 (159 deaths each) recorded higher death tolls (see graph).
The Interior and Defense ministries reported that 39 Iraqi soldiers and 45 policemen were killed during August.