Attrition: Plunging Casualty Rates Don't Make Headlines


February 5, 2009: In January, Iraq has, for the second month in a row, broken the record for the lowest U.S. combat losses. In January, four American troops died in combat, down from seven in December. Iraqi civilian deaths were also at an all time low in January; 138. That's down from 238 in December. The low death rates result from the increasing quantity, and quality, of Iraqi security forces. U.S. troops spend more of their time training Iraqi troops, providing back up and other support (like checking to see if the irregular security forces, that keep the peace many previously dangerous neighborhoods, are getting paid) and doing the occasional raid or search. Since January 1st, U.S. troops have to get a court order, or have probable cause, before conducting raids or searches, so that has slowed them down somewhat. But, so far, the Iraqi security forces have been able to take over effectively. Most Iraqis have had it with Islamic terrorists, and want to concentrate on the economic progress that Saddam denied them for decades.

In December, 14 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was the lowest overall monthly total since 2003. For all of 2008, 477 American troops were killed in combat, which was the lowest annual total since 2003.

In January, fifteen U.S. troops died in Afghanistan. Last year, 151 American troops died in Afghanistan. That's still 12 percent below the rate (per thousand troops) of Iraq between 2004-7. However, the rate is more than twice what it was last year in Iraq (where it was 2 per thousand troops, versus 5 per thousand in Afghanistan.)


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