American casualties (dead and
wounded) in Iraq have been sharply declining since last May, when they hit 781
for the month. They were down to under three hundred last month. Casualties
haven't been that low since 2004. There are many reasons for this decline. The
main one is that al Qaeda and the Sunni Arab resistance has sharply declined.
Al Qaeda is the most hated organization in Iraq, and most Iraqis will inform on
these terrorists, especially the foreign ones. The Iraqi police are much more
numerous, well equipped, and competent now, than in past years. That means
Iraqi security forces can receive, and act on many of these tips. With about
half the adult population of Iraq owning a cell phone, al Qaeda is having a
hard time staying safe, and in action.
While much was made of the "surge offensive" of the
last six months, this was not the key factor in reducing American casualties.
The big deal was the collapse of the Sunni Arab resistance, and this has been
building for over a year. Half the Sunni Arab population has already fled their
homes, and many of those who haven't, are planning to. A major source of income
in the Sunni Arab community is cash paid to those who build and place roadside
bombs (which account for about half of American casualties.) This effort, paid
for by wealthy Sunni Arabs outside Iraq, and former supporters (and cronies) of
Saddam, peaked late last year. The cash, and bomb making supplies, are drying
up, while those eager to do get involved are fewer in number. That's because
it's gotten a lot more dangerous to do that sort of thing. U.S. and Iraqi
troops have much more effective techniques for catching the bombers in the act.
The bombers have demanded more money, or simply gotten out of the business. The
number of bombs placed, and attacks in general, have plunged since last Summer,
and along with it, U.S. casualty rates.
Attacks have gone down to a third of the level a
year ago. In Anbar province (western Iraq) and Baghdad, where most American
casualties take place, this has meant a decline from over 1,400 attacks a month
late last year, to about 500 in the past month. "Attacks" include all manner of
hostile, and harmful, activities. Each time someone fires a rifle or RPG at
U.S. or Iraqi forces, it is considered an attack. So is the use of grenades,
mortars or rockets. If a roadside bomb, or other type of IED, is encountered,
even if it doesn't go off, it is considered an attack. The Sunni (and some
Shia) Arab terrorists are still setting up roadside bombs, but the number has
gone down from nearly 2,000 a month, to about 600. Most are found and destroyed
before they can hurt U.S. or Iraqi forces.
Finally, the radical Shia militias (the Badr and Sadr
crews) have backed off on their attacks on American troops. Even Iran has
stopped sending terrorism supplies to the Badr and Sadr followers. The enemy,
in a word, has broken.