Attrition: Waiting For Combat Pay To Go Away


August 4, 2008: U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached a record low in July, when only 13 personnel were killed (most from non-combat causes). This was a sharp drop from June, when 31 died. But May was also very low (21 dead), and marked the end of the Surge Offensive that began in early 2007. July was not the lowest month for overall casualties (killed and wounded). That would still be May, 2003, when there were 97 casualties (57 percent wounded). Last month there were 155 casualties (84 percent wounded).

The main reason for the lower U.S. casualties is the defeat of al Qaeda, and the other Sunni Arab terrorist organizations. That, and the growing numbers and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces (army and police). U.S. combat troops spend a lot more time just providing back-up for their Iraqi allies. That, and the growing demand for U.S. military trainers. The Iraqis have watched U.S. troops operate for the last five years, and want to do things the same way, with the same results. But that requires thousands of additional trainers and advisers. These troops have to undergo special training for these duties, and that will take time. Some U.S. units open their own schools for Iraqi units they regularly operate with. The Iraqis send their best NCOs and officers, who are then trained as instructors, so they can continue the training back home. But the Iraqis appreciate having the U.S. advisor teams, who can be questioned on the finer points of procedure and technique, and lean on Iraqi commanders who are not as serious about the training as their troops are.

The lower level (less than 20 percent of what it was a year ago) of combat is disappointing to some of the new American combat troops. They wanted to get their Combat Infantry Badge (for infantry), or Combat Action badge (for everyone else). But for most of the troops (who are not in combat units, or who have been to Iraq before), the new kinder, gentler, safer and quieter Iraq is much appreciated. And, for the moment, everyone still gets combat pay. When that stops, you can definitely say that Iraq is at peace.





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