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March 20, 2006
American Death Rate In Iraq Lowest In Two Years

Handwringers in the press have turned Iraq into Viet Nam, calling it a quagmire so often that the repetition has become numbing. However, according to a study done by USA Today of military data, the casualty rate for US troops has dropped to its lowest level in two years, while the Iraqi forces show increasing engagement against the terrorists:

U.S. military deaths during the past month have dropped to an average of about one a day, approaching the lowest level since the insurgency began two years ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. military data.

The decline in U.S. deaths comes as Iraqi casualties are the highest since the U.S. military began tracking them in 2004.

In the past month, nearly five times as many Iraqi forces and civilians were killed as troops in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, U.S. military data show.

The shift from spring 2004, when U.S. and Iraqi casualty rates were comparable, reflects an insurgency that increasingly targets Iraqis and the growing presence of Iraqi forces on the front lines.

"The Iraqi army is far bigger in number, far higher in training capability and far more willing to go where the fight is and take casualties," British Defense Secretary John Reid said in an interview.

The Iraqi Army now fields more than 240,000 and has taken operations over from the US and other Coalition forces in many areas throughout the country. The Sunni Triangle still largely operates under American patrols, but those are joined by Iraqi troops for training purposes. Operation Swarmer allowed the US to conduct real missions while training the Iraqis to perform air assaults and do cordon-and-search missions necessary to trap and capure insurgents and their materiel. In six months, the number of Level 2 Iraqi units has increased from 37 to 63, showing that the training not only continues but has become more effective, and recruitment has remained strong.

The drop in the rate of American casualties also comes from an increasing ability to stop IEDs before they kill and maim. Our patrols now disable 40% of all IEDs before explosion, an increase of a third over the last six months. We have killed or captured scores of their bombmakers in operations like Swarmer.

As long as terrorists and Ba'athist dead-enders remain in Iraq, the capacity for violence and mayhem remains significant. However, we continue to make progress in establishing an army that fights for the new Iraqi government and has not cut and run from the fight against terrorism, especially against Zarqawi's al-Qaeda foreigners. It will not be a short effort, but the data show that we are going in the right direction.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2006 5:27 AM

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