September 3, 2007

Combat Deaths Decline In Iraq

McClatchy Newspapers note that despite the new aggressive strategy and tactics taken by the American forces in Iraq, combat deaths have dropped to half of their peak since the start of the surge. Or, perhaps, the decline may not come in spite of the new tactics after all (via QandO):

American combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by half in the three months since the buildup of 28,000 additional U.S. troops reached full strength, surprising analysts and dividing them as to why.

U.S. officials had predicted that the increase would lead to higher American casualties as the troops "took the fight to the enemy." But that hasn't happened, even though U.S. forces have launched major offensives involving thousands of troops north and south of Baghdad.

American combat casualties have dropped to their lowest levels this year, even as violence involving Iraqis remains high.

In fact, the combat death rate hit a one-year low in August, about the same time last year that the previous security plan for Baghdad was deemed a failure. The peak came as General David Petraeus ramped up offensive operations in April of this year, breaking out of defensive positions and attacking the enemies in Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad. Everyone understood that the aggressive tactics would bring more casualties; that was the main argument against the extended deployment for the surge.

As predicted, casualities increased to twice that of the previous summer as US forces initiated combat against the entrenched terrorists and insurgents in western Iraq. An odd development occurred, though, as Petraeus added more forces to the battle -- deaths began to drop rapidly. June, July, and now August each brought stark reductions in KIAs.

So what happened? McClatchy reports that some people believe that the insurgents and terrorists simply decided not to fight the Americans. That's hardly been the experience of Michael Yon and Michael Totten, who have embedded with these troops and reported extensively on the battles. The explanation that McClatchy saves for the final paragraph appears to explain it better:

Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area research center, warned that reducing the number of troops could lead to an increase in casualties. He said the drop could be because the size of the built-up forces intimidated Iraq's various factions.

"Ironically, we may lose fewer soldiers the more we have exposed" to combat, Thompson said. "A large U.S. combat presence might reduce casualties by intimidating the enemy."

This hardly seems like a hidden gem of military wisdom -- it's the basis of warfare throughout history. It combines with another ageless bit of military wisdom, which is that a well-planned offense will keep the enemy on the defensive and retreating, rather than planning and executing attacks on one's own soldiers, thus reducing needless combat deaths. If the enemy has no solid ground on which to attack, they are less likely to launch effective missions, and combat deaths get reduced. Also, when one kills enemy forces, they don't come back from the dead to commit more attacks.

If all of this seems like common sense, it hasn't quite registered with McClatchy. At least they're noting the improvement, if not grasping its source.


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It would appear that there is definitely some good news to report out of Iraq. After sustaining the third highest month of casualties in May of 2007, according McClatchy the casualties have declined for three solid months since. This is most definite... [Read More]

Comments (20)

Posted by Ann | September 3, 2007 11:48 AM

You can expect deaths to increase again beginning next week, as Ramadan begins.

If you look at the US military deaths (due to hostile causes) during Ramadan and compare it to the rest of the year, they are much higher.

During Ramadan in 2003, US military deaths due to hostile action were 159% greater than the rest of the year. 2004 up 70%, 2005 up 70%, 2006 up 83%. Cumulatively, it adds up to an increase of 84%.

All data from the Iraq Casualty Count website. I did the numbers last year: US Military deaths, Ramadan versus other months.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 3, 2007 11:55 AM

Motorists are not at war with anybody; but if you want to talk statistics, cars kill more people than combat. And, with cars? Sometimes, it's trees. Not even other vehicles. Or, physics. When you drive at certain speeds and don't allow for flips.

While our military has been learning to a lot, with very few soldiers. Really.

And, today? Bush is in Iraq. Pulling Maliki into Anbar, where he landed. Just to show the world that the Shi'a leader was "safe" in a sunni stronghold. While day by day the terrorists are not.

There's a good article up on Lebanon. Where there were terrorists in the "palestinian" refugee camp that erupted in war against Siniora' government. Well, wouldn't you know it. There were tunnels. And, a few of the terrorists, using these tunnels, were able to exit behind the Lebanese Army's line. Where they came out, fighting.

Here's the lesson. The farmers in the village picked up sticks, and some, their own guns. And, shot and killed a few of the terrorists; till the army was able to fight back. So it wasn't a route for the Lebanese Army. (As you now know. The camp's days as a camp have ended.)

I'm sure, ahead, the UN will fight over the "spoils." But what will get built, I wonder?

And, what is this "digging" done by terrorists; where they try to come out of hiding into innocent neighborhoods; while the civilians living there didn't even know. It's worse that a mole infestation.

But to Bush's credit, as widespread as the terrorism IS, we've been winning.

This is killing the MSM! Hellbent on destroying morale in our military; as you can tell by the DePalma film (exposed in Venice). What does it all mean?

What does it mean that homosexuals, today, can point to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Texas; where sodomy "between consenting adults" is Kosher.

I know Kosher. That kind of sex isn't Kosher. It's perverted. And, worse, it's promiscuous.

And, guess what laws the freaks would like to curtail? Well, of course. The ones that affect their lives. And, to hell with yours.

Not sure if they're on a slippery slope, yet.

But up ahead, we're gonna learn which party is brain dead. And, I don't think it's the GOP.

Though the New Yuk Times and WaPo are into the business of publishing OBITS, I won't be happy until their business lays there, dead. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel, here?

Posted by Otter | September 3, 2007 11:58 AM

Ann is correct about Ramadan to an extent. But with more and more Iraqis coming around to our side of the argument, that may this time prove wrong. May.

Also expect defeatists to bring up numbers of Iraqis killed during this same period of time since the Surge began.

Posted by MarkT | September 3, 2007 12:13 PM

The numbers for August are indeed good news because not only are they down in absolute terms, they are also down over last year at this time.

In the 4 months before that, the year-over-year numbers were all up.

Posted by Bender | September 3, 2007 12:28 PM

It is counterintuitive, and therefore disbelieved by those who oppose war, but it is the use of greater force that works a reduction in the loss of life, whereas the use of limited force ends up causing more deaths, both military and civilian. And it is where you have a balance of force (also known as proportionate force, which the anti-war crowd insists is the only possible legitimate amount of force), where you have the greatest potential for the greatest number of casualties because neither side ever gains an advantage or otherwise is able to compel the other side to capitulate.

Posted by bayam | September 3, 2007 12:58 PM

I think it's a legitimate point- more troops increasese the security of the country and the safety of American forces.

McCain and others tried to make this point for the first 2 years after the US invasion but Bush and Rummy didn't want to hear it. It's not only the war opponents who fail to see the light.

Posted by daytrader | September 3, 2007 2:55 PM

When AQ is on the run and has to resort to attacking civilians to lash out and maintain the validity and they cant get a foot hold and we can dump troops or ordinance on their head, we will have lesser casualties.

We are keeping them on their back foot and getting into their planning cycle, simple as that.

It's all about momentum and swinging the wrecking ball.

If you read hundreds of blogs each day like I do you are seeing the trend.

The war blogs and the imbed blogs are telling the story, the left blogs are getting desperate in their walking the line they have tried to paint, but now are having to sputter and spam about what their history has told.

The left is surging in rhetoric but it isn't getting any traction.

Now where did I put that box of popcorn.

Posted by Count to 10 | September 3, 2007 3:34 PM

I remember reading in a editorial that there were 4000 US military deaths in the first five years of the occupation of Germany. Someone recently told me that he couldn't find any reference for this. Does anybody know where to find it?

Posted by skeptical | September 3, 2007 4:00 PM

I would think that McClatchy wanted to hide that last analyst, they could have chosen not to print what he said.

It was Rumsfeld who said that if he sent more troops, it would just be more targets.

I haven't any indication that anything, MSM, Rumsfeld, Pelosi, McCain, NYT, not anything has eroded the morale of our military (even repeated and lengthened deployments).

Defeatists would point to the high Iraqi civilian deaths, the lack progress from the Iraqi government in any area, the corruption of it at all levels, the ongoing sectarian strife, the continued lack of control over the boarders, the decrease in basic services like water and electricity, and the open-ended nature of the current commitment as indications that this isn't worth the trouble. Not sure how to convince the defeatists any time soon.

I MSM is reporting that Bush says a troupe reduction is possible. Good thing, since the Secretary of Defense and the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says the current level is unsustainable.

What do you think, should we up our taxes and have a draft? Pay more for recruits? Offer bigger bonuses for re-enlistments? Up salaries across the board? Extend the already extended deployments?

Posted by Carol Herman | September 3, 2007 4:08 PM

Oh, President Bush just "dropped off in Anbar. And, Maliki had to meet him there. Proving that Maliki, a Shi'ite, could, in fact, come into a Sunni province and not get killed.

NOT GETTING KILLED will tell the story of Irak better than all the others.

Meanwhile, I hope the MSM finds itself "unable to get up" because they're dead. How dead? As dead as their beloved Castro.

Posted by Proud Kaffir | September 3, 2007 4:32 PM


The Pentagon is reporting on deaths caused by combat and is leaving out non-combat deaths (i.e accidents, suicide, etc.) Recall that at the begining of the war the media made the distiction but then decided to just go with the bigger number.

If you go to icasualties and and search the months by "cause of death", you will see that the Pentagon figures are corret.

Posted by Drew | September 3, 2007 4:53 PM

Also, it must be stated again as a clarifier, that deaths are casualties, but not all casulties are deaths.
The military counts as casualties dead, wounded, captured, and/or missing.

The use of the civilian deaths as a metric of our forces' effectiveness is pretty bogus also, since probably 95-99% of all Iraqi CIVILIAN deaths are caused by other (non-governmental) Iraqis or non-Iraqi AQ types/outside Shia forces.

We must not allow our opponents (internal), or our enemies (external) to define the scope of battle. If we do, we lose the battle of ideas.

Posted by rodt | September 3, 2007 5:26 PM

I am really hoping that this trend will continue. Also that the absurd act of tying your party's fortunes to defeat will come back to roost. One can never put partisan interests ahead of the good of a nation (at least when it is this important) and expect to succeed. It isn't over yet, but I hope people will remember ...

Posted by gaffo | September 3, 2007 7:46 PM

this "defeatist" is happy about the fewer deaths.

so the surge is working, a little.

relivance? - only if the Iraqis move toward a political solution, which they are not nor seem to be in the near future.

so, without the Iraqis stepping up the surge fails - even if militarily is suceeds. Why, because, and here is the elephant in the room Neocons, the surge is NOT sustainable after summer 08.

So what will all you apologists be posting in one years time - after the surge is gone and the Iraqis are no farther than they are right now?

Draft? - nope. no talk of that.

So what will you koolaiders be posting?

help me out here.

Posted by gaffo | September 3, 2007 7:56 PM

Rodt sayeth:

"Also that the absurd act of tying your party's fortunes to defeat will come back to roost. One can never put partisan interests ahead of the good of a nation (at least when it is this important) and expect to succeed. It isn't over yet, but I hope people will remember ..."

you lack objectivity:

1. we can easily re-write your first sentence to read:
"Also that the absurd act of tying your party's fortunes to victory will come back to roost."

2. I too can say your Party - the Repugs - are putting partisan interests above the good of the Nation. Since from my perspective the Iraqnam war is illegal, undermines the Rule of Law (as in our U.S. Constitution), has no pragmatic or valuable end-game (i.e. no link to 911 nor terrorists prior to our illegal invasion), and is costing the US treasury billions of dollars we don't have.

Afghanistan bankrupted the USSR and Iraqnam may do the same to the US - so any Party (like the Repugs) who advicate a war that will bankrupt us and has no valuable objective (let alone is unwinable) is a party placing partisanship above love of Country.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 3, 2007 8:08 PM

The left has an agenda.

When they fail, like they did with Beauchamp (at TNR), they go quiet.

But now that DePalma's movie is showing in Venice; I see how the left was building up on their agenda, to hurt our troops. Beauchamp's claims. The fake Haditha story accusing the marines of rape and murder; in spite of the fact that the case fell apart. The arab witnesses were a bunch of liars. And, troops, one after another have seen their cases dropped.

Didn't stop DePalma! Who was funded by the billionnaire from the MBA, Marc Cuban.

Anyway, the president was supposedly flying to Australia; when he detoured into Anbar; and had Maliki come and meet him there. The Shi'ite leader, safe, in a sunni stronghold.

There's so much stuff going on under the radar.

But at least on the sites I go to; there's pictures of Bush. In Irak. Now. And, the left's stories? Are not getting the kinds of traction that the left was hoping to get. Will they up their ante at Oscar time? What if it just backfires on them?

People seem to have noticed the Beauchamp story falling apart.

People, in general, who follow the news on the Internet, know that the Haditha case "fell apart." But not in the strange movie version.

Since the left has put these balls in play. And, since the left believes Americans are "weak" ... it's very possible they've misjudged the terrain? I certainly hope so.

How did our patriotism fall to this low? What did the elites think they could do? What will they eventually get away with? And, how much of the backfire can disrupt them in their own lives?

Can Hillary really morph to the point where she overcomes her negatives?

Can the GOP recover from their own leadership foibles?

Are we working on yesterday's problems? When real problems are ahead?

Stay tuned.

Posted by skeptical | September 3, 2007 9:59 PM

It sounds like your saying that Democrats are tied to the US defeat in Iraq, that they win when America loses. That's not how it works. Dems win when the GOP is horribly corrupt (abramoff, cunningham, etc.) when GOP is incompetent (Rumsfeld, Katrina), when the president pushes an idea that the more people hear it, the less it polls (privatizing Social Security). Not when America loses. Everyone was behind this president after 9/11, and everyone agreed and agrees that finishing the job in Afghanistan has been central to fight against terrorists who attacked us, and who want to attack us.

It's the squandering of resources that seems unconscionable when there are so many dangers in the world today, ignoring the unprotected nukes in the former Soviet Union, the terrorists still affiliated with AQ and bin Laden, and now the thousands of centrifuges running night and day in Iran. If and when we hit Iran, as was reported, in a three day blitz (hard to believe that three days is enough) I wouldn't want our best and brightest in basra going after punk gangs. I'd want them coordinated with the work of taking down an enemy that poses a threat to the United States.

Iraq wasn't, hasn't been, and doesn't appear to be a place that threatens the United States. Too bad we've wasted thousands of our best and brightest, and three quarters of a trillion on this.

Posted by Publius Hamilton | September 3, 2007 10:19 PM

Gaffo stated that "Afghanistan bankrupted the USSR". Hmm, please don't forget to factor in the extremely low oil prices and the arms race and subsidizing Cuba and the pathetic economy based on that that worthless ideology known as Marxism.

Gaffo, how do you expect us "Koolaiders" to take you seriously when you attempt to compare the economy of the USSR with that of the USA? Or when you think tying our fortunes to victory is absurd and therefore a losing strategy?

And just how does wanting your country to win a war make you guilty of putting partisan politics ahead of love for your country?

Talk about twisted logic.....

Posted by swabjockey05 | September 4, 2007 4:06 PM


The gabbos and Monkeyboys aren't trying to be "taken serious". They just like to see themselves "in print". Not unlike the little kid who farts in church trying to get attention.

Likewise, you can NEVER "make any points with them"...or change their simple minds on anything. I don't see why some of our Shipmates even try to "deal" with them.

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