The casualty rates continue to drop in Iraq across the board, according to USA Today. The number of deaths from all causes among American troops hit its lowest level since March 2006 despite aggressive tactics in fighting terrorists and insurgents in Iraq:
The number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq is headed for the lowest level in more than a year and a half and the fifth consecutive monthly decline.
Twenty-seven Americans have been killed in action in October, with one day left in the month, Pentagon records show. That would be the lowest monthly level since March 2006, when 27 servicemembers died in hostile action, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon reports.
The total number of U.S. deaths, including accidents, in October so far is 35, records show.
A new strategy, backed up by 30,000 more U.S. servicemembers, has led to a decline in violence and weakened al-Qaeda, commanders say. The U.S. military started building combat outposts and moving troops outside major bases earlier this year in an attempt to provide more security. ….
All measurable violence in the Baghdad area, including attacks on civilians and sectarian murders, have declined steadily since June, he said. The overall number of monthly attacks in the Baghdad area was 2,455 in January. In October, there were 598 attacks.
“What’s done that is the people,” Campbell said. The military’s counterinsurgency doctrine says rebellions are defeated when the population turns away from insurgents.
The violence in Baghdad has dropped 80%. American casualties have hit successively lower numbers and even with an extended footprint have dropped to eighteen-month lows. Osama bin Laden has begun issuing desperate pleas for Islamists to get past their divisions, as the native insurgents turn on the foreigners for their brutality.
Those developments may not mean victory, but they mean progress.
It also puts lie to the assertion that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been either a mirage or overblown as the prime drivers of the violence in Iraq. Their rapid dissipation from the field has delivered a very large impact on violence across the nation, showing that they had been the main provocateurs behind the 2006 debacle. If they had as little influence over events as some now claim, we would see a much lower level of improvement from the surge which clearly prioritized AQI as its first target.
We need to maintain the pressure on both the terrorists and the Maliki government. Baghdad needs to start engaging the Sunnis and the Kurds and develop the structures and processes that will bind the nation together. That will have a direct impact on the cohesiveness of their security forces, which have played a larger role in holding cleared territory during the surge. The opportunity for a stable, unified Iraq has never been better.
UPDATE: Victory Caucus notes the handover of Karbala Province to the Iraqi Army. This is the eighth of 18 provinces to come under the complete control of the Iraqi government and its security forces. Again, this isn’t victory — but it’s progress.