Iraq

Fewer American Dead Points To Possible "True Trend," Says Top General

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From the AP via Cincy Enquirer:

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top day-to-day U.S. commander in Iraq, also expressed cautious optimism over a decline in the number of American troops killed this month. At least 60 U.S. troops have died so far in July after the death toll topped 100 for the previous three months, according to an Associated Press tally based on military statements.

Odierno said it appeared that casualties had increased as fresh U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds as part of the five-month-old security operation aimed at clamping off violence in the capital, but were going down as the Americans gained control of the areas.

"We've started to see a slow but gradual reduction in casualties and it continues in July," he said at a joint news conference with Iraqi military commander Maj. Gen. Abboud Qanbar. "It's an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it's a true trend."

More here. How much more time is necessary to know if the trend line really is going down, Odierno doesn't say, but he notes "noted a 'significant improvement' in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone."

Here's cause for pause regarding any optimism (besides the fact that July isn't over yet): In 2005 and 2006, U.S. military casualties dipped significantly during the month of July before ramping up again:

Military Fatalities: By Month
PeriodUSUKOther*TotalAvgDays
7-20076171692.6526
6-2007101701083.630
5-2007126321314.2331
4-20071041211173.930
3-20078110822.6531
2-20078131853.0428
1-20078330862.7731
12-2006112121153.7131
11-20067062782.630
10-2006106221103.5531
9-20067232772.5730
8-20066510662.1331
7-20064312461.4831
6-20066102632.130
5-20066991792.5531
4-20067615822.7330
3-20063102331.0631
2-20065530582.0728
1-20066220642.0631
12-20056800682.1931
11-20058411862.8730
10-20059621993.1931
9-20054930521.7330
8-20058500852.7431
7-20055431581.8731
6-20057814832.7730
5-20058026882.8431

More on that here.