Monday, September 03, 2007

Iraq Combat Deaths Decline: Building a Mystery?

According to this report, U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq have declined in recent months (via Memeorandum). Here's the article's introduction:

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.

Military officials and observers are wondering whether the lower U.S. casualties are a sign of success or an indication that insurgents and militiamen simply chose a different battlefield when the Americans mounted their offensive in Iraq's capital.

"Nobody here is doing cartwheels yet," said one senior military official at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
The piece then goes on, straining to portray the drop in fatalities as a mystery, and cites a "British analyst" who argues that al Qaeda forces see U.S. patrols as "irrelevant."

Much more persuasive is this assessment:

Supporters of the troop increase say the lower casualty figures show that the larger number of troops and the counterinsurgency approach of Gen. David Petraeus, the latest U.S. commander in Iraq, have turned Iraqi citizens against armed groups, putting them on the run and fracturing them.

"The population is progressively turning to coalition and Iraqi forces and making a positive difference in bringing security to their towns, villages and neighborhoods. They are pointing out extremist leaders, identifying caches and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and asking to be a part of the legitimate Iraqi security force," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander, said last month.
Read the whole thing. No matter how one spins the numbers, the decline in combat deaths is an indicator of increasing progress toward security and victory in Iraq. Of course, the media will continue to dig for any information the supports left-wing retreatist talking points.

Thankfully, cooler heads can see through the spin.
Check Jules Crittenden's excellent (fair and balanced) analysis of these developments.

The surge is working. Yet, one would be hard-pressed to find news to that effect from the mainstream press.

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