Friday, July 31, 2009
July shapes up to be least deadly for U.S. in Iraq
Military grows hopeful about Iraq Associated Press July 31, 2009 BAGHDAD — July is on track to be the least deadly month for American troops and one of the quietest for Iraqis since the war started, a decline in violence that has led the U.S. to consider stepping up its withdrawal plans just a month after pulling its combat forces back from Baghdad and other cities. The optimism was tempered by two bombings that killed 12 civilians to the north and west of Baghdad on Thursday. While such attacks have become a daily fact of life for Iraqis, overall violence levels remain low. At least 274 Iraqis have been killed in attacks so far in July, according to an Associated Press count. Only two months - both this year - have seen fewer Iraqis killed since the AP began tracking war-related fatalities in May 2005. There were 242 deaths in January and 225 deaths in May. Only seven U.S. troop deaths have been recorded this month, the lowest monthly total since the war started in March 2003, according to an AP tally. In all, at least 4,329 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war. By contrast, July was the bloodiest month for U.S. forces in the eight-year Afghan war, with at least 41 dead. The encouraging numbers from Iraq came a month after the Americans turned over responsibility for protecting cities to government forces and withdrew to bases outside urban areas. A spike in bombings and other attacks that killed about 300 people in the 10 days leading up to the June 30 city withdrawal deadline sparked concern that the move would jeopardize security gains. But that level of violence did not continue into July. Jim Dobbins, director of national security research at RAND Corp., said the relatively smooth transition was one reason for Wednesday's remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. may speed up its withdrawal plans if the trend toward reduced violence continues.