As the US approaches its end-of-year deadline for withdrawing all troops from Iraq, August saw a milestone: It was the first month since the US-led invasion began in March 2003 that saw no American military deaths. The previous record was one soldier death in December 2010, and a military spokesperson notes that there have been two other months that saw no hostile deaths—but did see at least one non-combat death, “which includes accidents or illness,” she tells AFP. Since the invasion began, 4,474 American troops have died.
In a sad twist, August’s record was set after July set the record for the most deadly month in three years, with 14 troops killed. It also came as suicide bombings and other sectarian violence killed hundreds of Iraqis in August. The New York Times notes that the drop in American deaths can be attributed to the Iraqis cracking down on Shiite militias backed by Iran and the US undertaking aggressive unilateral strikes. US-Iraq negotiations over whether to leave any American troops there past the year-end deadline may also have played a role. Despite Iraq’s public insistence that all troops withdraw, the government as well as the militias, al-Qaeda, and Sunni insurgents would all benefit somewhat if some troops remained—and that prospect will be easier to “sell” to the public if fewer troops are dying.