November's War Toll -- Lower But Still Grim
Over the same two month period, other coalition countries lost five military personnel, two in October and three in November. Overall, coalition fatalities in Iraq since March 19, 2003 stand at 4,188; of these, 3,402 were killed by hostile fire. Of the coalition total killed, 100 were women (93 U.S., six UK, and one Ukrainian). Total U.S. wounded stands at 28,451 (through October 1, 2007).
Five U.S. soldiers who have died from wounds after evacuation from the combat theatre are not counted in the Pentagon’s number. The U.S. lists another four soldiers as missing in action, and acknowledges 130 suicides.
Albeit usually underreported by the Baghdad regime, fatalities among Iraq civilians and security forces during November also have fallen sharply from just a few months ago: 460 and 84, respectively. The day-by-day breakout for November shows only five days during the month in which there were more than 30 killings and one of these days involved discovery of a mass grave of uncertain date containing 30 bodies.
Both Baghdad and Washington will not say that a “corner has been turned,” but officials cautiously suggest that the last two months have the “feel” of turning a corner.
Contributing factors include apparent Iranian cooperation with Iraqi authorities to prevent weapons and fighters from getting into Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army has gone to ground, albeit still in possession of its weaponry. U.S. troop leaders have been given more leeway in dividing their resources between combat patrols and raids and training Iraqi troops and police. With unemployment running at 60 percent and underemployment even higher, U.S. commanders are luring young men away from the insurgency by paying them more than they can get from insurgents to join what some call a local “neighborhood watch with guns” – a kind of informal militia whose loyalty may extend only as far as the dollars they get. So far, 60,000 have “joined.”
In Afghanistan, U.S. fatalities in November and fatalities for all other coalition countries were eleven each, bringing the total killed for the first eleven months of 2007 to 111 U.S. and 112 for all other coalition partners. To date, since October 8, 2001, 469 U.S. military personnel have died in Operation Enduring Freedom while allies have suffered 271 deaths. Total U.S. wounded since hostilities began to November 1 number 1,472.
Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard lost last Sunday’s general election to Kevin Rudd and his Labour Party. Rudd pledged to remove Canberra’s remaining 550 combat troops from Iraq by the end of June 2008. With the British also leaving next summer and the 900 Polish troops due to go home before the end of 2008, Bush will have to be nimble the last two to three months of his term so as not to get rundown by everyone rushing for the exits.