August 1 Update: This post has been revised to reflect July's final death toll of 13, per icasualties.org (8 hostile and 5 non-hostile).
NB readers should know that upcoming news reports about casualties in Iraq are probably going to understate how much US casualties relating to events that actually occurred during July declined.
AFP appears to be the only wire service reporting this at the moment, and it confirms my expectations. The report oddly acts as if the month is over in Iraq, even though roughly 11 hours remained (less than eight remain now) until July's official conclusion when its brief report appeared.
Here is AFP's beginning:
Eleven US soldiers were killed in Iraq in July, the lowest monthly toll since the US-led invasion of 2003, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.
The deadliest month was in November 2004, when 137 American troops were killed, an independent toll by icasualties.org showed. The previous low was in May when 19 soldiers were killed.
Iraq has seen a downward trend in violence since the middle of last year, although bloodshed spiked in March and April during clashes between Shiite militiamen and coalition security forces.
Since the AFP report went to press, the official US troop death toll has risen to 13, according to icasualties.org. Though zero would of course be ideal, this is great news.
But there are at least three important points I expect media reporting to miss or to underemphasize about July's results.
First, the official number of deaths from hostile enemy actions is tied for the lowest number ever, going all the way back to the first full calendar month after the fall of Baghdad (to replicate, go to this link at icasualties.org and select "hostile"):
Second, three of the July deaths from hostile action occurred as a result of events that occurred before July 2008. The Department of Defense reported yesterday that Marine Staff Sgt. Faoa L. Apineru, 31, of Yorba Linda, Calif. (RIP, soldier) , died July 2, 2007, from wounds sustained in combat support. It was originally thought that he had not died from injuries sustained during his deployment, but a subsequent investigation determined otherwise. Additionally, two soldiers who had been missing since May 2007 after being kidnapped, Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, of Waterford, Michigan, (RIP, gentlemen), were found during July.
(ADDED August 1) There was also one non-hostile death in July 2008 unrelated to current military operations. Aviation Boatswain Mate Third Class Petty officer Daniel R. Verbeke, 25, of Exton, Penn. (RIP, soldier), died July 14 in Paoli, Penn. of complications from injuries he suffered in a flight deck accident in December 2005.
This means that there were actually just five US troop deaths relating to hostile enemy action during July, and that the total US troop death toll in July relating to current operations was really nine (five hostile and four non-hostile). July 2008 was without a doubt the safest month to be a soldier serving the USA in Iraq since hostilities began.
Third, it isn't just that July was the safest single month ever for US soldiers in Iraq. If the situation holds for another eight hours, the two-, three-, and six-month periods ending July 31 will also have been the safest ever, by far (the three prior-period deaths noted earlier are included in these totals):
Iraqi Security Force and civilian deaths in July, currently at 393 per icasualties.org (the final count came in at 402), also came in at an all-time-low since the site began tracking these results in January 2006.
As noted earlier, I don't expect Old Media reporting to pick up many, or even any, of these important points. That is why I have posted them here. They serve to further demonstrate the remarkable job our troops have done to stabilize Iraq, train Iraq's own troops, and largely eliminate or marginalize the enemy.
But what about Afghanistan? I'm going to wait to see how the wire services and others cover July results before dealing with that.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.