By Charles Levinson - USA Today
Posted : Friday Oct 31, 2008 6:51:45 EDT
BAGHDAD — October could be the first month of the Iraq war when no U.S. service members will have died in combat in Baghdad.
As of Thursday, the Pentagon had reported 13 U.S. troops killed in combat and non-combat incidents this month in Iraq. If the number holds, it would tie July for the lowest monthly U.S. death toll of the 5-year-old war.
Security has improved in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere thanks to truces by sectarian militias, more effective U.S. counterinsurgency strategies, and a dramatic increase in the size and effectiveness of Iraqi forces.
Militant groups such as al-Qaida have shifted their base to Afghanistan, where U.S. fatalities in October were higher than those in Iraq for the second consecutive month.
“What you’re seeing is a migration of the extremists from one area to the other,” said Navy Capt. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is responsible for both Iraq and Afghanistan. “They’re not having the success that they had in Iraq, and they’re looking for other places to go.”
Fifteen U.S. troops had died in Afghanistan in October, as of Thursday, all from enemy fire. There are about one-third as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan as in Iraq.
“The main U.S. effort has been in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, we’ve been trying to tread water and buy time until we have the resources to devote there,” said Nathan Fick, a retired Marine officer and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
The U.S. will start shifting resources next month when 2,000 Marines originally set to deploy to Iraq will be sent to Afghanistan. In January, the Army will reroute 3,700 soldiers to Afghanistan.
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