Since the war in Iraq started 11 years ago, at least 1 soldier has lost their life each month. This brings the total number of deaths so far up to 6,650 across both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Roughly two thirds of those casualties were caused during the more recent conflict.
The number of U.S. deaths in Iraq reached its highest in November 2004, when 137 people died – which averages over 4 per day. There were 65 deaths in August 2011, the highest number in any one month in Afghanistan. (These casualty numbers are according to iCasualties, which draws its data from the Pentagon.)
“March became the first month in over a decade that no U.S. troops have died in combat.”
But, with only 14 U.S. deaths so far this year, far below the previous averages, March became the first month in over a decade that no U.S. troops have died in combat. Unfortunately, this positive news does not apply to all of America’s allies… Two soldiers who were working for the coalition forces gave their lives during the course of duty over the last month; one British soldier and one NATO soldier.
Operation Enduring Freedom commenced in 2001, with the United States military’s arrival in Afghanistan. We have been there ever since, making this the longest war in our country’s history. During this time, on top of all the fatalities, almost 20,000 servicemen and women have been wounded.
A Turning Point?
As a result, last month has marked a turning point in our military’s overseas activity. For over 10 long years, the U.S. military has been involved in conflicts in the Middle East, but as our troops prepare to pull out from Afghanistan at the end of the year, an instance of 0 deaths can only be a good thing. Could this be the beginning of the end?
Since President Obama has been in power and the U.S. military presence has been reducing, the rate of troop deaths has been steadily decreasing, too.
Furthermore, there has been a tremendous change in public attitude towards the war in Afghanistan. When it began, only 9% of the American public thought it was a mistake, while 89% did not. This has shifted to almost half the population now believing that the war was a mistake (outnumbering those who do not), as measured by a recent Gallup survey. This suggests that the recently released information that no U.S. troops lost their lives last month will be received with celebration. There is increasing support for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The Dangers are Never Far Behind
Of course, this news is bittersweet. Hearing that there has been a rare month of zero deaths for us brings both relief and respite to military families. However, just because the troops return home, it does not mean that their troubles are over. Last week, there was the shocking and tragic news of the shooting at Fort Hood, with 3 more members of our military losing their lives, albeit on home soil. Although a month with no combat deaths is a great achievement, we must never forget those for whom the ghosts of war follow them home, and those who never really leave the danger behind.
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