BAGHDAD – The monthly U.S. toll in Iraq fell to its lowest point since the war began, with 11 American deaths as July drew to a close Thursday after the departure of the last surge brigade.
Iraqis also are dying at dramatically lower numbers. July saw the lowest civilian toll since December 2005, though a series of suicide bombings this week and rising ethnic tensions in northern Iraq reflect the fragility of the security successes.
An Associated Press tally shows at least 510 Iraqi civilians and security force members were killed in July, a 75 percent drop from the 2,021 deaths in the same period last year as the U.S. troop buildup aimed at quelling rampant Sunni-Shiite violence was nearing its peak.
“The key mission for the United States looking forward is to maintain the cease-fires and prevent people from going back to the warpath,” said Stephen Biddle, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised the U.S. military command in Iraq.
“Their purpose in Iraq is increasingly changing from fighting a war to keeping a peace,” he said.
Altogether, 11 American fatalities were recorded in July, including six from non-hostile causes. The bodies of two American soldiers missing after an attack last year were also found. There were 29 deaths in June. By contrast, July 2007 saw 80 deaths, according to AP figures.
“There is a reason to hope that it’s going to stay very low,” Biddle said.