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December 2, 2007
Favorable Iraq security trends continue in November
U.S. military fatalities in Iraq were 37, virtually the same as October's 38, and substantially below May's peak for this year of 126. While each fatality is a tragedy and an immense sacrifice by the Troop and his or her family and friends, that sacrifice is consciously and nobly made for the security and freedom of the Republic. Is it in vain? While a reduction in fatalities of our troops does not itself define success, it is the result of the successful strategy by General Petraeus to, as von Moltke the Elder once put it, bring defeat under foot. Our fatalities can be seen in the following chart:
Iraqi military and civilian fatalities were 560 in November, down from 679 in October and down from the peak in February of this year of 3014. Note what a huge drop, what a huge improvement, this is. In percentage terms, it is a decline of 80%. Given the news of tribal awakenings in Iraq it appears that our enemies, the enemies of the Iraqi people, have suffered an irrecoverable reversal of fortune under the strategy of General Petraeus and the resoluteness of our Troops. The trend in Iraqi military and civilian fatalities can be seen in the following chart:
Are we accomplishing the mission? In military terms, this data and the narrative from Iraq certainly suggest that we are. But the security situation is the necessary, not the sufficient condition for success in Iraq. It provides the predicate for a normal society, but not the reality of it.
We must see progress on civilian services such as power and water. This is the significance of the distress flare sent up by General Odierno that we noted last week -- that the current Iraqi government is not capitalizing on the security progress. This is the next great challenge in Iraq. It requires maximum monitoring of the details of execution by the people at the very top of our government to assure that this opportunity, so dearly bought, is not squandered.