Thats where this article was placed in the print edition of the USA Today today...but if a suicide bomber attacked you can be sure it would have been Page 1A;
U.S. deaths in Iraq lowest since March 2006
General: All Baghdad-area violence falling since June
By Jim Michaels
The number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq is headed for the lowest level in more than a year and a half and the fifth consecutive monthly decline.
Twenty-seven Americans have been killed in action in October, with one day left in the month, Pentagon records show. That would be the lowest monthly level since March 2006, when 27 servicemembers died in hostile action, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon reports.
The total number of U.S. deaths, including accidents, in October so far is 35, records show.
A new strategy, backed up by 30,000 more U.S. servicemembers, has led to a decline in violence and weakened al-Qaeda, commanders say. The U.S. military started building combat outposts and moving troops outside major bases earlier this year in an attempt to provide more security.
That strategy led to higher U.S. casualties in the spring, as the new troops moved into areas that had been insurgent sanctuaries. Combat deaths in April and May were the highest for a two-month period since the war started in March 2003, records show.
More recently, casualties have declined as security has been established. "I think we've turned the corner," Brig. Gen. John Campbell, an assistant commander for the U.S. division in Baghdad, said Tuesday in an interview from Iraq.
All measurable violence in the Baghdad area, including attacks on civilians and sectarian murders, have declined steadily since June, he said. The overall number of monthly attacks in the Baghdad area was 2,455 in January. In October, there were 598 attacks.
"What's done that is the people," Campbell said. The military's counterinsurgency doctrine says rebellions are defeated when the population turns away from insurgents.
An initiative to persuade Sunnis to join Iraq's security forces and protect their neighborhoods has won over thousands, many of whom were former insurgents.
The initiative, which began in Anbar province, a largely Sunni area west of the capital, has spread elsewhere in Iraq and now also includes Shiite groups.
The Multi-National Division-Central, based south of Baghdad, said 23,000 citizens have pledged to oppose al-Qaeda. Most will join security forces or get public works jobs, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the division.
That has led to improved intelligence, as former insurgents and citizens have provided tips, the U.S. military says.
Some U.S. commanders have complained that Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has not fully supported efforts to bring the citizens into Iraq's security forces, a key element in winning over former insurgents and others.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, who recently completed a tour as commander of Multi-National Division-North, accused Iraq's Interior Ministry of "foot-dragging" in not moving quicker to hire an additional 6,000 police in Diyala province, north of the capital.
Despite the increase in security, U.S. commanders are reluctant to recommend accelerating the withdrawal of U.S forces beyond what is already planned, fearful of jeopardizing hard-fought gains.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has said U.S. troop levels will return to pre-"surge" levels, about 130,000 U.S. servicemembers, by next summer.
There hasn't been a decision beyond that.
"Until I get to the point where I've got a sustained security presence, I'm going to be reluctant to withdraw any forces," Lynch said.
"We fought to take over those 39 patrol bases," Lynch said, referring to outposts established in his division's area. "We're not giving that ground back until we have a sustained security presence. That's just going to take some time."
"Declaring victory … would be naive," he said. "I don't think we're at the point."