In a stunning turnaround, Afghanistan is now a more dangerous place for U.S. troops than Iraq. The death rate for U.S. troops in Afghanistan is now nearly twice the rate for those in Iraq, according to an analysis by ABC News.
It's a good news/bad news story.
On one hand, security in Iraq has dramatically improved and as a result the number of U.S. troops killed and wounded has dropped considerably. October and November have been two of the least deadly months in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003. In fact, it's the lowest two-month total of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq in nearly three years. (Not since January-February 2004 have fewer U.S. troops died in a two-month period).
For the 23,000 Marines in Iraq, most of whom operate in Anbar province, the improvement has been especially dramatic. No Marine has been killed in combat in Iraq since Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris of Tacoma, Wash., was shot in Anbar Oct. 8 (although just a few days ago a Marine was killed in a vehicle accident).
In fact, with the month of November nearly over, not a single U.S. soldier has been killed in action in all of Anbar province.
On the other hand, the situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan. There have already been 111 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in 2007, making this the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan of the entire war.
"We are stagnating in Afghanistan, if not backsliding," a senior U.S. military official tells ABC News.
It's also the deadliest year for non-U.S. troops, by far. This year, 112 non-U.S. troops in the coalition have been killed, including 40 from Britain and 29 from Canada.
So far in November, 22 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan, 11 of them Americans. Considering that there are only 26,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, compared to over 160,000 in Iraq, the death rate is considerably higher in Afghanistan.
As for the success in Iraq, officials caution that the situation can change quickly.
"There are too many uncontrollable variables in Iraq to predict what is going to happen in the coming months," said coalition spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith.