U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class David Hedge from Bealeton, Va., front, and fellow soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment are bathed in rotor wash moments after arriving by Blackhawk helicopter for an operation to disrupt weapons smuggling in Istaqlal, north of Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 8, 2011.
By Petra Cahill, msnbc.com
For the first time since the U.S. launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003, an entire month has passed without one U.S. soldier losing his life on Iraqi soil, according to the U.S. Department of Defense
The independent group icasualties.org, which counts U.S. fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan on a monthly basis, first reported that there were zero deaths in August and an Associated Press tally found the same. The Department of Defense confirmed the reports to NBC News.
It’s a grim marker, but a positive change for U.S. forces in Iraq who have suffered a total of 4,477 casualties since the invasion began, according to Defense Department figures.
It’s also a welcome development since June had been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years after militants ramped up attacks on American forces and 15 troops were killed.
President Barack Obama declared an end to the combat phase of U.S. involvement in Iraq a year ago on Aug. 31, 2010, but approximately 48,000 U.S. troops remain in the country. The remaining troops were expected to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year. But Iraq may request that some troops remain to continue training Iraqi security forces beyond the end of 2011.
Unfortunately, as the U.S. draws close to marking the 10-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the news from Afghanistan is not so rosy.
August was actually the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan – 67 U.S. troops were killed. That surpassed the previous record of 65 killed in July 2010, according to tallies by both icasualties.org and the AP.
NBC News’ Courtney Kube contributed to this report.