October marked the lowest monthly death toll for American troops, 36 fatalities, since March 2006, when 31 were killed, according to icasualties.org.
American commanders credit the buildup, which reached full strength in June, with slowing sectarian bloodshed.
They say the decision to send 28,500 more troops to Iraq has made a difference by allowing them to send soldiers to live on the fault lines between Sunni Arab and Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, and to conduct sweeping offensives in provinces east and south of the capital against strongholds of Shiite Muslim militias and Sunni militants linked to foreign insurgents.
But others say that the picture is more complicated than that because those seeking to cleanse their neighborhoods of rival religious sects have largely succeeded. The civilian death toll plummeted nationwide in the last two months; the toll was 2,076 in January but 884 in September and 758 in October, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry.
“Everyone in our neighborhood is Sunni, even the birds flying above us are Sunni,” said Mohammed Azzawi, a resident of the once mixed district of Ghazaliya.
A year ago, his street was a battleground between Shiite and Sunni militants. Now it is segregated between its Shiite northern tip and its Sunni south.
Full story: Iraqi civilian deaths plunge.