"As of Tuesday, 20,802 troops have been treated at Landstuhl from injuries received in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," writes Ben Murray for the US military's Stars and Stripes European edition newspaper.

 

The 26 November report did not provide information on the number of military fatalities.

Nevertheless, November has been the second deadliest month for US troops in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, says the Pentagon.

At least 109 US troops have been killed in Iraq this month, about half of whom died in an offensive that began on 8 November in Falluja, according to Pentagon figures. 

In the 20-month war, only April 2004, with 135 military deaths, produced a higher monthly US death toll. 

The offensive in Falluja, a city west of Baghdad, was part of efforts to quell resistance before January's elections. 

But even as the US military said 1200 to 1600 fighters had been killed in Falluja and their operations decisively halted, fighters continued their anti-US attacks in many other cities. 

Troops reduced?

The Pentagon's latest official count, provided on Wednesday, listed 1230 US military deaths in the Iraq war. It also listed more than 9300 US troops wounded in action, more than 5000 of whom were too badly injured to return to duty, and nearly 11,500 less than the Stars and Stripes report. 

The US military says up to 1600 
fighters were killed in Falluja

More than 850 troops were reported to have been wounded in action in Falluja alone.

While Pentagon officials have hinted at the possibility of reducing US troop levels if elections go well and Iraqi security forces prove capable, officials warned not to expect any decline in violence soon.

"We are intent on trying to provide a secure and stable enough situation to be able to conduct nationwide elections in January," said air force Lieutenant-General Lance Smith, the second-most senior officer at US Central Command, responsible for military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

"Now, I will not pretend that that's not a challenge at this stage."

Attacks to continue

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier said: "No doubt attacks will continue in the weeks and months ahead, and perhaps intensify as the Iraqi election approaches. I suppose this has to be expected." 

At least 850 US soldiers were
wounded in Falluja

Opinion polls have shown the US public has been willing to stomach the continuing casualties in Iraq. 

"I think the greater problem, frankly, is going to be within the ranks of the military itself, particular the families," said defence analyst Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute, citing stress from mounting casualties, lengthy deployments and units being sent back to Iraq not long after going home. 

"We are in the process of attempting to reassert control," said Goure said. The Pentagon was initially ill prepared to fight the resistance that arose after President Saddam Hussein was swiftly toppled, he added.