Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Terror index: Iraq down, but Afghanistan and Pakistan red-hot

March 7, 2010
A U.S.military convoy in southern Afghanistan

A U.S.military convoy in southern Afghanistan

Iraqis  are voting today for a new parliament and despite the bombings in the run-up to the election, the over-all trend is down, according to the Brookings Institution. Not so in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, America ‘s other war, which remains red-hot according to a country index that the Washington-based thinktank  puts out for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The index is a statistical compilation of economic, puiblic opinion and security data.

It’s quite instructive just to look at the numbers in the three  countries. Weekly violent incidents in Iraq are  about 90 percent less frequent than in the months just before the surge.  Violent deaths from the vestiges of war are in the range of 100 to 200 civilians a month, meaning that mundane Iraqi crime is probably now a greater threat to most citizens than politically-motivated violence, Brookings says in its latest update.

Afghanistan is a different story. In terms of raw violence, the situation is at a historic worst level, with early 2010 levels of various types of attacks much higher than even last year at this time. Some of it is because of the offensive in Marjah in Helmand province and the deployment of U.S. and Afghan troops to parts of the country where they were previously not present,  triggering a militant response.

By way of comparison, the rate of attacks in Afghanistan countrywide is now more than double the level seen in Iraq, the Brookings data shows. The number of civilian deaths is similar, though, mostly because the militants in Afghanistan target security forces  more than civilians. A renewed drive by  U.S. and NAT’O commander General Stanley McChyrstal to adjust war strategy to avoid civilian deaths at all costs may also be making a difference.

Pakistan presents a similar picture  in terms of recent  trends and dynamics, the index shows. “Viewing all the data, the bottom line is continued improvement in Iraq, and more fighting in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater,” Brookings said summing up the results of study.

Indeed, militants based in Pakistan, despite the security forces’  successful ground offensive in South Waziristan and a spate of arrests of top leaders of the Taliban, remain a clear and present danger to the world outside,  according to another study by the New America Foundation.  

Paul Cruickshank, an investigative researcher focused on al Qaeda, says that in  the majority of the 21 ‘serious’ terrorist plots against the west since 2004, plotters either received direction from or trained with al-Qaeda or its allies in Pakistan.  Here’s a PDF of his study.

 Despite growing concerns over Yemen, it is Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and swaths of the country’s northwest that remain the main sanctuary  for al Qaeda and a training ground for anyone launching a career in terrorism,  Cruickshank says.

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