- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
The Global Terrorism Index, a report released today by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace, tracks terrorist attacks in 158 countries between 2002 and 2011 and paints and interesting and at times surprising picture of post-9/11 terrorism.
For instance, there’s the dispiriting fact that the two countries where the United States launched wars in the name of fighting terrorism early in the last decade went on to account for more than one third of terrorist incidents during this period. More than a third of all victims between 2002 and 2011 were Iraqi and the biggest global rise in terrorism occurred between 2005 and 2007, which the authors attribute primarily to events in Iraq.
While only 31 of the countries surveyed experience no terrorist attacks, violence was highly concentrated with just ten countries accounting for 87 percent of attacks:
North America was the region least likely to experience terrorism during this period — Western Europe suffered 19 times more deaths — and with notable exceptions like the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, most U.S. terrorism is not tied to Islamic extremists or international groups:
“The attacks in the U.S. during the 2002-2011 period were predominately of a ‘domestic’ nature and mainly committed by environmentalists, animal activists, racists, and anti-abortion activists.”
As is usually the case with these reports, defining what counts as a terrorist attack or a terrorist fatality is a bit tricky — and at times a little misleading. According to the report, the deadliest single terrorist attack in the last decade — deadlier than Madrid, Beslan, Tal Afar, and Mumbai — was a little-remembered attack by Maoist rebels on a Nepalese army barracks in 2004. The vast majority of the 518 fatalities in that attack were the rebels themselves.
The good news in the study is that the number of attacks seems to have leveled out since peaking in 2007. The bad news is that there were will still more than four times more attacks in 2011 than in the first full year of the war on terrorism.