Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard in front of the US embassy in the capital Baghdad on January 2, 2020.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye | AFP | Getty Images
Global terrorism claimed less lives in 2018, but its economic and social impact remains widespread, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index (GTI) from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
“Although the intensity of terrorism has diminished, its breadth has not,” the Australian-based think tank warned.
The total number of deaths from terrorism declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, falling by 15.2% on the year to 15,952 — a 53% reduction since its peak in 2014.
The primary driver of the reduction in deaths has been a fall in the intensity of conflict in the Middle East, and military successes against terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.
However, the report adds that terrorism remains a widespread problem and a major global threat — costing the global economy a conservative estimate of more than $34 billion in 2018.
“This is the second worst year on record for the number of countries suffering at least one death, and highlights the need for continued assertive international action to combat terrorism,” the report said.
“The international community has been very good at taking away the capabilities of terrorist groups to harm and commit their attacks, but the ideology, root cause and the grievances for international terrorism are still there,” Serge Stroobants, director for MENA and Europe at IEP told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”
“What we have seen over the past 20 years is, of course, acts of Western foreign policy and Western intervention have had an impact on the level of terrorism in different regions of the world,” he added, as tensions soar in the Middle East and questions linger about America’s military presence in Iraq and its broader strategy in the region.
Afghanistan, Iraq were world’s deadliest countries in 2018
Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terror-related deaths and incidents for the second consecutive year, with more than 7,000 fatalities and 1,400 terrorist incidents in 2018.
“Afghanistan has witnessed a substantial escalation in violence owing to a strengthened Taliban insurgency, increased presence of the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State, and ongoing political stability,” the report said.
The 2018 report also saw the Taliban overtake ISIS as the world’s deadliest terror group, accounting for 38% of total global deaths. The report said almost 40,000 people have been killed in terror-related incidents in Afghanistan since 2001.
Iraq, whose Parliament recently voted to expel U.S. troops from the country, has been on top of the index for the past 16 years. The country fell to second place in 2018.
“We have seen a decrease by 70% in the amount of people getting killed by terrorism in Iraq last year, while in Afghanistan it was a movement upwards,” Stroobants said.
The number of deaths in Iraq fell from 4,271 in 2017 to 1,054 in 2018 — marking a 75% decrease. Despite this, more than 66,000 people have died in terror-related incidents in Iraq since 2001.