Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Iraq Still A Deadlier Place Than Afghanistan

In the West, Afghanistan has garnered far more press than Iraq in recent years. The deployment of additional troops under President Obama, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq were the two main causes. The media made it appear that Afghanistan was a far deadlier conflict than Iraq, which no longer has a full blown insurgency, and suffers more from a very serious terrorist threat. Statistics just released by the United Nations however, show that far more people died in Iraq in 2011 than in Afghanistan.

The United Nations just released an end of the year report on violence in Afghanistan for 2011. The paper, put together by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Assistance Mission In Afghanistan counted 3,021 civilian deaths last year. That was the fifth year in a row that casualties had gone up in the country. In 2010, 2,790 were killed, and in 2009, 2,412. Last year, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the deadliest weapon used in the conflict, accounting for 32% of all deaths. After that, 495 were killed in targeted assassinations, and another 450 died from suicide bombers. That showed that militants in the country were using more standoff weapons, and going after specific members of the security forces and government rather than participating in large-scale operations involving many fighters.

(Iraq Body Count)

Iraq had far higher numbers for the last three years. Iraq Body Count, which is widely regarded as the most accurate compiler of casualties in the country had 4,087 deaths in 2011, followed by 4,045 in 2010, and 4,713 in 2009. Even averages of Iraq Body Count, the United Nations, and the Iraqi government resulted in higher figures than were seen in Afghanistan. In 2011 for instance, there was an average of 3,244 deaths, and in 2010, an average of 4,204. Based upon the Iraq Body Count figures, more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq last year than Afghanistan. In total, Iraq had 35% more casualties in 2011. In 2009, the numbers were even starker with just under twice as many people killed in Iraq as in Afghanistan. The two countries are also a good comparison, because they have roughly the same populations. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, Afghanistan had an estimated 29,835,392 people in 2011, compared to 30,399,572 in Iraq. 

The numbers show that while the Afghan insurgency has grown deadlier, it is not as effective as the militants in Iraq who are in decline. Iraq no longer has a civil war or even a brewing insurgency. Like in Afghanistan, most attacks in Iraq today are IEDs or car bombs. Militants and security forces hardly ever face each other, and insurgents can no longer operate openly as they once did with parades and videos made in the streets of large cities. Afghanistan on the other hand, has large swaths where militants can operate, plus safe havens in Pakistan, and the support of the military there. What Iraq has is a more urban culture, which provides far more targets than rural Afghanistan. It is much easier in Iraq for instance, to plant a bomb in a high-density area, and get large casualty figures than it is in Afghanistan. For that reason, Iraq is likely to continue to be a deadlier place than Afghanistan into the foreseeable future, despite the decline of the insurgency there.


CIA World Factbook

Iraq Body Count

United Nations Assistance Mission In Afghanistan, “UNAMA PRESS RELEASE: Civilian casualties rise for fifth consecutive year in Afghan conflict,” 2/4/12

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