Thursday, February 21, 2013

Iraq Still A Far Deadlier Place Than Afghanistan


Many have tried to compare Iraq and Afghanistan, but the nature of their conflicts are quite different. Afghanistan has a healthy insurgency, and is a mostly rural nation. Iraq on the other hand suffers from high levels of urban terrorism. For five of the last six years casualties in Afghanistan have increased, while Iraq’s have dropped dramatically for three years, and then increased slightly over the last two. Most would think that Afghanistan would suffer from far higher levels of violence, but in fact, Iraq’s militants have been able to take a far deadlier toll. That’s because Iraq’s large cities provide far more targets of opportunity than are available in Afghanistan.

When comparing the number of civilian deaths in the two countries, Iraq has far more than Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, there were 1,523 civilians killed in 2007, 2,118 in 2008, 2,412 in 2009, 2,790 in 2010, peaking at 3,131 in 2011, before dropping to 2,754 in 2012. Iraq Body Count recorded 25,280 deaths in 2007, 9,626 in 2008, 4,967 in 2009, 4,073 in 2010, 4,144 in 2011, and 4,568 in 2012. The numbers cannot be directly compared, because Iraq Body Count includes police fatalities, while the United Nations does not. By going through Iraq Body Count’s individual incident reports, the statistics for civilians killed in Iraq can be discerned. In 2012 for instance, there were 3,717 civilian deaths in Iraq. That was still far higher than the 2,754 seen in Afghanistan that year. The statistics for Iraq are so much higher that it can only be assumed that it is deadlier than Afghanistan. 2011 might be the only year that the two were close, because Iraq had around 1,000 more deaths then, which is roughly how many Iraqi police are killed annually. The reason why Iraq still has far higher death counts is because of the change in tactics taken by the country’s militants. After the civil war ended in 2008, the majority of the public was tired of fighting. That led to many turning on militants, which eventually ended most of the insurgency. The remnants have now increasingly turned to terrorist bombings in an attempt to undermine the government and restart the sectarian conflict. That’s shown in the fact that Iraq Body Count recorded 7.3 people killed per day in suicide or car bombings compared to 5.0 by gunfire in 2012. Iraq provides plenty of targets, because 66% of the population is urban. Afghanistan has a thriving insurgency, but the country is mostly rural. Only 23% of the population lives in cities there. Much of the fighting occurs out in the country and in small towns where the population is more spread out. Overall, there are far fewer opportunities to kill large numbers of people each year in Afghanistan than in Iraq.
 
Comparison of Deaths In Afghanistan and Iraq 2007-2012

Afghanistan Civilian Deaths
Iraq Civilian & Police Deaths
2007
1,523
25,280
2008
2,118
9,626
2009
2,412
4,967
2010
2,790
4,073
2011
3,131
4,144
2012
2,754
4,568

 
Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from different forms of violence. In Afghanistan, the insurgency is mostly fighting the government and Western forces, along with targeting public workers. In Iraq, civilians are the main victims of attacks as militants there are trying to stoke tensions amongst the Shiites to restart the civil war, and have largely given up directly confronting the police and army. Mass casualty bombings occur far more often in Iraq as a result. With large urban populations these acts of terrorism usually take a far higher toll than they do in Afghanistan. That accounts for why Iraq remains a deadlier place than Afghanistan.

SOURCES

CIA, The World Factbook

Iraq Body Count

United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, “Afghanistan civilian casualty figures drop for the first time in 6 years,” 2/19/13

1 comment:

Sean Gillen said...

I think you're forgeting the number of troops here and there. When I was in Afghanistan in 08 I was one out of 34,000. That's all forces combined including all other counties serving OEF. The taliban don't quit until the last man is killed and the terrain is unforgiving.