Thursday, April 5, 2018

Iraq Witnessing Fewest Security Incidents Since 2003


Iraq is currently witnessing the fewest security incidents since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In 2003, there were an average of 10 to 35 incidents per day. In the first three months of 2018, there has been an average of 9 incidents. After the Islamic State seized Mosul in the summer of 2014 attacks steadily declined even before the government forces went on the offensive and liberated all of the conquered territory. There were 28 incidents per day in 2014, 23 in 2015, 20 in 2017, and 15 in 2017. At the end of that last year the Islamic State decided to switch to an insurgency rather than continue to suffer high casualties in a losing cause. That was the reason why they barely put up a fight in the last clearing operations in Ninewa and Anbar. The number of incidents has been flat since October 2017 as a result.



Avg Attacks Per Day 2003-2018
Year
Avg Attacks Per Day
2003
10-35
2004
72
2005
93
2006
150-200
2007
200
2008
28
2009
56
2010
27
2011
14
2014
28
2015
23
2016
20
2017
15
Jan-Mar 2018
9

Incidents are a better means to assess security in Iraq than casualties. First, people used to focus upon the death counts in Iraq, and not include the wounded. Since there are far more injured than killed that meant thousands of incidents went unanalyzed. Second, the number of casualties was never fully reported, and after the fall of Mosul the Abadi government censored its losses meaning they became even more incomplete. Third, more and more mass graves have been found but there’s no telling when those deaths occurred which again complicates any attempt to break down fatalities month by month. Incidents, while still not perfect because there are plenty that don’t get recorded especially in rural areas, are still a better measurement. There are plenty of attacks that result in no casualties so they provide a fuller view of insurgent activity. The type and location of incidents can also be analyzed to find out where the Islamic State is most active and the level of their operations. For instance, while incidents have been stable for the last five months the type changed in March with more confrontations with the security forces and bolder attacks such as ambushes, fake checkpoints, and the targeting of rural forces and officials. These changes show that the Islamic State has gone from its scattered hit and run attacks after its decision to give up territory and is now transitioning back to a serious insurgency which is attempting to seize control of rural areas. That would have been impossible to decipher with just looking at the casualty rates.

SOURCES

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq: Patterns of Violence, Casualty Trends and Emerging Security Threats,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2/9/11

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” 2/15/10
- “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” June 2009

Eisenstadt, Michael and White, Jeffrey, “Assessing Iraq’s Sunni Arab Insurgency,” Military Review, May-June 2006

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Security in Iraq,” United Nations

Jervis, Rick, “Attacks in Iraq jumped in 2005,” USA Today, 1/22/06

Knights, Michael, “Analysis: Iraq’s never-ending security crisis,” BBC, 10/3/13
- “The plateau: How to cope with prolonged insecurity in Iraq,” Iraq Business News, 6/20/10
- “A Violent New Year in Iraq,” The National Interest, 2/16/12

Lando, Ben, “Q&A: Security Snapshot,” Iraq Oil Report, 9/24/09

Michaels, Jim, “Bloodshed ebbs in Iraq in 2010,” USA Today, 1/11/11

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09
- “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/11
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10

UNAMI Human Rights Office and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011,” May 2012

United States Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011,” July 2012

Wong, Edward, “Constitution squeaks past strong Sunni Arab ‘no’ vote,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/26/05

Woodward, Bob, State of Denial, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Simon & Schuster, 2006

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