Michael Chertoff told Congress this week that the United States is “unequivocally” safer from terrorist attacks than it was six years ago. As we approach the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, conservatives continue to make the claim that the war in Iraq has increased the safety of U.S. citizens at home and abroad. But the war in Iraq has distracted attention and diverted resources away from fight against global terrorism.
In fact, 91 percent of foreign policy experts surveyed by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy for the newest version of the Terrorism Index say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and the United States. Eighty-four percent of those experts do not believe the United States is winning the war on terror, and almost all—92 percent—agree that the war in Iraq is negatively affecting U.S. security.
The number of terrorist attacks—defined as an act of violence, or the threat of violence, calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm—has risen dramatically worldwide since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate from September 2006 cited the Iraq war as a major factor in this startling rise in global jihadist terrorist attacks.
According to the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006, there was a 29 percent increase in terrorism worldwide in 2006 from 2005; terrorist attacks on nonmilitary targets rose globally to 14,338 in 2006 from 11,153 in 2005, with an increase in deaths to 20,498 from 14,618. This increase was due to a doubling (91 percent increase) of terrorist attacks against noncombatants in Iraq from 2005 to 2006, and a 53 percent increase in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.
A study conducted by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, research fellows at the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, found that there was a 607 percent rise in the average yearly incidence of attacks (28.3 attacks per year before and 199.8 after) since the Iraq invasion. When Iraq and Afghanistan, which together account for 80 percent of attacks and 67 percent of fatalities, were excluded, there was still a 35 percent per year increase in the number of jihadist terrorist attacks.
Using the Memorial Institute for Prevention of Terrorism and the RAND Corporation’s Terrorism Knowledge Base, CAP has compiled a map of terrorist attacks directly linked to or claimed by Al Qaeda in the past 10 years. The points are representative of only a small fraction of attacks by jihadist groups. But the story it tells is one of a sharp increase in global terrorism in the years since 9/11 and especially since the Iraq invasion.
Because of the overwhelming number of events in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have not included every single attack in those countries. Instead, you can click on the country for a summary of Al Qaeda activity.
The blue markers on the map denote Al Qaeda attacks before September 11, 2001, yellow markers are events between 9/11 and the Iraq invasion, and the red ones mark attacks after the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. Click the icons for more information on each incident. Click and drag the map to see different regions, and zoom in for more specific locations.
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MIPT/RAND Terrorism Knowledge Base
The Associated Press
The New York Times
All images by the Associated Press
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