Viewing conflicts through the eye of Counterinsurgency COIN – Since 2007
Suicide bombing statistics from Afghanistan alarmingly demonstrate that, if the current trend continues, 2007 will surpass last year in the number of overall attacks. While there were 47 bombings by mid-June 2006, there have been approximately 57 during the same period this year. Compounding fears of worse carnage to come, Afghanistan’s most lethal single suicide bombing attack to date recently took the lives of 35 Afghan police trainers near Kabul. When considering the expanding use of IEDs and the discovery of the first Iraqi-style Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) in Afghanistan in May (i.e. a more deadly form of IED that has killed high numbers of soldiers in Iraq), it is understandable that critics of the war in Afghanistan discuss it in alarmist tones. Approximately 80% of U.S. casualties in Iraq come from IEDs, and members of the U.S. and Afghan military who were interviewed for this study believed that the absence of mass casualty suicide bombings and EFPs were the two factors that made Afghanistan less dangerous than Iraq. A deeper investigation of the wave of suicide bombings that have swept the country in 2006 and 2007 paints a less bleak picture.
Missing the Target
An analysis of the attacks carried out in the last two years reveals a curious fact. In 43% of the bombings conducted last year and in 26 of the 57 bombings traced in this study up to June 15, the only death caused by the bombing was that of the bomber himself. Astoundingly, approximately 90 suicide bombers in this two year period succeeded in killing only themselves. This number exceeds 100 when you factor in those who succeeded in killing only one person in addition to themselves. There was one period in the spring of 2006 (February 20 to June 21) when a stunning 26 of the 36 suicide bombers in Afghanistan (72%) only killed themselves. This puts the kill average for Afghan suicide bombers far below that of suicide bombers in other theaters of action in the area (Israel, Chechnya, Iraq and the Kurdish areas of Turkey). Such unusual bomber-to-victim death statistics are, of course, heartening for both coalition troops—who have described the Afghan suicide bombers as “amateurs”—and the Afghan people—who are usually the victims of the clumsy bombings.
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