If attacks by non-state actors in Iraq are not counted, global terrorist fatalities have declined significantly, according to a study by researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada.
The Human Security Brief 2007 reports there has been a 40 percent decline in terrorist fatalities in 2006 when compared to 2001, if civilian fatalities in Iraq are excluded. SFU's assessment differs drastically from the State Department's annual terrorism report which calculated that terrorism fatalities were up 9 percent. Two-thirds of the fatalities tallied in the State Department report were attributable to the conflict in Iraq.
The report ascribes this decline to, according to Agence France Presse:
"... more widespread and coordinated counterterrorism efforts, 'bitter doctrinal infighting' within the global Islamist networks, and Muslims' rejection of terrorists' 'indiscriminate violence, extremist ideology and harshly repressive policies' for the downswing. As well, it specifically acknowledged a 'dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world' for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network."
More controversially, the study argues that the methodology used by U.S. government-funded think tanks and research organizatons is politically-motivated.
Project Director Andrew Mack argues that the the National Counterterrorism Center, the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland use inconsistent definitions of terrorism. "According to the study," reports the Associated Press, "more deaths are counted in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia, where U.S. interests are at risk, than in sub-Saharan Africa."
Mack argues further that civilian fatalities in Iraq should be counted as "war crimes" rather than victims of terrorists. The three above U.S. institutions analyzed in the report do not count civilian fatalities in Darfur, Sudan, as terrorism, Mack notes, even though events there approximate the conflict in Iraq.
James Ellis III, research and program director of MIPT, says his organization counts events in Darfur as genocide rather than terrorism.
Gary LaFree, director of START, counters that the Human Security Brief's methodology of excluding all Iraqi civilian deaths from its dataset is faulty as well, telling the AP, "I don't think anyone would dispute that there are important terrorist groups operating in Iraq."