The Taliban Has Overtaken ISIS as the World’s Top Terror Group
Policy + Politics

The Taliban Has Overtaken ISIS as the World’s Top Terror Group

© Stringer Afghanistan / Reuter

The number of terrorist attacks across the world dropped last year, the first dip since 2012, the State Department reported in its annual terrorism survey released last week. The drop, which translated to 14 percent fewer terrorism-related deaths, was attributed to fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Underlying the positive news, though, were some still-disturbing trends. ISIS continues to be a significant threat. Iran remains the “foremost state sponsor” of terrorism. And several countries saw increases in attacks and deaths, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey.

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Overall, 11,774 terrorist attacks took place worldwide last year, up from 423 in 2000 and 11,53 in 2005. Last year’s attacks caused 28,300 deaths and 35,300 injuries.

The terrorist threat is becoming increasingly decentralized, the report said, and non-state groups such as ISIS have been filling the void in areas where weak governance is the norm.

While the Taliban was responsible for more attacks in 2015, ISIS remains the group responsible for the greatest number of deaths, as you can see in the chart below. ISIS maintains strength in Iraq and Syria, and allied groups are active in west Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Though ISIS was responsible for 31 percent fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq, the number of attacks the group carried out in Syria actually increased by 39 percent.

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“Terrorist groups continued to exploit an absence of credible and effective state institutions,” the report said.

While Iran’s ranking as the top terrorism sponsor was expected, it may prompt some renewed calls for explanations in light of the Obama administration’s moves, including the landmark nuclear deal, to bring Iran back into the fold of the international community.

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The State Department also identified Sudan and Syria as sponsors of terrorism. North Korea was not included on the list, though, despite calls from lawmakers to have the country relisted. The report also highlighted the need for Saudi Arabia to modernize its educational curriculum, and for Pakistan to take further action against terror groups operating inside its territory. Cuba did not appear on the list for the first time since 1982 after having been removed last May as part of the Obama administration’s effort to normalize relations between the U.S. and Havana.