Monday, July 30, 2007

Afghanistan: The World's Worst Suicide Bombers?

Our thanks to TIME for uncovering an excellent essay that asks whether, statistically speaking, the Afghans are not the world's worst suicide bombers?

An excerpt from the essay shows the science and helps us understand there is more than just some black humour at play here:

'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.

These statistics also represent a uniquely Afghan phenomenon that warrants investigation. In the first portion of this study, it was demonstrated that a part of the reason for this low kill ratio lies in the Taliban's unique targeting sets (Terrorism Monitor, March 1). As Pashtuns with a strong code (Pashtunwali) that glorifies acts of martial valor and badal (revenge), the Afghan suicide bombers are more prone to hit "hard" military targets than callously obliterate innocent civilians in the Iraqi fashion. On the rare occasions where there have been high casualty bombings of Afghan civilians, they tend to have been carried out by Arab al-Qaeda bombers.'