Small Wars Journal

2015 Global Terrorism Index

2015 Global Terrorism Index

A comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last 15 years with a special emphasis on 2014.

Read the full report.



Sat, 11/28/2015 - 2:30pm


Very well said. Our task would be much easier if they were more driven by ideology - whether it be Islamic or Jeffersonian but unfortunately it is much more complex than that - as you succinctly described it. One behavioral aspect I would add to your definitive list is mental illness. It afflicts a small number but it unexpectedly revealed to me the global reach of the enemy and the societal collective from where many of their regular recruits are drawn from.

I am not an advocate of the ‘they’re all crazy’ school of observation and IMHO that explanation defeats us at every turn. As a whole many of them are smarter than us and certainly more resourceful – especially when it comes to leadership – but the ‘crazies’ do have an important vote especially when suicide tasks are handed down.

The level of mental illness covered the whole spectrum. Some where very obvious but they tended to be natives of the TO. Within the majority the affliction was more subtle (not in a mental sense but in physical character) and took some time to identify their condition. The simple reason was that they where foreigners and they needed to get thru international airports, border crossings etc. and as such had to appear ‘normal.

The groups I dealt with all had an Arab minder but it was if the Fruitcake had trawled the underpasses, homeless shelters, juvenile offender institutions of the world. Somali’s, Sudanese, French, Brits, Germans and Americans. Almost none of them could read, write or speak Arabic. It was concentration of such a worldwide place of birth that was striking.

Most communications among themselves was in broken English which helped our cause. Very few of them had any military training before the Fruitcake got their hands on them.

The one advantage the presence of such individuals is they are not as astute at covering their tracks as their more clever colleagues and as such you can follow their travels back to their place of origin. This inherent aspect leads you back to the place inhabited by the people you have described so well.

Whether it be New York, LA, London, Paris or Brussels when you reach where these folks began their fatal journey you find yourself immersed in a large pool of disenfranchised youth. Petty criminals, unemployed, drug addicted, disillusioned, sexually ambiguous, bored etc. etc. – the atypical disruptive portion of youth culture that exists everywhere – whether New York or small town South Dakota.

And in the third world the proportion of under-25s is expanding as rapidly as the first worlds’ is shrinking.

Hence the importance of your POV.


<blockquote>No mention of Islam, culture, or religion. If you accept the logic here you might think that jihad is another form of extreme sport.</blockquote>
I wouldn't completely throw out that explanation. I found the AQ foreign fighter survey results compelling...those seeking an identity, revenge, or status (thrill-seeking was a pale fourth). The three are related in plenty of ways. I think they painted a pretty accurate picture. In some places, it's under-occupied, bored, and not internally-motivated young adults getting sucked in by true believers presenting the chance to belong to something powerful and leave their mark on history. In others, particularly where the violence is concentrated, it's simply joining the gang you think will protect you and yours. That's not a unique profile to Islamic terrorists -- it fits terrorists (or for that matter, cult members) throughout much of modern history. Late 19th/early 20th century nationalists and Marxists, revived again in the '60s and '70s with some racial conflict thrown in. Radical Sunni Islam is just the latest cause, and there's nothing to say it's more or less persistent than any other reason people fight. Existing Sunni Muslims may be more predisposed to join the cause if they fit one of the models, but there are enough converts in the foreign fighter stream to question whether religion is a primary motivator...more like a just a ticket into the party.

<blockquote>...Sander's meme which postulates a correlation between ISIS and global warming</blockquote>
Well, at least a correlation between some effects of global warming and vulnerability to terrorism. Certainly the increasing migration of the world's population to coastal urban areas -- producing concentrations of people dependent on government-supported infrastructure and services -- and some effects of warming -- sea level rise, reduction or redistribution of fresh water supplies, and climate-driven changes to crop distributions and yields -- will result in plenty of economic and social chaos. Those concentrations where people are under-employed, and infrastructure and services are insufficient and unstable are ripe for exploitation by groups promising to improve the lives of the downtrodden by purging some group of scapegoats. Doesn't matter if the motivation is political, economic, or religious...they've all be used before, and they'll all be used again.

G. Murphy Donovan

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 9:08am

Great statistics, but causality and conclusions drawn from same are the same shopworn kit; to wit: youth, unemployment, education, lack of inclusion or "engagement," revenge, status seeking, and my personal favorite, "thrill seeking." No mention of Islam, culture, or religion. If you accept the logic here you might think that jihad is another form of extreme sport. A beheading is "thrill" seeking indeed! The analysis here is of a piece with the Sander's meme which postulates a correlation between ISIS and global warming.

Dave Maxwell

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 5:26pm

Two very interesting data points among many others:

QUOTE: Also notable over the past year is the major intensification of the terrorist threat in Nigeria. The country witnessed the largest increase in terrorist deaths ever recorded by any country, increasing by over 300 per cent to 7,512 fatalities. Boko Haram, which operates mainly in Nigeria, has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world. Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIL (also known as the Islamic State)as the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) in March 2015.


The report highlights the striking prevalence of lone wolf attacks in the West. Lone wolf attacks account for 70 per cent of all terrorist deaths in the West since 2006. Additionally, Islamic fundamentalism was not the primary driver of lone wolf attacks, with 80 per cent of deaths in the West from lone wolf attacks being attributed to a mixture of right wing extremists, nationalists, anti-government elements, other types of political extremism and supremacism.END QUOTE

​And an interesting comparison between ISIS and north Korea:

QUOTE: As this paper has attempted to argue, the global community must also focus on destroying terrorist markets. The lifeblood of any terrorist organisation is its ability to generate funds. As was shown, ISIL is economically exploiting the 10 million people and the resources under its control. ISIL relies on exploitive governance and uses both licit and illicit means to generate funds. While a recent report has argued that ISIL will soon face the dilemma of having more expenses than they can cover, such analyses do not take into account that ISIL markets are not only internal but external, licit and illicit, with its neighbors and with supporters worldwide.27 The fact that ISIL acts largely as a mafia organisation allows it conduct business even if it is cut off. North Korea is an example of a ‘mafia state’ that has relied on this strategy. Even though North Korea was largely cut off from the world’s financial system since the 1970s, it was able to finance nuclear armament through its criminal business activities in many parts of the globe. ISIL is not as vulnerable as other terrorist groups because they can exploit their own tax base by holding territory they can tax and raise revenue at will. END QUOTE