Taliban now world's deadliest terror group, report reveals, as US begins troop withdrawal

Rise of almost 90 per cent in fatalities by Taliban as US begins troop withdrawal from Afghanistan following peace deal

Afghan security forces take position during a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz province, Afghanistan September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer   NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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The Taliban has overtaken ISIS as the world's deadliest terror group, a defence intelligence agency report has revealed.

It comes as the US began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan on Tuesday after signing a peace deal with the Taliban last month.

Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (Jtic) says there has been a 25 per cent reduction in civilian fatalities by ISIS in the last year but the Taliban has seen a significant rise with an 87.6 per cent increase in attacks.

Jtic recorded 1,077 attacks by the Taliban in 2019, up from 574 in 2018.

The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban last month agreeing to withdraw troops over the next 14 months in a bid to end the 18 years of war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban were due to start despite continued widespread violence.

Matthew Henman, head of Jtic, said: "Jtic recorded 2,381 fatalities attributed to ISIS activity in 2019 – down from 3,151 in 2018.

“The increase in Taliban activity – with an 87.6 per cent increase of Taliban-attributed attacks – has taken the group to be the world’s deadliest, with casualties exceeding the total number for the next nine groups combined.”

Despite being the third most active group worldwide in terms of attacks – behind Ukrainian pro-Russia separatist group the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Isis – the Taliban was by far the deadliest group worldwide in terms of civilian casualties, it said.

Researchers say the decrease in ISIS attributed attacks reflects a substantial downturn in activity in Iraq and Syria, however, they say the group’s continued operations in West Africa and the Sahel underline the ongoing significant threat posed.

“While ISIS activity in Iraq and Syria was largely reduced to a steady tempo of insurgent-style violence, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Burkina Faso in particular, the group continued to perpetrate mass-casualty violence and challenge state control of territory,” Mr Henman added.

According to its research, ISIS held the position as the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation between 2014 and 2018.

Last year Jtic recorded 14,009 terrorist attacks globally - the lowest annual attack total recorded since 2011.

"A key driver of the downturn in violence was the decrease in activity in high-tempo conflict zones - even Ukraine, which remained the most violent country in terms of recorded attacks, saw its annual attack total decrease by more than a fifth from 2018", said Mr Henman.

"This was offset by a significant increase in fatalities from Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and rising mass-casualty violence in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Burkina Faso, in addition to major standalone attacks such as in Sri Lanka in April 2019."

In 2018 it recorded 15,822 attacks.

Jtic has compiled the research using data from attacks by non-state armed groups and from counter-terrorism operations to build a global database.

It includes more than 350,000 incidents since 2009 and tracks more than 1,000 separate non-state armed groups worldwide.

Currently the US has around 13,000 soldiers in Afghanistan - 8,000 of whom are involved in training and advising Afghanistan's National Security Forces, while about 5,000 are involved in anti-terror operations and militarily supporting the Afghan army when they are requested.

Under the accord, the US is initially supposed to reduce its troop presence to 8,600 by mid-July.