Do Terrorist Trends in Africa Justify the U.S. Military’s Expansion?

The following provides greater detail on data sources used in the article.

Data tables from the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD) (https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/)

GTD Aggregate Terrorist Incidents and Fatalities in Africa 2006–2016
  Aggregate Aggregate:
unambiguous
Aggregate:
unambiguous & militant Islamic
  Incidents Fatalities Incidents Fatalities Incidents Fatalities
2006 114 1944 101 1880 35 122
2007 302 2766 231 1832 164 354
2008 380 2950 332 2640 217 532
2009 283 3462 273 3252 150 645
2010 331 1660 308 1426 180 387
2011 494 2474 467 2324 392 829
2012 1156 5880 926 4202 831 1836
2013 989 7684 763 6006 640 5134
2014 2308 26682 1774 22664 1202 16176
2015 1939 20964 1578 16642 1025 13738
2016 2051 13182 1612 9620 801 4536

 

GTD Terrorist Incidents and Fatalities in Africa 2006–2016: Boko Haram and al-Shabab Breakdowns
  Total Boko Haram Incidents & Fatalities Total al-Shabab Incidents & Fatalities Total Incidents & Fatalities (minus BH & AS)
2006 0 0 0 0 35 122
2007 0 0 1 0 163 354
2008 0 0 25 112 192 420
2009 10 304 53 148 87 193
2010 17 72 67 184 96 131
2011 122 326 159 286 111 217
2012 388 1173 140 297 303 366
2013 217 3190 194 1030 229 914
2014 454 13336 496 2042 252 798
2015 491 10956 226 1672 308 1110
2016 192 2158 334 1476 275 902

 

Data tables from the Armed Conflict Location and Data Event (ACLED) Project Database (https://www.acleddata.com/)

ACLED Aggregate Terrorist Incidents and Fatalities in Africa 2006–2016
  Total Incidents Total Fatalities Total Incidents
minus Boko Haram & al-Shabab)
Total Fatalities
(minus Boko Haram & al-Shabab)
2006 41 37 38 33
2007 385 1095 312 701
2008 551 1743 197 561
2009 319 959 143 429
2010 645 2340 102 279
2011 799 2019 95 245
2012 1573 4312 175 225
2013 1633 5870 233 1005
2014 2271 13713 410 1392
2015 2129 15791 340 1228
2016 2007 8712 274 913
2017 2498 8386 141 352

 

ACLED Terrorist Incidents and Fatalities in Africa 2006–2016: Boko Haram and al-Shabab Breakdowns
  Total Incidents
Boko Haram
Total Fatalities
Boko Haram
Total Incidents
al-Shabab
Total Fatalities
al-Shabab
2006 1 4 2 0
2007 3 29 70 365
2008 1 10 353 1172
2009 20 200 156 330
2010 37 75 506 1986
2011 123 594 581 1180
2012 385 1664 1013 2423
2013 275 2979 1125 1886
2014 503 9035 1358 3286
2015 628 11473 1161 3090
2016 473 3506 1260 4293
2017 578 3430 1779 4604

Note on whether measuring terrorist attacks and casualties are the right metrics

Some scholars argue that using fatality numbers to ascertain terrorist trends and threat levels can be misleading. ACLED cautions that fatality statistics “are frequently the most biased and poorly reported component of conflict data. They are often debated and can vary widely. Conflict actors may overstate or underreport fatalities to appear strong to the opposition or to minimize international backlash against the state involved.” ACLED also contends that fatalities mask the “true cost” of a conflict—conflicts that result in fewer initial deaths can bring greater subsequent instability (and excess mortality in the future).

This article does not disagree that fatality statistics fail to present a complete picture of terrorist groups’ potency and relative strength. Policymakers should not view these numbers as a substitute for a multidimensional analysis of terrorist threats and trends. Nonetheless, casualty and attack data can be useful “proxies” for broadly assessing trends of violence and threats posed by particular groups.