The takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan has sent shock waves through the international community. Its swift and unobstructed nature gives off the impression that the insurgents were just waiting on the sidelines for the withdrawal of foreign troops. In fact, the reign of terror had continued in the country throughout the lengthy U.S. and NATO military deployments in the country, as seen in the Global Terrorism Index published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
According to the Institute, Afghanistan was the country most affected by terror as well as the least peaceful country in the world. It has been at the opposite ends of both indices for several years now, with its rating only declining since their inception in the 2000s.
Afghanistan was also the country with the biggest economic losses from terrorism, which were estimated at 16.7 percent of GDP in 2019 – far ahead of second-placed Syria with only 3.4 percent. Economic losses from all violence were placed at around 40 percent of GDP.
In 2019, Afghanistan experienced 5,725 deaths from terrorism, more than 40 percent of the world’s total. That same year, 78 percent of Afghans reported feeling less safe than five years ago.
The Taliban are estimated to have around 45,000 to 60,000 members (as of January 2020). They controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 before NATO forces intervened and overthrew the regime. However, the terrorist group reorganized in neighboring Pakistan and has since tried to regain control in Afghanistan by military means.