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Afghanistan is officially the most dangerous country in the world

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As the US trudges toward the 19th year of its war in Afghanistan, it’s officially the most dangerous country on the planet.

Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, according to the 2019 Global Peace Index report released on Wednesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Mohib Iqbal, a research fellow at the institute, told RFE/RL that Afghanistan “is now the world’s most violent conflict with the highest number of deaths from war and terrorism.”

With the collapse of the Islamic State group’s (ISIS) self-declared caliphate and loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, it’s not as effective a “fighting force as it used to be,” Steve Killelea, the founder and executive chairman of IEP, told INSIDER. This has contributed to a decline in violence in Syria.

But though ISIS is significantly depleted, it is not totally defeated and still has pockets of fighters across the region as well as fighters and followers in other parts of the world.

“As they’ve disbanded…their members have now gone to other places such as Afghanistan where there are a rising number of terrorist attacks being attributed to ISIS,” Killelea added.

The good news in the report is that the world has actually become slightly more peaceful overall in the past year, but it also said global peacefulness is still lower than it was a decade ago in 2008. Conflict in the Middle East has been the key driver of the global deterioration in peacefulness, according to the report.

The US has been involved in conflicts in the region in the post-9/11 era. It’s been waging war on some level in Iraq since 2003, conducting drone strikes in Yemen against al-Qaeda as it supports the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and fighting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

Read more: The world is less confident in US leadership since Trump became president, and is now more confident in China, a new report shows

Along these lines, INSIDER asked Killelea how responsible the US is for the lower level of peacefulness worldwide.

“The real issue is the inability to solve these conflicts once they start,” Killelea said. “If we look at Afghanistan that’s been going 18 years now…and it’s hard to see what the practical solutions can be other than a peace deal with Taliban.”

Roughly 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan while the US continues to push for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which are currently stalled.

It’s estimated the Taliban now controls or contests roughly 61% of the country’s districts as it continues to carry out deadly attacks— including recent incidents that have claimed the lives of US soldiers.

In 2018, 13 US service members were killed in Afghanistan in a conflict that’s claimed the lives of over 2,400 Americans.

Meanwhile, a US intelligence official in Afghanistan recently told The Associated Press that ISIS is using the country as a launching pad for attacks on the US and other countries.

“This group is the most near-term threat to our homelands from Afghanistan,” the official said of ISIS and its growing presence in Afghanistan. “The [ISIS] core mandate is: You will conduct external attacks. That is their goal. It’s just a matter of time. It is very scary.”

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