Effects of terrorist veterans returning to the West from foreign wars

Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment recently found that most terrorists originating in the West (Europe, Australia, or the US) conduct their terrorism in conflict zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan. These terrorists are defined as “foreign fighters”. When these foreign fighter veterans return to the West, they are more likely to complete attacks, which are more likely to be lethal (American Political Science Review, volume 107, no. 1, Feb 2013, “Should I stay or should I go? Explaining variation in Western Jihadists’ choice between domestic and foreign fighting.”)

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, we can expect countervailing effects on terrorism in the West. On the one hand, there presumably will be less reason to conduct terrorism, as terrorists use these wars as justification for their actions. On the other hand, foreign fighter veterans will be returning to the West, increasing the quantity, militancy, and experience of the pool of potential domestic terrorists. New justifications for terrorism — for example Western intervention in Mali and Syria — can always be found by those so inclined.

Microfinance Report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

The Economist Intelligence Unit produced an insightful and detailed report on global microfinance in 2012, available at http://www.eiu.com/Handlers/WhitepaperHandler.ashx?fi=EIU_MICROFINANCE_2012_WEB_1.pdf&mode=wp&campaignid=microscope2012.

Bangladesh, Philippines, and Nepal are covered, among many other countries. Philippines takes 4th place in overall microfinance business environment rankings. Bangladesh takes 41st place, and Nepal 44th. EIU ranked a total of only 55 countries, so Bangladesh and Nepal are near the bottom. Rates to borrowers are high. In Bangladesh a 27% rate cap decreases the quantity of loans available (inflation of 7-12% in 2012), and in Nepal, government subsidies have kept rates at a comparatively low 18-24% (inflation of 7-9% in 2012). In the Philippines, there are only 1 million micro-finance borrowers of 77 million total population (http://www.census.gov.ph/content/philippines-population-expected-reach-100-million-filipinos-14-years).

Given the high interest rates and limited penetration of microfinance, it is unlikely in its current manifestation to have a large effect on development or stability in Nepal, Bangladesh, or the Philippines.

New People’s Army in the Philippines

The New People’s Army (NPA), an insurgent group in the Philippines, attacked a Del Monte supplier in Bukidnon Province yesterday, causing property damage and casualties (http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/19/3242109/1-killed-in-suspected-philippine.html). Despite NPA claims regarding the effect on the environment of the company’s expansion, the attack was likely sparked by failure of the company to pay sufficient extortion money to the rebel group.

Political Gridlock in Nepal

Politics in Nepal have been gridlocked between Maoists and centrists since 2008. Fresh setbacks to appointment of an interim prime minister (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/world/asia/nepal-agreement-may-break-deadlock-over-leadership.html?_r=0) does not augur well for political stability in the near future.

Peace process in Philippines unlikely to yield quick security gains

Hopes have recently increased for a peace process in MIndanao (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/13/philippines-peace-deal-islamist-rebels). However, the process is powered by a politician seeking a capstone to his career, which is insufficient to satisfy the  broad spectrum of insurgents who will continue to have criminal incentives post-agreement. The peace process is unlikely to yield any great security gains in the next year.