Here is my current list of Wars in Progress (July 23, 2014).
After twenty years of publishing my own Wars in Progress list, I am hereby changing methodology and using the lists developed by the world’s best experts on this, at Uppsala University [UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v.5-2014, Uppsala Conflict Data Program, www.ucdp.uu.se]
This means the following set of “wars” or “armed conflicts” are not compatible with my previous “wars in progress” list. They are the same conflicts but grouped and aggregated differently. Blog post on the 2014 update is here.
To get onto the list, two or more armed groups have to be engaged in ongoing lethal violence over political objectives (control of territory or government). Terrorism counts but organized crime doesn’t, nor does government violence against unarmed demonstrators or massacres of civilians (that’s a different dataset).
7 wars, 11 serious armed conflicts
Syria is currently the world’s most lethal and overall “biggest” war, with an estimated 170,000 deaths in the past three years, of which fewer than half were battle-related deaths but those made up a majority of the world’s total battle deaths in 2013. (The subset of battle deaths is more reliably counted through time, but does not include some categories such as bodies mysteriously dumped in the street or deaths from disease.) In 2014, fighting spread into Iraq, where Sunni insurgents control considerable territory and where in 2014 the most radical militants declared an Islamic State in Syrian and Iraqi territory they control. The war is internationalized by its spread into Lebanon where bombings and clashes happen regularly, and by the presence in Syria of both Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian revolutionary guards fighting for the government and on the other side Sunni jihadists from many countries.
OTHER ARMED CONFLICTS (fewer than 200 battle-deaths in year)
D.R. Congo (Katanga, in addition to conflict listed above)
Ethiopia (2 conflicts)
India (2 others in addition to Maoist conflict listed above)
Burma (Myanmar) (3 conflicts)
Pakistan (Balochistan, in addition to conflict listed above)
Philippines (second armed group in addition to the conflict listed above)
United States (global war on terror)
Here is some narrative about the state of these conflicts:
Nigeria – In the north, a violent Islamist group has instigated repeated violence such as bombings, and government attacks in response. Sad day when the Islamist terrorists blew up the UN building in 2011. Now they are killing women polio vaccine workers. The fighting occasionally spills over into neighboring Cameroon.
D.R. Congo – Beefed-up peacekeepers suppressed one armed group in the violent east of the country, and in 2104 were trying to coax another to disarm. Sporadic but really nasty fighting continues to erupt in certain eastern locations.
South Sudan – After a long north-south war, the south voted for independence, achieved in 2011. But South Sudan itself slipped into a bloody civil war (along ethnic lines) that reportedly has killed tens of thousands. A shaky cease-fire has been in effect since May 2014.
SERIOUS ARMED CONFLICTS:
Israel/Gaza – The Israel-Palestine conflict is 65 years old and counting. Current fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has killed hundreds and may reach the “war” threshold before it ends. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
Ukraine - Low-level fighting, ongoing in the east near Russia, has killed hundreds, in addition to the hundreds killed by the shoot-down of a civilian jet. Government trying to dislodge pro-Russian armed separatists from territory they control. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
Central African Republic - alarming levels of sectarian fighting (Muslim-Christian) with the potential for a genocide. Low-level with outbreaks of horrible violence. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
Somalia – African Union troops (mostly from nearby countries such as Uganda) restored government control of all major cities, leaving al Shabab militants in the countryside to carry out occasional bombings in the cities they no longer control (and in neighboring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia).
Yemen – The post-Saleh government with many competing factions has had some success against Islamic militants who had seized some towns in the south, but ethnic-based fighting has flared up in the north.