Here is my current list of Wars in Progress (Jan. 16, 2014). They might better be labeled “Armed Conflicts” since most hardly rise to the level of a serious “war.” Blog post on the 2013 update is here. Since then I have removed Mali where fighting is now just sporadic.
Syria is currently the world’s most lethal and overall “biggest” war, with an estimated 130,000 deaths in the past three years. Fighting has spread into Iraq, where Sunni insurgents control some cities in early 2014, and into Lebanon where bombings and clashes happen regularly. Both Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian revolutionary guards are fighting in Syria for the government, while the Islamist militias have attracted thousands of jihad-minded foreign fighters.
In central Africa I’m returning to the designation “Sudan/Chad/CAR (but replacing Chad with South Sudan) to refer to the overlapping conflicts in the area, which have become alarming more lethal in recent months.
To get onto my list, two or more armed groups have to be engaged in ongoing lethal violence over political objectives. Terrorism counts but organized crime doesn’t, nor does government violence against unarmed demonstrators. The Uppsala Conflict Data Project has a more extensive list (with more smaller conflicts) with more exact criteria.
Some of these wars could be counted as several wars (which is one reason I don’t like counting numbers of wars as a measure of how extensive war is). In this list I have grouped them as “a war” even if a number of armed conflicts overlap with different groups and objectives.
Here is some narrative about the state of these conflicts:
Sudan/South Sudan/CAR – The genocide in Darfur was mainly in 2004, and the north-south war ended five years ago. The south voted for independence, which was achieved in July 2011. In late 2013 low-level fighting continued in Darfur (including a dozen peacekeepers killed). Meanwhile South Sudan itself slipped into a bloody civil war (along tribal lines) which may be brief or prolonged but has reportedly killed about 10,000 already. CAR also has alarming levels of sectarian fighting (Muslim-Christian) with the potential for a genocide.
Afghanistan/Pakistan – The big one. The international community is there, the U.S. military in force, Taliban, al Qaeda, nukes. Unclear how it’s going recently, but international troops on target to leave by 2014.
Iraq/Turkey – Winding down, unless it blows up again. In mid-2011 the armed conflict between Turkey and Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq heated up, with several lethal skirmishes, and has continued since.
Yemen – Several conflicts are ongoing amidst the political chaos. The post-Saleh government with many competing factions has had some success against Islamic militants who had seized some towns in the south; fighting flares up intermittently in the north.
Somalia – The war is now low-level. 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 plot bombings.
D.R. Congo – Sporadic but really nasty fighting continues in certain eastern locations. In 2012 a Rwandan-backed militia that split from the government staged a rebellion, held territory, and even occupied the eastern hub of Goma briefly. Peace talks have not produced an agreement though fighting has died down somewhat.
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.
India – Nasty little Maoist insurgencies of long standing, one now in a cease-fire. Several recent skirmishes with Pakistan across the lines in disputed Kashmir, but these appear not to have escalated.