How Many Wars are Going On Right Now?


UPPSALA, Sweden- War is a difficult subject to catalog, as the very definition of the term is subject to debate, both politically and philosophically. Often, what begins as a conflict or engagement is later dubbed a war or vice versa, and the delineation is often up to the opinion of the individual. To clarify then, I will use the definition of war as any conflict where 2 or more parties of armed forces account for 1,000 or more battle-related deaths.

Using this definition and low estimates of fatalities from 2012, obtained mostly from the Uppsala Department of Peace and Conflict Research’s extensive data program, there are 10 wars going on right now. It is important to note that civilian deaths are often under-reported or misreported and estimates vary greatly. Also, many deaths occur due to circumstances created by war like the destruction of shelter, food sources, and the contamination of water.

Beyond wars, there are many other ongoing armed conflicts, most of which have been wars at one time or might be considered a war now using a higher estimate of deaths. Below is a list of only the wars going on right now and a few brief facts regarding violence in the country. The number of deaths in bold print by each country are only those that occurred as a direct result of battle.

Wars Occurring Now

1. Syria 2011-present 15,898 deaths
This is the most violent war going on right now and Al-Jazeera reports 30,000 to 52,000 total deaths, including civilians, since the war began. Syria’s most recent civil war began after government security forces killed 3,261 civilian protesters in 2011. Since 1979, there has been intermittent civil war in the country accounting for at least 26,894 battle-related deaths.

2. Afghanistan 1978-present 143,958 deaths
Afghanistan has been marred by brutal civil war for a very long time and, in 2012, 7,396 deaths were recorded. This year, the UN reports 1,318 civilian deaths in just the first six months. Since 2004, the Taliban alone has been responsible for the deaths of 868 civilians, killing women, voter registration cardholders, and aid and development workers to name a few of their targets.

3. Iraq 2003-present 25,223 deaths
This number of fatalities may grossly underscore the toll of human life taken by Iraq’s insurgent war according to a recent study that found 461,000 direct and indirect deaths since 2003. Iraq Body Count reports 4,574 civilian deaths in 2012 alone. Insurgent group Islamic State in Iraq has killed 6,187 civilians since 2004, primarily, for participating in democracy.

4. Pakistan 2007-present 20,165 deaths
Pakistan has not experienced peace since 1974 when the government began fighting various insurgent groups. In 2012 alone, fighting accounted for 2,705 deaths. Civilians have been attacked by these groups as well, with the majority of the killing done by the Taliban. Since 1998, at least 1,963 civilians have died from these attacks.

5. Sudan 1983-present 50,859 deaths
The civil war in Sudan actually began in 1971, but fatality data is very incomplete before 1983. Though fighting abated in 2005, it began again 2010 and, in 2012, 1,484 battle-related deaths were recorded. The ethnic cleansings in 2003 and 2004 of the Darfur region are regarded as one of the greatest atrocities of recent history and accounted for 4,369 to 27,000 civilian deaths. This was not the first or last of such incidents as government of Sudan has killed at least 10,470 civilians since 1989.

6. Somalia 1982-present 26,418 deaths
Multiple groups fight for control of the government and it has been intense since 2007 with 2,620 dead last year. War in 1990-92 claimed 12,108 lives and the conflict abated until 2006. The extremist group al-Shabaab killed 139 civilians in 2012.

7. Yemen 2011-present 3,473 deaths
There has been conflict since independence in 1948 though recent armed activity started in 2009. The government has been trying to drive out al-Qaida forces and fighting was particularly intense last year with 2,333 deaths.

8. Nigeria 2009-present 1,541 deaths
Nigeria is at war with the ultraviolent radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, who seeks to overthrow the current government. In 2012, there were 812 battle-related deaths and 459 civilians were killed. Initial reports this year show those numbers will only increase.

9. Mexico 2012 1,513 deaths
The many drug cartels of Mexico have been waging war since 1989 for control of trafficking. Many human rights violations have occurred in that time period including rape, torture, beheadings and mutilation. The government has been unable to effectively curb violence and many say some officials are even complicit. The actual number of deaths due to cartel violence could be as high as 18,000.

10. Colombia 1979-present 21,267 deaths
The Uppsala data project only started recording fatalities in 1979, but there has been civil war in Colombia since 1964, marking it as the oldest, continuous civil war. Guerrilla organizations, most notably FARC, want government control and are funded in large part by the drug trade and kidnappings. In 2012, the Ministry of Defense reported 4,539 deaths of guerillas alone.

All these countries have suffered heavily in loss of life and have extreme economic disparity. Though religion is often a strong contributing influence, the strife over political power dominates these conflicts and the cost to all sides has been quite heavy. These 10 wars alone have accounted for deaths of at least 44,291 people last year and the death toll continues to grow in 2013. See Part 2 for a list of armed conflicts that are going on today.

– Tyson Watkins

Sources: Zeta Tijuana, Elespectador, Iraq Body Count, PCR, The Nation, Acled Data, Plos Medicine, CNN, Indexmundi,Al Jazeera



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