Here is my most recent list of Wars in Progress (July 31, 2015).
My Wars in Progress list is now based on the lists developed by the world’s best experts on this, at Uppsala University [UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v.5-2015, Uppsala Conflict Data Program]. This means the following set of “wars” or “armed conflicts” are not compatible with my pre-2014 lists of wars in progress. 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 Uppsala dataset). I have combined several Ukraine armed conflicts (per Uppsala coding) into one.
10 wars (>1000 fatalities/year), 5 serious armed conflicts
Syria remains the world’s most lethal and overall “biggest” war, with an estimated 250,000 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 2013-14. (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. Turkey was drawn into the fighting in 2015.
OTHER ARMED CONFLICTS (fewer than 200 battle-deaths in year)
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. The fighting occasionally spills over into neighboring Cameroon and Chad, whose armed forces are helping.
Ukraine – Low-level fighting, ongoing in the east near Russia, killed several thousand in 2014, in addition to the hundreds killed by the shoot-down of a civilian jet. Government opposes pro-Russian armed separatists who control territory.
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. UN peacekeepers are present but fighting continues and humanitarian needs are extreme.
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.
SERIOUS ARMED CONFLICTS:
India – Little Maoist insurgencies of long standing; now in a cease-fire with one main group, may be winding down. Some continuing violence in Kashmir; also an interstate armed conflict with Pakistan that left 37 battle deaths in 2014.