Before we get to the list, why not take a stab at naming a few? Surely one or two of the deadliest conflicts will come to mind, but can you list them all? How about in order?
If this sounds challenging to you, don’t despair at your utter lack of concern for human suffering. We at PunditPolitics.com absolve you of your complacent and self-centered ignorance of the facts for two reasons. The first is because you are reading this – surely the uninformed reader must be forgiven if he or she is actively becoming informed. The second and most significant reason is that no one on the PunditPolitics.com’s staff could name more than three out of five of the deadliest ongoing conflicts before writing this article.
As per our custom, the entire staff engaged in a shame-ritual, and we found that through a combination of vigorous soul searching and self-flagellation we were able to get over our guilt. If you are only able to name one or two of the deadliest conflicts occurring in the world today, might we suggest reading on – or maybe even forwarding this article to a friend – as a way of compensating for any guilt that may exist.
For those of you who can name four or five, you can rest assured that you’re an awesome human being. Not only that, but we at PunditPolitics.com bet you’re also quite politically savvy and informed. Later, see how informed you really are by taking one of our Political IQ Tests – on subjects ranging from the War in Iraq, to the 2008 presidential candidates, to energy and environmental policy.
And, without further delay, the top five deadliest conflicts ongoing in the world today, according to the information and figures available at Globalsecurity.org and at B’s Independent Pro-Peace Initiative.
5. War in Afghanistan
Start of Conflict: 7 October 2001
Estimated Total Casualties: >20,000
The War in Afghanistan began on 7 October 2001 when the United States and the United Kingdom launched the infamously-named Operation Enduring Freedom. At the beginning of the conflict, the coalition’s goal was to remove the Taliban from power, and to capture or kill Bin Laden, thereby crippling al-Qaeda. In January of 2002, at least 4200 civilians had been killed as a result of the war, according to a Study conducted by Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives.
The number of overall civilian deaths has possibly climbed to greater than 27,000 since then according to an Aggregation Table at Wikipedia.org. Furthermore, over 1,000 coalition casualties have occurred since the beginning of the war, in addition to 4,000 casualties among the Afghan Security Forces. Currently, the situation remains highly unstable in Afghanistan, with the resurgence of the Taliban and coalition deaths at the highest levels since the beginning of the war – already at 152 as of 1 December 2008, as reported at Icasualties.org.
4. War in Somalia
Start of Conflict: 20 July 2006
Estimated Total Casualties: 20,000
On 20 July 2006, Ethiopian and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, with U.S. support, invaded Somalia in an attempt to bolster the TFG in the Somali city of Baidoa. Since the capture of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, at the end of December 2006, an estimated 10,000 militants and soldiers have been killed. This is in addition to nearly 10,000 civilian deaths during that time as well, according to the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization (citation here).
Today, the fighting in Somalia continues. In the first eleven months of this year, there were a combined 508 deaths reported among Somali and Ethiopian forces, as well as at least 177 insurgent deaths, who were mainly comprised of Islamic-led militants. There were also at least 2,100 civilian deaths by June of 2008 according to Abdi Sheikh of Reuters – and that figure is certain to have risen since then.
3. Sri Lankan Civil War
Start of Conflict: On and off since 23 July 1983
Estimated Total Casualties: >70,000
The Sri Lankan Civil War has been an ongoing conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – commonly known as the ‘Tamil Tigers’ – since 23 July 1983, when LTTE militants killed 13 Sri Lankan soldiers in an attack. The LTTE often employ guerrilla and terrorist tactics to attack the forces of the Sri Lankan government in the hopes of establishing an independent state named Tamil Eelam on the island.
Since the beginning of the war, the tiny island-nation off the coast of India has seen repeated waves of violence. Although a cease fire was declared in December of 2001, the violence began anew in late 2005, and since then, at least 5,000 LTTE militants have been killed, in addition to thousands of civilians. Furthermore, while the official death toll is around 70,000, a study conducted by the University of Washington and Harvard University found that at least 215,000 people have died as a result of the war since it started, as reported here by Ranjith Jayasundera.
2. War in Darfur
Start of Conflict: 26 February 2003
Estimated Total Casualties: ~400,000
The War in Darfur is an extremely complicated conflict. On one side, the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed – a militia group recruited mostly from the nomadic tribes of the northern Rizeigat in Sudan – battle against a variety of rebel groups including the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement.
The conflict, which is largely between groups of different ethnic and tribal backgrounds, has been called a genocide by activists and leaders around the world. While the appropriateness of the term ‘genocide’ is open for debate, what is clear is that approximately 400,000 people have died as a result of fighting, disease and famine in Darfur and Sudan, and over 2 million people have been internally displaced. Unilateral military action has recently been considered by the United States to help stop the violence, and a number of proposals have been made in the UN to send peacekeeping forces, but the international community remains hesitant to commit itself.
1. Iraq War
Start of Conflict: 20 March 2003
Estimated Total Casualties: >600,000
Beginning upon the launch of Operation Freedom on 20 March 2003, the War in Iraq continues today. Casualty numbers for the Iraq War vary widely because of differences in the types of mortality studies conducted, but it is clear that the war represents the deadliest ongoing conflict in the world. On the high end, a recent Study conducted in January of 2008 by Opinion Research Business suggested that over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives as a result of the war.