“The United Nations calls the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “the worst in the world,” Kali Robinson (2021)
“The Syrian conflict has created one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.” Mercy Corps (2020)
“Fast-moving Afghanistan crisis ‘has hallmarks of humanitarian catastrophe” United Nations
Many of us have been staying tuned in to what is happening among the Afghan people today. We are hearing reports of the terrible crimes that are being committed on the basis of religion, race, and political realities. When it comes down to it, however, there is little happening that is new. The quest for power and control is an irresistible narcotic, and history is riddled with the fallout from those seeking it. As Sir John Dalberg-Acton is noted saying, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The reality of this “absolute corruption” seems to be an almost axiomatic truth in 2021. If we are not careful, it would be easy to think that the whole world is fighting over mask and vaccination mandates. Not to say these are not important discussions, but the simple reality is if we were to look up long enough we might see that the world around us is literally on fire.
In this issue of More than Meets the Eye, I want to take a look around. What I fear we are seeing is not a globe that is resting in relatively peaceful coexistence, with a few y outliers here and there, but instead a world that seems determined to destroy itself through “war and rumors of wars” at every corner. My methodology will be elementary. I want to simply catalog current conflicts as they are being played out in the world today…this very minute. They are continuous and extremely costly with regard to human life and welfare. One thing that will become abundantly clear is that in most of these conflicts, there are elements at play that exceed the capacity of the human eye.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “war” as:
- A state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.
- A state of competition or hostility between different people or groups.
- A sustained campaign against an undesirable situation or activity.
Not all wars are formalized with official declarations of war between combatants. Conversely, not every ongoing armed conflict is classified as a war. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) describes war as “a state-based conflict or dyad which reaches at least 1000 battle-related deaths in a specific calendar year.” Fatality figures include any combatants killed in action as well as any civilians who were deliberately killed (for example, by bombings or other attacks).
There are currently scores of countries involved in myriad armed conflicts. Though most have not made an outright declaration of war, according to the UCDP definition they are at war, declared or not. This is not unique to other countries. If you will recall, the United States’ involvement in both Korea and Viet Nam were never declared as war, but as policing actions.
Here is a list of the most deadly ongoing conflicts happening right now:
Up to this point, this conflict would be categorized as a civil war or a terrorist insurgency. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), there were 30,936 confirmed fatalities in 2020 alone. The U.S./U.N. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August should signal the end of this particular conflict, but it will not. While there are several groups vying for control of the country, the most significant struggle at present is between the Taliban and itself.
There is little being reported on the fact that the Taliban is not a homogeneous entity. There are several factions that make up the Taliban, and they are controlled by two main players: Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Haqqani has been a staunch ally of Pakistan for the last two decades, currently has a $10,000,000 bounty on his head (courtesy of the USA), and has recently taken up residence in the presidential palace in Kabul. His nemesis, Baradar, has moved his entire headquarters to Kandahar, where he runs a shadow government.
Another, non-Taliban faction that is in the process of forming is the National Resistance Front (NRF), headed by Ahmed Shah and former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh. Potential supporters of the NRF include former ministers and deputy ministers of the now-deposed Afghan government, generals of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and senior officials of the former defense and interior ministries.
Finally, there are also other enemies who will increase violent activities within the vacuum that has been created by the departure of western military forces. These include an old enemy in ISIS- Khorasan, which bombed the airport in Kabul during U.S. evacuations.
The conflict in Yemen, which began in September 2014, has displaced more than one million people and given rise to cholera outbreaks, medicine shortages, and threats of famine. The United Nations calls the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “the worst in the world,” and the situation could spiral even further as both foreign aid and peace negotiations have stalled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A little over six years ago, Saudi Arabia announced the beginning of Operation: Decisive Storm from Washington, DC. Riyadh said the initial airstrikes were designed to push the rebel Houthis out of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa in order to restore interim President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. The war, which Saudi Arabia told Obama administration officials would take about “six weeks,” has not gone according to plan.
None of the various armed groups — whether Hadi’s forces, the Houthis, or the STC — are strong enough to impose their will on the rest of the country, yet nearly all of these groups possess enough men and munitions to act as a spoiler to any national peace deal they feel does not adequately address their interests. It is very likely that the conflict in Yemen will go on for years to come, leaving the people of Yemen in a place of starvation and poverty for possibly another generation.
Remember Syria. It came and went from our reality radar screens in the blink of an eye. If you will recall, Syrians rose up in peaceful protest against Bashar al-Assad demanding political change. In the ten years since the uprising turned into a civil war which became a regional proxy battle. Half a million people have died and roughly half of the remaining population has been displaced. Crowded cities have been destroyed and horrific human rights violations continue to be pervasive. It is a zone where great power competition continues to grind on.
The Kashmir conflict is a territorial conflict over the Kashmir region, primarily between India and Pakistan, with China playing a third-party role. It is a dispute over the region that escalated into three wars between India and Pakistan and several other armed skirmishes. While India occupies over half the old state of Kashmir (55%), Pakistan (30%) and China (15%) have firm holds in the region as well.
Kashmir is home to K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain at more than 8,600 meters high, which is in the Pakistan side of the Karakoram mountain range. It is crossed by the Indus River, one of the longest in the world at around 3,000 kilometers. At the end of British colonial rule in 1947, the subcontinent was split into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Both countries claim the Kashmir region and have fought three full-blown wars over it. The conflict started after the partition of India in 1947 as both India and Pakistan claimed the entirety of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
A UN resolution adopted in 1948 said that the people of Kashmir should decide in a referendum whether they want to be part of India or Pakistan once both nations were demilitarized. That did not happen, hence why no vote has taken place. In July 1949 both countries agreed to an UN-proposed ceasefire line that became a 740-kilometer de facto frontier called the Line of Control, which remains today.
Pakistan and India have been accusing each other of violating the 2003 border ceasefire agreement since shortly after it was signed. New Delhi’s Home Ministry said that Islamabad violated the agreement 5,133 times, while Pakistan accused Indian troops of violating the agreement more than 1,600 times in 2020. There is serious potential for escalated violence between India and Pakistan in the near future.
Other Serious Conflicts
What other conflicts could I write about right now that are not insignificant in their own right? There is the perpetual conflict on the Korean peninsula between South Korea and North Korea, which has the potential to propel another nuclear player onto the global political landscape.
Another, less obvious conflict exists between the United States and Iran. Iranian proxy fighters are currently engaging our allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. They will continue to do so until Iran has accomplished its global mission of being a genuine power player with its own nuclear weapon. Iran sees itself as a leader in the Muslim world and the Middle East. It wishes to become THE leader of the Muslim world, a reality that will never take place because of the Shiite brand of Islam that it practices. Iran is considered a pariah and it will not stop until it gets its own nuclear weapon that it consistently denies wanting to pursue.
I could write about the conflicts that still go on in Ethiopia with the Tigray people. Or the political instability in Iraq, which, like a tinderbox, is one good spark away from going up in flames. There is a conflict between the Turks and the Kurds that has been ongoing since 1978.
We could discuss the conflicts that are going on in our own hemisphere as well. There is the Drug War in Mexico and the uprising in Venezuela. It is estimated that the war on drugs has led to at least 350,000 deaths—with more than 72,000 people still missing—from January 2006 to May 2021.
There are many other conflicts that I could write about this week, and perhaps I will keep looking at additional conflicts in the future. But this is simply to remind us that, while we sleep, the other side of the world is on fire, and those other-side conflicts have a habit of making their way to our shores.
I hate coming off as a doomsday minstrel, but the simple reality is the world is on fire. As you and I sleep in the relative comfort of our homes, almost indifferent to the killing and violence in the world, I think that it is vital that we be reminded. Why? Because that same violence is only a few feet away from any one of our front doorsteps. The greatest enemy of your peace of mind is your passivity and dispassion towards your own safety and security. There was a day when we could count on our communities and local security mechanisms to protect us. Those days seem increasingly diminished.
Knowing that there are forces in the world that want to rule and conquer us should motivate each of us to mind our own affairs as well.
I think there are ways that the reinvigoration of community life could be our greatest weapon against violence in our neighborhoods.
- Write your Congressman/woman asking them to help keep the State Department and Department of Defense transparent in dealing with nations globally.
- Get to know your neighbors. Let them know that you’ve got their back and that you care about the protection of their lives and property.
- Start a Community Watch program in your community. Start a community contact list. It doesn’t have to be everybody. Start small and grow. “If you see something, say something” is more effective when you know what you’re talking about.
- Build a relationship with your local law enforcement. Invite them to community events. Send them a Christmas card or a gift basket. A little bit of courtesy can go a long way in motivating others to look out for you as well.
- Put in some CCTV around your house. You can even use mock-CCTV… they don’t even have to be real. The possibility of them being real is almost as important as them actually being real.
CENTCOM IDs ‘senior al-Qaida leader’ killed in airstrike in Syria…https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2021/09/30/centcom-ids-senior-al-qaida-leader-killed-in-airstrike-in-syria/
Colombia Uncovers Another Iranian Foreign Assassination Campaign…https://www.investigativeproject.org/9018/colombia-uncovers-another-iranian-foreign
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org