Eastern Congo: Eastern Congo has been particularly unstable since Rwandan Hutu militias (Interahamwe) and the Rwandan Tutsi military took their battle into the neighboring Congolese jungle following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Since then, this massive, lawless region has been home to a number of rampaging militias, leading to the displacement of more than a million Congolese and the death of several million. In 2003, a Congolese Tutsi leader, Laurent Nkunda, took up the fight against the Hutu Interahamwe and established the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) militia. Nkunda was finally captured in January 2009 by Rwandan forces, though remnants of the CNDP and other rebel groups have continued to wreak havoc in the area. Above, family members carry a relative to be buried in a camp for displaced people near Goma on Jan. 19, 2009.


Kashmir: Kashmir has been the site of conflict since the 1947 partition of British India. The resulting countries, India and Pakistan, have fought three wars over the disputed territory, and border skirmishes remain frequent. Unrest in Indian-held Kashmir is also common; tensions flared recently over the deaths of two unarmed teenage Muslims. Here, a Kashmiri Muslim hurls a can of tear gas back to Indian police after it was shot into the streets of Srinagar to disperse a crowd of protesters on Feb. 5, 2010.


China: A Uighur woman peers through a security fence as Chinese soldiers look on in Urumqi, Xinjiang, on July 9, 2009. The northwestern Chinese autonomous region is home to 13 major ethnic groups, the largest of which -- at about 45 percent of the population -- is the Uighurs. Although the region is classified as autonomous, some Uighurs have called for outright independence since the mid-1990s. While China has made attempts to further integrate Xinjiang, ethnic tensions, combined with religious repression and economic disparities between Han Chinese and Uighurs, have only made matters worse. When Uighur rioting broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in July 2009, government forces dealt with the protests harshly; at least 150 people died.


Iran: Objecting to incumbent President Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2009 presidential election, millions of Iranians took to the streets in support of opposition candidate Mir Hossein-Mousavi, who they thought had legitimately won the election, and in protest of what they thought to have been Ahmadinejad's electoral fraud. The electoral protests, which were soon collectively referred to as the "Green Revolution", marked the most significant event in Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But unlike the regimes that were unseated as a result the color revolutions" that swept across Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine during the first half of the decade, the Iranian regime showed no reservations about using force to quash the protesters. Here, a protester wearing a symbolic green wristband covers his face after an altercation on Dec. 27, 2009 with the Basij, a praetorian guard that doubles as a thuggish internal security service.


Chad: Chad is entering its fifth year of nearly continuous civil war, its anti-government rebels often aided by neighboring Sudan. Compounding matters further, war-torn Chad is a relative safe haven not only for thousands of Darfuri refugees but also for those fleeing the Central African Republic next door -- as many as 20 per day. Above, three Chadian soldiers take a break from fighting in the Battle of Am Dam, a two-day clash in May 2009 that saw the Chadian army successfully prevent a rebel group from taking the capital city of N'Djamena and toppling the government.



Eastern Chad: Over the last half-decade, fighting in eastern Chad and neighboring Darfur, Sudan, have sent at least 400,000 refugees spilling into refugee camps in the dusty Chadian desert. Rebel groups in the two countries cite a litany of grievances ranging from state neglect to ethnic persecution, and they are often backed by one government or the other. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire, terrorized by wanton rape, scorched-earth tactics, and ethnic cleansing. Above, Sudanese refugee women carry branches for firewood at the Farchana refugee camp in Chad on June 26, 2008.


Korea: More than a half-century after the Korean War's end, relations between communist North Korea and democratic South Korea remain tense. The two countries have never signed a formal peace agreement, and the United States continues to station well over 20,000 troops in the South. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who succeeded his father Kim Il Sung in 1994, has pushed forward with Pyongyang's nuclear program despite repeated U.S. attempts to curtail it through negotiations. The North tested its first nuclear device in 2006, followed by a second in May 2009. Here, a North Korean soldier stands opposite a South Korean soldier at the border of the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas on Feb. 19, 2009.



Pakistan: Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are two of the world's most volatile war zones. Located along Pakistan's porous, 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, the two regions have, since 2001, seen fierce battles between Islamist militants and the Pakistani Army. Al Qaeda's top leaders are thought to reside here, and U.S. drones patrol the skies in search of terrorist and Taliban leaders. Above, a Pakistani soldier stands guard while an Afghan-bound NATO oil tanker burns in Peshawar after being destroyed by militants on Feb. 1, 2010. 



Pakistan: While Iraq and Afghanistan have captured much of the public's attention of late, Pakistan may well be the country whose security, stability, and partnership is most important to American success in the war on terrorism. Under increased pressure from the United States, Islamabad has recently begun to intensify its efforts at fighting the Taliban within its borders. While Pakistani forces have enjoyed some success in their counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban, such success has come at the cost of alienating civilian populations and destabilizing Pakistani society. Above is a photograph from June 21, 2009 of Pakistani refugees who fled from the fighting in northwest Pakistan and are now living in the Shah Mansoor relief camp in Swabi, Pakistan.




Somalia: This East African country has been without a central government since the 1990s and without peace for even longer. Shortly after ousting strongman leader Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991, rebel groups began splintering into various camps headed by individual warlords. The United States intervened in 1992 with Operation Restore Hope, but pulled out in 1994, several months after the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) government brought a measure of stability in 2006, but its reign was short-lived. Wary of spreading Islamist activity, an Ethiopian-led offensive installed a U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in early 2007. Today, much of the country falls increasingly under the control of militant groups while the TFG and its president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former ICU leader, control only a few blocks. Since 1991, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, and the number of internally displaced persons is upwards of 1.5 million. Here, Somalis prepare a meal at a displaced persons camp near Mogadishu on Nov. 19, 2007.



Somalia: Somalia is a failed state and as such is controlled by several competing players. A weak government is seated in Mogadishu (backed by a joint U.N.-African Union force), while powerful warlords control territory across the country. Sharia courts provide some semblance of order while Islamist militias, the strongest of which is al-Shabab, are still gaining ground. In 2009, however, the major conflict narrowed into one between the central government and al-Shabab. Al-Shabab recently announced publicly that it would be joining the international jihad movement led by al Qaeda. Above, a government soldier stands next to the body of an Islamist militia fighter in Mogadishu where al-Shabab fighters attacked government positions on Dec. 1, 2009.



Philippines: The Philippines is home to one of Asia's longest-running wars, a 40-year conflict that has taken 40,000 lives. The fighting began in 1969 with the formation of a communist rebel group called the New People's Army (NPA), founded to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos's dictatorship. Despite Marcos's 1989 death, efforts by international mediators have continually failed, including the two-decades-long attempt by Norway that collapsed in 2004 and has not resumed. The NPA is known for its guerrilla tactics and recruitment of child soldiers, who by some estimates make up 40 percent of new recruits. Above, Philippine Army soldiers man a watchtower in Luzon on October 17, 2006.



Gaza: After disputed parliamentary elections and a bloody fight against the rival Palestinian Authority, Hamas gained full control of this impoverished strip of sand and soil in 2007. When Israel tightened its sanctions, Hamas and other groups retaliated by firing homemade Qassam rockets into nearby Israeli cities. In December 2008, Israel launched a massive operation aimed at crushing Hamas's military capability. Neither side came out of the war untarnished; Hamas has since been accused of using human shields while Israel has battled allegations that it improperly utilized white phosphorus and indiscriminately killed civilians. Above, a Palestinian man searches through rubble after an Israeli airstrike destroyed his home on Jan. 5, 2009.



India: According to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the raging Communist Party of India (Maoist), known as Naxalites after Naxalbari, the site of their first rebellion, are "the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country." Although the Naxalite movement began as little more than a local peasant rebellion in 1967, over time it has evolved into a regional insurgency whose aim is to overthrow the Indian regime and install a Maoist government. In the last decade, the movement has quadrupled in land area, today active in up to 223 districts of the country. Above, CPI (Maoist) members protest the Andhra Pradesh state government's bus-fare hikes on Jan. 7, 2010.


Afghanistan: Mere months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. forces drove the ruling Taliban and its al Qaeda allies out of power and installed a regime headed by President Hamid Karzai. Eight years later, elections have failed to bring stability, and the Taliban-led insurgency continues to rage. In December 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 more troops to join the flagging NATO efforts in Afghanistan, bringing the coalition contingent close to 150,000. Above, an Afghan family watches U.S. Marines near Marjah on Feb. 16, 2010.


Nigeria: The militant movement in Nigeria's Niger Delta sprung up after environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and several of his colleagues were executed by the country's military regime in 1995. Saro-Wiwa had been protesting the poverty and pollution of his home region after oil companies began exploring there a decade earlier. Today's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), founded around 2003, demands a higher percentage of the country's oil wealth and a cleanup of villages polluted by oil. This September 2008 photograph shows MEND members celebrating a recent victory against the Nigerian military. On Jan. 30, 2010, MEND reneged on a unilateral cease-fire it had adopted the previous October, which has led to widespread fear of kidnappings and attacks against oil companies.



South Ossetia: South Ossetia is a breakaway province of Georgia along that country's Russian border. In 1988, the South Ossetian Popular Front (Ademon Nykhaz) was created to fight for secession from Georgia and reintegration with Russia. Military confrontations since then have been frequent, with major episodes in 1991, 1992, 2004, and most recently in 2008, when Russia joined the conflict in support of South Ossetian separatist forces. Today, South Ossetia is firmly in Russian control, but tensions remain high. Above, a convoy of Russian troops makes its way through the mountains toward the conflict in South Ossetia on Aug. 9, 2008.


Nepal: Although the 2006 comprehensive peace agreement marked the end of a 10-year civil war that pitted Maoists against the central government, Nepal has yet to find any semblance of political stability as its two major parties have squabbled incessantly. The most recent flare-up in Katmandu occurred in May 2009, when Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda resigned after President Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress party overturned the prime minister's decision to fire a key general, Rookmangud Katawal. Here, a Nepalese student activist, affiliated with the Nepali Congress, protests Katawal's dismissal on May 3, 2009.



Central African Republic: In 2004, the Central African Republic (CAR) exploded into full-blown civil war after more than a decade of instability. Rebels calling themselves the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity initiated attacks against the government of President François Bozizé, who had seized power in a 2003 coup. Although the conflict officially ended with a peace agreement on April 13, 2007, sporadic violence continues to plague the CAR. Since 2007, the European Union has maintained a mission there whose purpose has been to assist the government and protect civilians. Above French Adjutant Michel Sampic speaks with Abdel Karim Yacoub, a deputy village chief in Dahel, CAR, on Feb. 12, 2009.



Burma: The Karen, an ethnic minority, have been fighting the Burmese government to establish an autonomous state called Kawthoolei along the Thailand border since 1949, making Burma's one of the longest-lasting internal conflicts in the world. In June 2009, the Burmese military undertook an offensive against Karen strongholds on the Thailand-Burma border, crushing seven rebel camps and driving the remaining 4,000 Karen fighters even deeper into the jungle. Here, a soldier from the Karen National Union's armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, carries a machine gun during celebrations marking the rebellion's 57th anniversary, on January 31, 2006.



Colombia: Since 1964, Colombia has been the site of an low-intensity armed feud that has involved the Colombian government, paramilitary organizations, drug cartels, and guerrilla* forces such as the Revolutionary Armed  Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Throughout the conflict, hostage-taking, drug-smuggling, and terrorist attacks against civilians have all become a familiar part of everyday life in much of Colombia. Above, a Colombian narcotics officer handles one of the 757 sticks of dynamite that were seized in Medellín during a Nov. 3, 2009 raid on a FARC weapons cache.

*The spelling of guerrilla was corrected.



Peru: Since 1980, the Peruvian government has been working to stamp out the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla organization that seeks to displace what they see as a "bourgeois" government in Lima and install a "dictatorship of the proletariat." Although the Shining Path was fairly active in the 1980s, the government's 1992 arrest of Abimael Guzmán, the group's leader, dealt a significant blow to its activities. But after a decade of dormancy, the Shining Path announced its comeback by exploding a bomb near the U.S. Embassy in Lima in March 2002, just days before a visit by then U.S. President George W. Bush. Here, Peruvian Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro inspects weapons and uniforms seized from Shining Path members during a clash with police in Tingo Maria on Nov. 27, 2007.



Northern Ireland: In 1969, a secret armed wing of Sinn Fein (Ireland's oldest political party, founded in 1905) called the Provisional Irish Republican Army began a violent campaign to expel British troops stationed in Northern Ireland, which the radicals hoped to reunite with the rest of Ireland. The conflict escalated in 1972 when Westminster declared direct rule over Ulster. More than 3,500 people were killed between 1969 and 1998 -- a period known as "the Troubles," which ended with the 1998 Good Friday agreement. Infrequent remnants of this political unrest linger, as evidenced by the car above destroyed in Lurgan, Ireland, in March 2009.



Darfur, Sudan: In recent years the conflict in Darfur has become one of the world's most well-known, thanks to a U.S.-based advocacy movement calling for an end to what many say is genocide. The conflict's origins are geographic: Sudan's power and resources are concentrated in its northern capital, Khartoum, and other regions of the country tend to be marginalized. In the early 2000s, rebels in the western region of Darfur took up arms in protest. Khartoum responded forcefully, arming nomadic Arab militias called janjaweed that pillaged and raped their way through Darfur, killing an estimated 300,000 Darfuris beginning in 2003. Today, fighting has calmed and a U.N. peacekeeping mission has soldiers on the ground. But more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees are living in camps abroad, and another 1.2 million are displaced within Sudan. Here, Sudanese refugees walk past an E.U. peacekeeping mission in Chad on March 12, 2009.


South Sudan: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has the dubious distinction of being the world's only acting head of state to be indicted for war crimes, with an International Criminal Court warrant issued on March 4, 2009, for his alleged crimes in Darfur. But Darfur isn't Bashir's only headache. South Sudan, a now-autonomous oil-rich region that fought Khartoum for two decades until the 2005 signing of the U.S.-facilitated Comprehensive Peace Agreement, has set a referendum for next year to decide on full secession. Elections scheduled for this year have caused both sides to start re-arming, and simmering violence in the South has killed scores in recent months. Here, al-Bashir is greeted by his supporters on March 18, 2009; he remains popular in the north.



Mexico: Although Mexico, a developed state with a robust middle class, has long battled narcotics smuggling and the violence that comes with it, the recent spike in drug-related deaths has many observers worried about the country's trajectory. The number of people who have died in Mexico from drug-related violence since January 2007 -- some 10,000 -- exceeds the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite President Felipe Calderón's redoubled efforts to crack down on drug gangs, border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, which serve as major transshipment hubs for cocaine and marijuana, have become cauldrons of violence. Above stands a drug treatment center in Ciudad Juárez, where at least 18 people were killed and five wounded during a drug-related incident on Aug. 2, 2009.



Indonesia: Indonesia's two easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua have staged an insurgent campaign to secede from the archipelago country since the early 1960s. Under the U.S.-backed New York Agreement, the Netherlands ceded the provinces to Indonesia in 1961 -- but without Papuan consent. Today, the low-intensity conflict churns on between Papuan insurgents armed with bows and arrows pitted against the Indonesian Army. The leader of the Free Papua Movement, Kelly Kwalia, was killed in a shootout with Indonesian forces last December. Here, members of the Free Papua Movement speak to the press on July 21, 2009, denying claims that they were involved in the 2002 attacks on a copper and gold mine.



Iraq: On Dec. 13, 2003, nine months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. soldiers captured deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn. This success was followed by three years of civil war and chaos, during which U.S. forces were brutalized by Iraqi insurgents. Although the United States began to turn the tide of the war with Gen. David Petraeus's 2007 troop surge, Iraq continues to suffer from political instability and frequent violence. Above, one of the approximately 50,000 U.S. troops that remain in Iraq stands guard at the Baghdad Provincial Council on Oct. 25, 2009, the site of a car bomb explosion just hours earlier.



Yemen: Since June 2004, the Yemeni government has been at war with the Houthis, a militant Shiite group named after its now deceased leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. Some analysts see the conflict as a semicovert proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Saudi Arabia, the major Sunni power in the region, backing the Yemeni government and even intervening with airstrikes and incursions along the countries' border, while Iran, the major Shiite power in the region, supports the rebels. Although the Yemeni government and the Houthis signed a cease-fire agreement in early February 2010, it is too early to tell whether the accord will hold. Here, a band of Houthi rebels drive through Yemen's Malahidh region near the Saudi border on Feb. 17, 2010.



Uzbekistan: Like Russia and other post-Soviet countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Uzbekistan has had a difficult time balancing the fight against Islamist extremism with the need to integrate its more moderate Muslim population. In particular, the Uzbek government's habit of harassing and torturing suspected terrorists has frayed relations with local Muslim groups. Most recently, in 2005, members of the Uzbek Interior Ministry and security service opened fire on a crowd of Muslim protesters in Andijan. Estimates of the number killed range from 187 (the official government count) to more than 1,500 (the figure provided by an ex-Uzbek intelligence officer). Above, the Uzbek Embassy in London on May 17, 2005, defaced with red paint following the Andijan massacre.



Uganda: For the past 22 years, fanatical guerrilla Joseph Kony has led the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in a rampage across the country's north and into the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. At first, the movement aimed to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a Christian theocracy. Today, it has deteriorated into pillaging and banditry. The movement is notorious for taking children as servants and fighters; an estimated 3,000 fill its ranks today. A cease-fire between the Ugandan government and the LRA during 2006-to-2008 talks in Juba, Sudan, inspired great hopes for peace, but the negotiations came to a disappointing end when, in April 2008, Kony backed out of the deal. Above, a woman and her children stand next to their destroyed hut in Uganda's Amuria district on Sept. 24, 2007.



Thailand: The Thai government has long had a strained relationship with its Muslim population, many of whom live in the southern region of Pattani. But the tension came to a head in 2004, when Islamist rebels in Pattani began a full-fledged separatist insurgency. Bangkok claims that the restive southern region will soon be stabilized. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to mount: As of March 2008, more than 3,000 militants had been killed. Above, Thai soldiers examine the corpse of a suspected Islamist militant shot in a firefight on Feb. 15, 2010.



Ogaden, Ethiopia: The Ogaden Liberation Front, a group of ethnic Somalis from a region of Ethiopia that juts into their native country, has been fighting for Ogaden independence since 1984 -- an independence that would inevitably lead to incorporation into Somalia. Not eager for such an outcome, Ethiopia has cracked down in Ogaden, often preventing aid groups from operating there. Some think that the country's 2006 invasion of Somalia was a pre-emptive move to warn Somalia's Islamist government not to start fighting for "greater Somalia" with more zeal. Here, a boy tends to a herd of cattle in the largely nomadic, rural region on Jan. 17, 2008.

Previous Next Close