A Decade Of Trends And The Unexpected

Published on strategypage.com on January 5, 2010

It's actually been a decade of less and less war. There's also been a lot of déjà vu, with many wars seeming to be endless. Some wars are like that. So what were all the current hot spots like a decade ago, and what happened to them? Below is a list, with the short version of what happened (check out archives for the much longer version).


Afghanistan was sort of under the control of the Pakistani backed Taliban in 2000. But the civil war, that began in the late 1970s, was still going on. The Taliban were winning, slowly, fueled by taxes on the heroin trade. But the Taliban were increasingly unpopular, mainly for trying to impose lifestyle rules on a hostile population. September 11, 2001 brought in the Americans to help the factions still fighting the Taliban, and within three months, the Taliban were out of power, and fleeing to Pakistan. A democracy was established, but corruption and tribal rivalries crippled it from the start. The Pushtun tribes resented the domination of the non-Pushtun tribes (60 percent of the population), and this enabled the Taliban to rebuild and undertake a terror campaign to regain control of the country. It's a suicide mission (even most Pushtuns oppose them), but that's pretty normal for Afghanistan.



Algeria. The local Salafist Islamic radicals were fighting a bloody terror campaign against a corrupt dictatorship. These Islamic radicals would lose before the end of the decade, accepting amnesty, or hunted down and killed. Over 100,000 died in a decade of Islamic terrorism.


Angola. The long civil war finally died out, early in the decade.

Balkans. Kosovo had just been liberated by NATO troops, and American air power. By the end of the decade, Kosovo would be independent, and the region would still be screwed up. Turkey develops an Islamic streak. Bosnia settles down, despite constant threat of Islamic terrorists setting up shop.

Central Asia. A decade of some violence. Meanwhile, dictators brew rebellion by suppressing democrats, Islamic radicals and anyone else who objects to strongman rule. Not a lot of violence, just a lot of potential. The dictators in the "Stans" (the former provinces of the Soviet Union that became five independent nations; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan) have been rebuilding the Soviet era secret police. The new dictators noted that the Soviets never had any problems with Islamic terrorism, or any other kind of terrorism, and are going old school on this new problem.

Chad. The civil war in Sudan (Darfur) spills over. Sudan and Chad support each others rebels, and this leads on two attempts by rebel forces to cross Chad and attack the capital. French forces (there to protect current government) help keep the rebels from winning. Oil was developed in the last decade and, despite strenuous efforts by the World Bank and other NGOs, Chad officials still plunder the oil revenue. Things have settled down by the end of the decade, but there is no peace yet, if ever. Chad has been suffering civil war for three decades now.

China. Undertook a program to buy and steal all the military technology it could from Russia, and largely succeeded. China also began modernizing part of its armed forces, and shrinking the rest. The diplomatic/military "siege" of Taiwan continued.

Colombia. Decades of leftist rebels trying to take over the country, plus the growth of the cocaine trade, receded during the decade, as an effective opposition, and government, develops. Leftist groups lose more than half their strength in the decade, and drug gangs begin moving out of the country.

Congo. A civil war, caused by defeated Hutus from neighboring Rwanda, ends up destroying much of eastern Congo and leaving millions dead. Because of the Hutu militias, fleeing Rwanda after their 1994 genocide failed to destroy the Tutsi minority, civil war was triggered in eastern Congo, and eventually ended 32 years of despotic rule. Several brigades of UN peacekeepers arrive, beginning in 2000, and by the end of the decade, the fighting is dying out, but not gone yet. The worst conflict of the decade, with over four million dead.

Ethiopia. Decade began with first ever free (but not so fair) multiparty elections. There was also an end to the two year war with Eritrea. But there was no permanent peace, as Ethiopia refused to abide by the ruling of an international arbitrator regarding border dispute with Eritrea. Uprisings among Omoro and Somali tribesmen, and a yearlong incursion into Somalia.

Haiti. Peacekeepers arrived in the 1990s, and remained throughout the last decade. Two centuries of independence have failed to improve the lives of Haitians. Corruption, and lack of cooperation, continues to block progress and peace. 

India-Pakistan. Pakistani backed terrorism in Kashmir was a growing problem, and both nations had troops massed on the border, after almost going to full scale war in 1999. Pakistan begins the decade as a military dictatorship again, but switches back to democracy by the end of the decade. Pakistan comes to regret harboring and encouraging Islamic radicals since the late 1970s, and ends the decade at war with these killers, and the Pushtun tribes they have infected.

Indonesia. Throwing off 32 years of despotic rule, the last decade has largely been a battle against separatism and Islamic radicalism. Democracy survived, Islamic radicalism was defeated, and only East Timor managed to separate itself from Indonesia and become independent.

Iran.  Has two of its hostile neighbors (Saddam's Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan) neutralized by the United States. This enables religious dictatorship to increase efforts to help Shia minority take over Lebanon. In Iraq, Shia are a majority, but most are hostile to Iranian plans, and Iran is forced to back off. Same deal in Afghanistan. Offers of help accepted in Gaza, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. Effort to build nuclear weapons and longer range ballistic missiles continues. Internal opposition to all this, and a religious police state in general, grows. By now, there are major anti-government demonstrations.

Iraq- Saddam Hussein was under siege at the beginning of the decade, refusing to comply with the terms of his defeat in the 1991 war over Kuwait. Saddam, as he later admitted, had no weapons of mass destruction, but did not want the Iranians (who wanted to kill him for invading in 1980) to know. It was a successful deception, so much so that all the world's intel agencies agreed that Saddam had these weapons, and that was used to justify the U.S./British invasion of 2003. There followed five years of terrorism, as the Sunni Arab minority (which Saddam had led) tried to murder their way back into power. That didn't work, and Iraq ends the decade with a booming, not shrinking, economy, and a bloody resolution to some long time political disputes. 

Israel. The decade began with Israel making a peace offer to the Palestinians. By today's standards, it looked like a great deal. But the Palestinians decided to try a terror campaign against Israel, to get better terms. That failed. Israel figured out how to halt Palestinian terror attacks inside Israel, and in the process, destroyed the Palestinian economy. All the stress caused a split among the Palestinians, with the old line, but corrupt, PLO controlling the West Bank, and radical Hamas, running Gaza (which Israel, in 2005, gave control of, to the Palestinians, in 2005 as a peace gesture). The decade ends with the Palestinians pleading that they are victims (of shooting themselves in the foot) and in need of international assistance (which discouraged donors are no longer willing to provide.) Israel also withdrew from bases in southern Lebanon. That gesture didn't work either, and Hezbollah is equipped by Iran to attack Israel with barrages of rockets, and does just that in 2006.

Ivory Coast. Began the decade with a growing dispute between the north and south, natives and migrants, Moslems and Christians. Got ugly for a while, but has since settled down, with the country split in two, but still pretending to be one nation.  

Korea. South Korea thrives, while North Korea spends the decade threatening to blow up the world, if enough free food and fuel is not sent to prevent North Korea from starving and freezing to death. Two nuclear tests carried out, and more are promised. Leadership also gets shaky up north, with arguments over succession, and how to cope with the economic problems. South Korea gets fed up and goes hard line over dealing with the north.

Kurdish War. The Kurdish radical PKK took a hammering and was on the ropes at the end of the decade. There's less fighting, but more political activity. The Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq became independent in the early 1990s, when the U.S. and Britain told Iraq to stay out, or else. After 2003, the several million Iraqi Kurds grew more prosperous and independent minded, while still (once more) a part of Iraq. And so it continues.

Mexico. Drug gangs grow in power, corrupting police, politicians, and even the army. This triggers a violent response from the government, which leads to high levels of violence along the U.S. border as war between the security forces and drug gangs plays out.

Myanmar. Yet another decade of military rule. Police state keeps democrats down, while army keeps fighting tribes in the north, nearly crushing the major ones by the end of the decade, and causing many tribal refugees to flee into Thailand and China.

Nepal. Maoist movement succeeds in demolishing the monarchy, when everyone decides that continued fighting is not the best way to go. Republic installed in 2008. Over a decade of Maoist violence left 12,000 dead. Maoists enter government as largest party, but then leave when they can't get all they want. Decade ends with   Maoists threatening to resume war, but are unsure if the more popular government could now crush them.

Nigeria. Islamic radicalism grows throughout the decade, but never becomes a major problem. Violence between Moslems and non-Moslems continues to be a more serious problem. But the worst violence is in the Niger River delta, where locals want a larger cut of the oil revenue. Rebels cut production by over a million barrels a day, causing the government to provide amnesty and other concessions. Niger Delta violence likely to resume because corruption in government will cause many of the amnesty benefits to disappear.

Philippines. This war, against Moslem separatists and communist rebels, continues, after four decades. Some Islamic terrorists have been added, but the government is in a better position, having gotten separatists and communists to undertake peace negotiations. Islamic terrorists grab headlines, but are not a major threat.

Russia. The army had just invaded Chechnya again. The last time, in the early 1990s, was a disaster. This time, the army was prepared. Chechnya had descended into anarchy, dominated by criminal gangs and Islamic radicals, spewing violence and crime throughout the Caucasus and southern Russia. The Russian invasion was the response. The problem was solved the way the Russians had done so many times before; using brute force. Meanwhile, Russia realized that their armed forces were falling apart (the budget had been cut 90 percent through the 1990s), and it was time to rebuild. Government revives many police state characteristics, but goes go after corruption and gets the economy moving.

Rwanda and Burundi. Decade opens with Hutu rebels were still active in Burundi, but already crushed in Rwanda. It would take another decade to settle down in Burundi. The Hutu/Tutsi rivalries and hatreds are centuries old, and are not going away anytime soon.

Sierra Leone. Years of civil war and chaos slowly ended over the first half of the decade. Peacekeepers began arriving in 2000 (and leaving in 2005). Country is still a mess, but a relatively quiet one.

Somalia. Attempts to form a government (the last one disappeared in 1991), kept failing. In the last decade, several Islamic radical factions developed. This triggered an Ethiopian occupation of the capital for a year. Islamic radical factions now fighting each other, partly over the sanctuary some groups are providing to foreign terrorists (like al Qaeda).

Sri Lanka. Tamil (ethnic separatists) are hammering army at the start of decade, but government turns things around over next nine years and crush the rebels.  

Sudan. The Islamic conservative government goes through the motions of establishing an Islamic dictatorship, and crushing all opposition from the half of the population that was not Arab (culturally). Began the decade trying to settle the civil war in the south (against non-Moslem, non-African tribesmen). Sort of did that, then started another one in the west (against non-Arab Moslem farmers.) New oilfields developed with Chinese help, and China becomes an ally.

Thailand. Decade begins with minor Islamic terror movement emerging in the south, and the cleanest national elections ever. Royalist and populist politicians cannot agree on how to run the country, and military stages a coup in 2006. Backs off after a year and allows elections, but still helps suppress populists. While all this nonviolent political strife unreels, violence grows in the south, leaving over 4,000 dead for a decade of Islamic terrorism (to establish a tiny Islamic state from the three southernmost provinces).

War On Terror. At the beginning of the decade, Islamic terrorists were being pursued, and were known to be very active in many places (particularly Afghanistan, where they were welcome,  and Algeria, where they were not). September 11, 2001 was a wakeup call for the West. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq cause huge losses for al Qaeda, especially the loss of sanctuary in the Persian Gulf. Decade ends with al Qaeda more of a media, than physical, presence. Very few successful attacks in the West since 2001, and a long string of defeats.

Uganda. The government was able to deal with several rebel groups, except one (the LRA, or Lords Resistance Army). By the end of the decade, the LRA had been driven out of Uganda, and the army had permission from neighboring countries, to chase down the LRA remnants.

Yemen. Installed its first elected president in 1999, but powerful factions enabled Islamic terrorists to install themselves. Throughout the decade, independent minded Shia tribes in the north cause unrest, and then open rebellion at the end of the decade. This triggers drive to destroy al Qaeda presence, along with Shia tribal violence.