Deadliest Wars Since World War II

These are the deadliest battles that have been fought since World War II, organized by highest estimation of death toll.

The Second World War was the deadliest armed conflict in the history of the world with about 85 million people losing their lives. When the war ended in 1945, the world believed that the dark history of war was behind. However, in following decades, many deadly conflicts came up which drew in many international belligerents and cost millions of lives.

7. Iran-Iraq War/Gulf War - 1 million

The Gulf War was a military campaign conducted in the Middle East after the Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Iraqi government, led by Saddam Hussein decided to forcefully take over oil fields in Kuwait. Fearing the tragic consequences of global oil production, the US together with allied forces drawn from the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Egypt, and other countries totaling 35 nations, came to the aid of Kuwait and began intensive naval and aerial bombardment. The US-backed forces were able to liberate Kuwait and forced the Iraqi forces back to their territory. While the war lasted only one month, it cost millions of lives with estimates putting the death toll at 1 million.

6. Korean War - 1.2 million

The Korean War was an armed confrontation between North Korea and South Korea which lasted for three years and cost 1.2 million lives. The Korean War began when North Korea attempted to forcefully reunite Korea through military invasion. North Korea forces had gained much ground in the campaign and were about to defeat the south until the United Nations, backed by the United States came in to help the South who drove the North Korean forces back until they reached the border with China. China and the Soviet Union later came in to support the North. The war continued until the warring factions agreed to sign an armistice on July 27th, 1953, an action which ended the military conflict. However, there was no peace treaty, and the two countries are still technically at war.

5. War in Afghanistan - 2 million

The War in Afghanistan can be classified as part of the War on Terror and was the first military campaign of the United States against the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The War in Afghanistan was preceded by the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks where terrorists affiliated to al-Qaeda hijacked two commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York killing more than 3,000 people. In response, the United States President, George W Bush, demanded the Taliban hand over leaders of the al-Qaeda including Osama bin Laden which the Taliban declined forcing the US, backed by the UK, to launch a military campaign against the Afghani regime dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The armed conflict took 13 years and ended on December 28th, 2014 when the US withdrew its armed forces from the country. It is estimated that 2 million people lost their lives during the war.

4. War on terror - 2 million

The War on Terror is the term used to define numerous ongoing wars all over the world which were triggered by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York. The War on Terror was initially focused on a military campaign against the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but morphed to become a war on a global scale with military campaigns in Iraq, Pakistan, Mali, Syria, and Somalia. In recent years, the War on Terror has seen the rise of a new terrorist outfit known as the Islamic State or ISIL which has a significant presence in Syria and Libya. The death toll from the ongoing war is estimated to be 2 million.

3. Biafra War - 3 million

The Biafra War (also known as the Nigerian Civil War) was a civil war which took place in the West-African country of Nigeria. The war, which spanned two years and six months, was one of the deadliest in the continent with about 3 million people losing their lives. The Biafra War erupted when the Nigerian government moved in to prevent a secession attempt by the Igbo people residing in the Biafra region. The leaders behind the secession attempt were inspired by the local disdain of the Nigerian government whose reputation had been tarnished by rampant corruption as well as several coups. The Nigerian government surrounded the Biafra region and effectively put it under siege with no supplies allowed to enter. The military tactic triggered a terrible famine that claimed millions of lives. The Nigerian forces which had support from Britain defeated the secessionists who were forced to surrender and bringing the bloody war to abrupt end on January 15th, 1970.

2. Vietnam War - 3.8 million

The Vietnam War was an armed conflict engaged in the Asian countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia which began in 1955 and went on for almost 20 years until it ended in 1975. The Vietnam War was the deadliest war in Asia since the WWII with the death toll being estimated at 3.8 million people. Also known as the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam War’s primary belligerents were North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The cause of the conflict can be traced back to the first Indochina War which resulted in Indochina splitting into four independent countries namely Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was the only country out of the four to have a communist government with the other three becoming capitalist countries. Soon afterward, North Vietnam began supporting rebel communist groups in South Vietnam who aimed to depose the incredibly corrupt government of South Vietnam. The civil war escalated to draw in the United States which brought thousands of troops to aid South Vietnam. However, the United States withdrew its forces when North Vietnam’s victory became apparent. The war ended on April 30th, 1975 after North Vietnamese forces seized the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.

1. Second Congo War - 5.4 million

The Second Congo War was an armed conflict which took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo between August 1998 and July 2003. Nine African countries were involved in the Second Congo War and included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Namibia, Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Sudan, and Burundi. The war lasted nearly five years and became the deadliest war in African history and the deadliest globally since WWII with 5.4 million deaths attributed to the effects of the war and 2 million people being displaced. The Second Congo War is seen as a continuation of the First Congo War which ended on May 17, 1997, after Laurent Kabila proclaimed himself as president and ousting Mobutu Sese Seko who fled to exile. However, several decisions made by Kabila after that caused another diplomatic row between him and Kigali including his order to have all Rwandan and Ugandan troops, who had been instrumental in his military campaign, to be unceremoniously flown back to their countries. The action caused Rwanda and Uganda to start offering military and technical support to rebel groups which began fighting Kabila’s forces. When rebels gained more ground, Kabila appealed for international help from the Southern African Development Community whose member countries had a mutual defense treaty binding them. Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola sent their troops to help the DRC to combat the rebels. The war ended after South Africa sponsored peace talks between the warring factions.

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