Bitter Friends: How Relationships Between Violent Non-State Actors Form, Are Used, and Shape Behavior
Wahedi, Laila A
Byman, Daniel L
Most militant groups do not act in isolation. They exist in a vast web of partnerships which help them to mobilize resources, learn, and survive. But partnerships can also be costly in terms of time, risk, and autonomy. This dissertation examines the cooperative network among violent actors. How do groups select their partners? How do groups use their partnerships to enhance their own capabilities? What are the ways in which certain patterns of partnerships help or constrain groups?Transnational Sponsorship of Local Groups: Violent transregional organizations operate in multiple conflicts, and have an inherent interest in extending their reach into new territories. They do this by sponsoring local actors in local conflicts. I find that transregional groups prefer strong local affiliates that can provide secure access to territory and strong command and control. Strong local actors do not need sponsorship, and prefer autonomy. Partnership only occurs when the local group needs access to transregional networks or legitimacy provided by the transregional group. This can backfire for the transregional group when the local group becomes strong enough to create their own network and become a competitor, as occurred with al Qaeda with al Qaeda in Iraq.Structure of Violent Networks: The structure of the violent group partnership network shapes the ways that goods and vulnerabilities flow between groups. More centralized local networks with well-connected groups at the center and poorly connected groups at the periphery are efficient because the central group can specialize in distributing contextualized information and screening members. Flatter local networks lack coordination. I find that more centralized networks produce greater lethality and survivability among members.Diffusion of Violent Tactics: Violent actors need to adapt in order to survive, but adopting new tactics can be costly. Groups rely on partners in order to reduce the costs of learning new tactics on their own. Moreover, more centralized networks, networks with few well-connected groups and many groups with few partners, better facilitate the spread of tactical information. Competition among groups increases the need to adapt, encouraging innovation.
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