Afghanistan and Syria: Nonstate Actors and Their Negative Impact on Human Security



This chapter offers an in-depth look at the presence of nonstate actors in those two failed states. In the case of Afghanistan, he highlights the presence of progovernment groups, including (a) militias, paramilitary groups, and auxiliary police forces (the largest being the Khost Protection Force or KPF) and (b) PMSCs and the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF). Mostly local, many of these PMSCs are led by members of the Afghan government, close relatives of the political elite, or warlords and, in practice, function as militias at the service of a given warlord who may even have contacts with the insurgents, whom he pays off to avoid confrontations. In addition to these groups, there are the insurgents: the Taliban; Al-Qaeda and its Uzbek affiliates, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union; the Haqqani Network; Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin; and Daesh. The conflict in Syria also features numerous nonstate armed actors (NSAAs), including (1) militias, (2) mercenaries and PMSCs (in particular, Russian private security contractors, such as those employed by the company Slavonic Corps), and (3) foreign combatants and terrorists. As both cases show, in these “internationalized non-international armed conflicts,” as they are known under IHL, the direct participation in hostilities of NSAAs negatively impacts all aspects of human security, making them one of the main threats to peace and stability. The central government loses control of large parts of the territory, leading to the collapse of central government structures, as they can no longer guarantee citizens essential services related to security, health, education, or infrastructure. As a result, populations organize around prestate political structures, which develop ad hoc agreements to manage the affairs of an environment without state sovereignty. As in medieval Europe, there is a return to tribal logic and to temporary warlords, reprivatization of the law, and renewed confusion between economic exploitation and political dominance. Thus, the massive presence of various types of NSAAs has increased the level of violence in both Syria and Afghanistan.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EurocorpsStrasbourgFrance

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