Adelphi Books

The International Institute for Strategic Studies is an independent centre for research, information and debate on the problems of conflict, however caused, that have, or potentially have, an important military content. The Council and Staff of the Institute are international and its membership is drawn from almost 100 countries. The Institute is independent and it alone decides what activities to conduct. It owes no allegiance to any government, any group of governments or any political or other organisation. The IISS stresses rigorous research with a forward-looking policy orientation and places particular emphasis on bringing new perspectives to the strategic debate. The Institute’s publications are designed to meet the needs of a wider audience than its own membership and are available on subscription, by mail order and in good bookshops. Further details at www.iiss.org. For states, it is acutely important to master the strategic art of dealing with non-state armed groups. Most wars of the past 30 years have been intra-state, albeit with varying amounts of outside interference. Often, a point comes when the governments involved conclude that military victory is not imminent and so attempt to open some sort of political track. Even after this realisation, securing a satisfactory outcome is hard. States can fail to articulate achievable long-term objectives. And they can fail to formulate and implement a strategy that marries coercive measures with political overtures. Many states find themselves wandering a strategic wilderness, neither winning on the battlefield nor resolving the conflict at the negotiating table. There are several permutations of fighting and talking with armed groups. In some instances, states have fought, negotiated and then fought again. In other instances states have fought and negotiated simultaneously. Some states facing multiple armed groups have adopted a discriminatory approach, fighting some while negotiating with others. Every war features a unique interplay between security measures and political engagement – but the interplay is always present. This is hardly a revelation. It ought to be the bedrock of sound strategic thinking. The pertinent question is how they overlap in the wars of today, and what implications this carries for policymakers. Conflicts with armed groups risk becoming generational undertakings, scarring the globe in wars that have no apparent end in sight. And yet, since all wars end eventually, it is worth exploring how to avoid vacillating between the military and political tracks of engagement, with no discernible outcome on the horizon. Conversely, what constitutes effective and realistic strategy towards armed groups? Since the end of the Cold War, purely inter-state wars have been relatively rare. Examples include the First Gulf War (1991), India–Pakistan (1998), the US invasion of Iraq (2003), and Russia–Georgia (2008). Armed groups featured even in some of these wars, and one (Iraq 2003) gave birth to a nasty insurgency. Over the same period, intra-state conflict has been much more prevalent, affecting Europe, Latin America, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, central and south Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Examples include the former Yugoslavia, Colombia, Libya, the Democratic Republic of...

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