Concepts • September 12, 2019
Contemporary wars have created many kinds of local armed forces – not just those that fight, but those that provide security to some and insecurity to others, feeding on local, national, and international resources, and often seeking to leverage their war-time power into peace-time influence. Afghanistan and Iraq – the two countries at the center of our recently concluded collaborative research project on local, sub-state, and hybrid security forces – provide two examples of this dynamic in action; other examples include Syria and Libya. Post-war national governments and their well-meaning international supporters continue to see such forces as strictly temporary, to be either professionalized and integrated into regular security institutions or disbanded and released into civilian life. Only that is not what happens: time and again, the current practice of security-sector reform (SSR) or disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) fails. A closer look at incentives, sources of political and economic power, and the context conditions of violent politics and war economies, based largely on three years of empirical work carried out by my colleagues, provides a starting point from which to distinguish policies that are doomed to fail from those that may carry the seeds of potential success.