Concepts • October 30, 2018
The collapse of state authority across the Arab world and the devolution of power to local security actors have overturned long-held norms of sovereignty and civil-military relations. While non-state actors have long been a feature of the Arab system, what distinguishes contemporary conflict and post-conflict states like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen is the profusion of sub-state security actors receiving varying degrees of support from weak or fractured central authorities, as well as from foreign patrons. Faced with this complexity, governments in these countries confront a number of options moving forward: traditional models of demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR), combined with security sector reform; attempts to harness and co-opt the armed groups for the maintenance of local security, what some observers have called “hybrid security”; and relatedly, the formalizing of local security actors into regionally-constituted, national-guard type militaries that are tethered to a central or regional command authorities creating, in effect, a dual-military structure. None of these is ideal and each is fraught with varying degrees of risks and drawbacks, in terms of furthering or reconfiguring armed conflict, contributing to fragmentation, or bolstering authoritarian consolidation.