Security Assistance and Non-State Actors in Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan: Comprehensive and Inclusive Human Security Beyond the State?

How has foreign support for different armed groups impacted governance and state-building in Iraq? Which assumptions underlie the claim that locally tailored responses to the rise of extremist movements such as ISIS may be more effective and legitimate? How accurate are they?

IRIS will seek to generate evidence- and field-based insights to these questions through a new research and knowledge-sharing initiative in consortium with the Berlin-based Global Public Policy institute (GPPi) and the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN). This three-year initiative will explore the impact of militias, or local defense forces, and regional or hybrid forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and, in a more limited vein Syria, to the extent the issues overlap with Iraq.

Researchers will approach these issues through a comprehensive security lens, considering not only whether these groups have contributed to security and stabilization goals but also how they have affected community dynamics and empowerment; the protection of civilians and human rights; and other political, rule of law and governance dynamics. Researchers will also pay particular attention to how these forces are affected by foreign support or assistance, and when faced with transnational or regional security threats.

IRIS will lead the investigation of these issues in the current Iraqi context through field research, high-level stakeholder meetings, community-level consultations, as well as scholarly exchanges. Key streams of analysis will be community perspectives and legitimacy, rule of law and state-building priorities, and security effectiveness and protection concerns. These new field-based insights will be developed into a series of thematic papers, blogs, and a summary overview paper of relevant thematic and comparative issues at the end of the research.

The two first stakeholder meetings will take place at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) in December 2016, where key scholar, analysts, practitioners, and members of the community will be invited to present their research and identify the most pressing knowledge gaps.

This initiative is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) WOTRO Center for Global Development.