Local, Regional and Sub-State Defense Forces in post-ISIS Iraq: Effectiveness and Long-Term Impacts

Regional or community forces, militias, and other forms of local security actors have long existed in Iraq, supported either by local political actors or parties, regional actors or non-state groups. However, in the last two years, these local and hybrid security forces have proliferated. Peshmerga forces, the militia groups working under the Popular Mobilization Forces, and a range of tribal, minority and other local community forces could be quickly mobilized to counter the threat posed by ISIL and fill gaps in the Iraqi Security Forces. How have these groups impacted community and political dynamics, prospects for stabilization in liberated areas, and other rule of law, governance, and rights concerns? What will be the future position of these groups after the immediate crisis is resolved, and how will the greater reliance on these quasi- or non-state actors impact the long-term prospects for the Iraqi state? 

IRIS, the Global Public Policy institute (GPPi), and the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) are engaged in a three-year research and knowledge sharing initiative exploring the impact of sub-state or other hybrid security forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and, in a more limited vein, Syria. 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.

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

Post-ISIS Security Projects

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