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Delegation, Sponsorship, and Autonomy: An Integrated Framework for Understanding Armed Group–State Relationships


AbstractWhat types of relationships do armed groups have with states? How do different levels of ties and power relations affect both armed group and government behavior? This article develops a spectrum across which armed group–state relationships can move, focusing on three key types of relationships—delegation, sponsorship, and autonomy. An armed group–state relationship may be classified depending on the degree to which the armed group receives material or security support from a state, whether it pursues the strategic aims of the state, and the balance of power between the armed group and the state. I examine cases and empirical examples of relationships between states and armed groups ranging from criminal organizations to Cold War-era rebels to pro-government and communal militias to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and al-Qaeda. As lines between categories of armed groups and between state and non-state actors are increasingly blurred, the integrated framework enhances our ability to analyze the behavior and liabilities of both armed groups and states and to understand sources of leverage for protecting human rights and resolving conflicts.

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