Non-state actors

In its core, a political non-state actor can be defined as a political actor that is not defined as a state. This definition, however, does not really help us to conceptualize better the whole range of different types of actors that fall into the category. D. Jos-selin and W. Wallace (2001, 3—4) point out the variety of the non-state actors and define those critical for the world politics as being mostly autonomous from the central government; operating as part of a network establishing transnational relations; and acting in a way that affects the political outcomes. In this sense, an actor that is relevant from the macro-perspective needs to be autonomous, with at least regional impact and efficient in shaping the environment.

The first category that will be taken out of the picture for the purposes of this book is the set of actors known, among other terms, as the de facto, or unrecognized states as defined and analyzed in studies (Kolsto 2006; Caspersen 2012; Hoch, Kopecek, and Baar 2017; Pegg 1998; Stanislawski 2008; Harvey and Stansfield 2011; Riegl 2010), and others. Second, we focus only on the violent non-state actors, meaning actors that are "able to commit violence in a cohesive and purposefid manner for a significant amount of time” (Vinci 2009, 4). Violent political non-state actors themselves are the objects of additional categorizations. In this part, we will present three of them to help readers better grasp the issue before presenting our definition of the jihadist violent non-state actors with which we are going to operate throughout the rest of the book.

The first typology of the violent non-state actors was presented by P. Williams. In his paper, Williams distinguishes among warlords, militias, paramilitary forces, insurgencies, terrorist organizations, and criminal organizations, and youth gangs based on criteria like motivation, purpose, scope, funding, the role of violence, relationship with the state, or provision of functions for others. There is no need to follow Williams's analysis in detail, but just to clarify the differences we provide a brief summary. Williams divides the violent non-state actors into these categories: (i) warlord - self-interested charismatic leader; acts in self-interest; the aim of personal enrichment; (ii) militias - irregular armed forces; similar to warlord but lacking charismatic leader; act in the group interest; (iii)paramilitary forces - similar to militias; act to aid state; sometimes established with state consent; (iv) insurgencies - aim to overthrow a government or secede from a state; political organizations; able to provide some functions for communities; (v) terrorist organizations - terror as a central strategy; political goals; and (vi) criminal organizations and youth gangs - economic goals; different products, scope, and organizational structure (Williams 2008).

The second study presented here is one ofE. Zohar, who established a typology based on goals and focus of activity of the different non-state actors. He thus makes a distinction between four types of these groups - secessionist, social-revolutionary, sectarian-revolutionary, and global revolutionary. Let us briefly look at the distinctions Zohar makes among these four types: (i) secessionist - seek separation from the state; try to control territory; (ii) social-revolutionary - seek regime change; challenge socio-economic structure; (iii) sectarian-revolutionary - seek regime change; seek sectarian or ethnic marginalization; (iv) global revolutionary - seek global change; ideology (Zohar 2015).

The third author to be mentioned is U. Schneckener, who established a typology detecting the most important ideal types of the violent non-state actors - (i) rebels/ guerrilla fighters striving for a regime change, secession, or an end of occupation;

  • (ii) militias/paraniilitaries operating on behalf of/or being tolerated by a regime;
  • (iii) clan chiefs/big men being a traditional authority; (iv) warlords who are capable of controlling territory through utilizing private army with the aim of a profitmaking; (v) terrorists aiming to spread fear in order to achieve political goals; (vi) criminals being organizations seeking profit out of the legal system; (vii) mercenaries and private military companies being volunteers recruited to fight for one side of the conflict; (viii) marauders/sobels (soldiers by day, rebels by night) former or current members of security forces engaged in pillaging and looting (Schneckener 2006).

As evident, there are many different cleavages that can be utilized to divide among the virtually endless categories of violent non-state actors. These categorizations, consequently, establish varying classifications of the studied groups. We have no intention of establishing a new comprehensive typology, as this would be redundant for the purpose of this book. We, however, need to present our concept of the type of actors we are focusing on in this book in order to focus our work on one set of currently highly topical groups active in the international politics.5 The first defining criterion is that these groups use irregular combat as a cornerstone of their military and political strategy. This does not mean that they do not utilize semi-regular forces (like Hezbollah) or attempt to govern the population on its territory (like Al-Shabaab). Thus, the groups fall into Williams's category of terrorist groups, with some being also definable as insurgencies or criminal gangs. However, we must keep in mind that the designation “terrorist” is problematic as it is, especially following 9/11, highly politicized and will be avoided where possible. The second important characteristic is the connection of these groups to the propagation of political (beside Hezbollah Sunni) Islam, usually in its radical interpretation. All of these groups are in no small degree connected to the propagation of Islamic ideas generally in their radical or violent Salafist (in opposition to the quietist tradition) form, while not necessarily following a singular doctrine as evident by the incorporation of Shia Hezbollah or the more nationalistic Hamas. Most of the selected cases are also connected to some part of the global jihadist movement. Third, these groups can act as proxy forces but are not directly tied to support of some particular state goals only. Their aim is not to support any existing state but to challenge the state structure and establish Caliphate or an Islamic state (not to confuse with the particular group originating from Iraq) or to represent a portion of a population characterized by some single defining feature (like Hamas or Hezbollah). To sum up, the actors selected for this work are groups that are not acting in the interest of a state, aim to propagate (radical interpretation of) political Islam as a source of administration, and use terror and violence as a primary means to achieve their goals. We understand that there will be many border cases. In that case, we will take into consideration groups that, in their past, fell into the definition despite the fact that throughout their evolution, they moved slightly away from it. This means that we do not only incorporate groups like Al-Qaeda, Islamic State. Al-Shabaab, or Boko Haram but also Hezbollah, Taliban, or Hamas with more nationalistic agenda and some connection to the (quasi-)state institutions. In our analysis of territoriality the following groups will be used for the empirical part as to present the diversity of the groups from geographical, organizational as well as ideological point of view - Al-Qaeda central, Islamic State (mainly between 2014 and 2016), Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM)/Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)/Ansarul Islam as examples of Sahelian groups, Abu Sayyaf, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Where useful throughout the theoretical part, we will also refer to other groups falling into the category of violent Islamist movements, but these 11 organizations will establish the core for the following analysis.

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