Rethinking “Control” in civil wars

Territorial control has long been a central focus of policy analysis and scholarly research in civil wars, maps of Viet Minh influence in French Indochina to Stathis Kalyvas’ foundational 2006 book to a current generation of micro-level work in which the spatial distribution of control is, at minimum, a necessary control variable. But what exactly is control and how should we think about how it varies?

This is a provocative new think piece, inspired by Afghanistan, by Ibraheem Bahiss, Ashley Jackson, Leigh Mayhew and Florian Weigand on the complexities of “control.”

It’s full of useful insights but this is, to me, the most interesting takeaway:

“Territorial markers of control tend to be misleading, as many armed groups
exercise control over populations beyond areas where they are physically
present, shaping and influencing civilian life in the economic, social and
political spheres deep into areas thought of as ‘government controlled’.”

Give the whole thing a read.

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