Diverse Personal Encounters With Non State Armed Actors

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Diverse personal encounters with non-state armed actors animate my research agenda, and I seek to discern the meaning of a picture formed by pieces of a puzzle collected during my years of military service. As a peacekeeper in Kosovo, I witnessed how a random rifle shot could spark a series of reprisals across invisible lines that separated villages. My soldiers and I were almost powerless to stop them. On one hand, our legal mandate prevented our ability to take direct action. One the other, we understood so little about our adversaries we did not fully know which action to take. Subsequent experiences leading soldiers during counterinsurgency efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan immersed me again in the turmoil created by overlapping networks of non-state armed groups competing for economic, social, and political power. Each incident revealed another piece of the puzzle, but the picture it formed remained unclear. I started to wonder if the pieces actually fit, or if I was putting them together incorrectly. I intuitively sensed the ascendant role of non-state-armed actors in Kosovo. However, my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan crystalized in me the desire to explore the broader political and social ramifications of the rising influence of non-state armed groups. I began to ponder the strategic impact of their decisions and actions on the long-term evolution of political institutions. What are the consequences when local political elites try to incorporate

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