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The Perils of Weak Organization: Explaining Loyalty and Defection of Militant Organizations Toward Pakistan



Why do some militant groups defect against their sponsors, while others remain loyal? Pakistan's sponsorship of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba offers a controlled case comparison as the former turned its guns against Islamabad, while the latter remained obedient despite a similar strength, ethnic ties to the regime, and the presence of alternative supporters. What explains Jaish's defection and Lashkar's loyalty? Drawing on organizational and principal-agent theory, I argue that militant organizations that are more decentralized and factionalized are more likely to turn on their sponsors, because their weak command and control as well as dispersed decision making limit the militant leaders' ability to follow through on their commitments to the sponsors and makes it more difficult for the sponsors to discipline the militant organization. When a sponsor attempts to coerce such organizations into submission by detaining militant leaders, freezing or confiscating their material assets the rank-and-file is likely to turn guns against the sponsor.
The Perils of Weak Organization: Explaining
Loyalty and Defection of Militant Organizations
Toward Pakistan
International Relations and European Studies
Central European University
Budapest, Hungary
Why do some militant groups defect against their sponsors, while others remain loyal?
Pakistan’s sponsorship of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba offers a
controlled case comparison as the former turned its guns against Islamabad, while the
latter remained obedient despite a similar strength, ethnic ties to the regime, and the
presence of alternative supporters. What explains Jaish’s defection and Lashkar’s
loyalty? Drawing on organizational and principal-agent theory, I argue that militant
organizations that are more decentralized and factionalized are more likely to turn on
their sponsors, because their weak command and control as well as dispersed decision
making limit the militant leaders’ ability to follow through on their commitments to
the sponsors and makes it more difficult for the sponsors to discipline the militant
organization. When a sponsor attempts to coerce such organizations into submission
by detaining militant leaders, freezing or confiscating their material assets the rank-
and-file is likely to turn guns against the sponsor.
One of the most understudied phenomena in conflict studies is the relationship between
state sponsors and militant movements. Foreign governments often intervene in civil con-
flicts by funding, hosting, and arming militant organizations.
Salehyan, Gleditsch, and
Cunningham indicate that 159 of the 403 militant movements listed in their dataset had
an explicit or acknowledged tie to a foreign government.
Scholars analyze why states
provide support to militants,
under what conditions the militants may accept this sup-
and how sponsors and their militant clients bargain over policies.
Conflict scholars
suggest that sponsors channel money, arms, supplies, and other types of material support
to their clients in return for militant cooperation over its organization, goals, and tactics.
Despite their support, sponsors may lose control over militants due to different preferen-
ces and information.
However, we lack theories that help us explain when sponsors lose control over their
agents and, more specifically, why militants turn against their benefactors. This omission
is significant given that sponsored militants are arguably more ruthless toward civilians
than non-sponsored armed groups,
and that external involvement tends to prolong wars.
Breaking sponsor-militant ties is, therefore, one of the most important goals of third
Received 20 April 2015; accepted 13 June 2015.
Address correspondence to Milos Popovic, Ph.D., Visiting Lecturer, Central European
University, Vigyazo Ferenc 2, H-1050, Budapest, Hungary. E-mail:
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 38:919–937, 2015
Copyright ÓTaylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1057-610X print / 1521-0731 online
DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2015.1063838
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parties in contemporary conflicts. This article is the first attempt to examine what drives
militants to defect against their sponsors. Broadly speaking, defection is understood as
militant actions against the explicit interest of their sponsors. In particular, some militants
oppose their sponsor’s policies, such as the refusal of Hizb-e-Islami and other mujahideen
parties to enter a power-sharing deal with the Afghanistan government, which was backed
by their sponsor, Pakistan, in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal.
Other militants desert
their sponsors, such as when Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo aban-
doned his sponsor, Rwanda.
Finally, militants may turn guns against the sponsor as the
showdown between the Palestinian militant outfits and Jordan illustrates.
In this article, I analyze only the last form of defection. Even though there might be a
handful of cases of armed insurrection against sponsors,
the consequences of such a
confrontation may be terrible for regional stability. The case of Jaish-e-Mohammad, dis-
cussed in this article, indicates that a rogue agent may bring the sponsor country to the
brink of civil war. In return, these militants lose their support and often perish at the hands
of their erstwhile sponsors. Given that defection is self-destructive, why then do some
militant organizations ever turn against their sponsors?
I argue that militants are likely to defect against their sponsors as the delegation chain
from a sponsor to a militant movement becomes longer. The longer the chain, the greater
the distance between the sponsor and militants and higher the costs of monitoring their
activities. Consequently, when the sponsor is unable to monitor its agent, the room for
hidden action widens. The delegation chain becomes longer when the militant command
and control is non-centralized. Command and control is understood as a distribution of
decision-making power between the militant leadership and the rank-and-file
(commanders and factions). In centralized organizations, few individuals hold a monop-
oly over decision making while the lower levels are in charge of implementation and
report back to the leadership. Non-centralized movements nurture autonomous rank-and-
file that can implement decisions in its own way, often modifying or vetoing the central
dictate. Being the hostages of commanders and factions, non-centralized organizations
lack internal control, accountability to their sponsors, and cannot credibly commit to
change policies in response to the sponsor’s demands. When introduced to a change in
the sponsor’s policy these non-centralized organizations are likely to defy orders. When a
sponsor detains militant leaders, freezes or confiscates material assets and shuts down
militant facilities the organization becomes internally divided over the loyalty to the
sponsor. If the militant leadership cannot credibly commit to reign in this internal dissatis-
faction, radical constitutive parts are likely to turn on the sponsor.
There are two potential alternative explanations. First, if a sponsor and agent share
preferences, defection may be less likely. In particular, shared ethnic ties may buttress the
relationship through a common understanding of beliefs, norms, and authority. By draw-
ing on these common values, the sponsor can claim legitimacy to issue orders and receive
compliance from their client. Therefore, common ethnicity should facilitate the sponsor’s
control over militants decreasing the chance of defection. The second explanation is alter-
native support. Having multiple principals may make the militants less sensitive to sanc-
tions because they can compensate for the loss of support. Therefore, the militants with
access to alternative sources of support are likely to defect against their sponsors.
To test these arguments, I draw on a within-conflict comparison of Kashmir, one
of South Asia’s longest and most intense conflicts. Using fieldwork and secondary
literature, I examine the relationship between Pakistan, and Jaish-e-Mohammad
(JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), respectively, in the post-2001 period. JeM and
LeT are similar movements, in that they shared ethnic ties with Pakistan as the
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majority of their fighters were allegedly Pakistanis from Punjab.
However, the two
outfits recruited from different communities, and C. Christine Fair shows that LeT’s
cadres come from ten districts where being a “Punjabi” has different meanings.
Therefore, while JeM and LeT can generally be considered Pakistani outfits, the
social and cultural diversity of their recruits does not allow for treating the two out-
fits as similar in terms of their membership.
Second, they both were insulated
from the Indian insurgency given that their training camps and offices are based in
Pakistan. Third, they both are very capable organizations, numbering between a hun-
dred and a few thousand fighters. Finally, both groups have relied on alternative
sources of support: JeM through its links with Al Qaeda
and LeT via its ties to pri-
vate Saudi donors.
Despite these similarities, JeM had a decentralized organiza-
tional structure, while LeT exhibits a centralized, pyramidal command and control.
When Pakistan moved to curtail militants’ cross-border activities in Kashmir, JeM
fragmented causing a number of factions to initiate a series of bombings across
Pakistan targeting minorities and Pakistan’s security forces. LeT, in contrast, pre-
served its internal stability and, despite some minor splits, stayed loyal to Pakistan.
This article is organized in four parts. In the first, I develop my argument and dis-
cuss alternative explanations. In the succeeding two sections, I analyze why and
how JeM turned against the Pakistani government while LeT remained loyal despite
similar conditions. Finally, I draw some theoretical and policy conclusions.
I argue that as the delegation chain from a sponsor to militants becomes longer the proba-
bility of defection increases. The delegation chain usually starts from the sponsor govern-
ment and its secret services, who delegate some authority to the militants to carry out
violence on their behalf. In principle, the authority is delegated to militant leadership who
becomes their agent. Within the militant organization, the command and control chain
may extend to further principal–agent relationships. Depending on the militant configura-
tion, local regiments may end up being an agent to their field commanders. In such a long
chain, there is theoretically a greater room for defection at each stage in the chain,
because the preferences of those at the bottom of the chain are much different from those
of the sponsor.
Long delegation chains are likely to increase the distance between the
sponsor and militants. The longer the distance between the sponsor and militants, the
higher the costs of monitoring militant activity. If the sponsor is unable to efficiently con-
trol its agents, the room for a hidden action widens. Consequently, longer delegation
chain is likely to lead to defection.
The fact that some sponsors create multistage and indirect chains increases the likeli-
hood of defection. If sponsors could bypass some agents in the chain, then defection in
that link would be less possible. This ideal scenario would mean that the militants execute
all the sponsor’s orders irrespective of the level of its material support. The sponsor’s
interests are recognized and broad directions how to meet them are given. The implemen-
tation of these directions smoothly runs through a top-down channel, from senior leaders
to chief commanders, from chief commanders to district officers, all the way to foot sol-
diers. The performance of lower echelons is carefully monitored by their seniors and there
is a feedback to the central leadership. In turn, the sponsor monitors the organization and
its leadership; if there is any doubt about the loyalty of leadership, it is easily replaced. In
this sense, there must be a chief executive or a team of individuals with an authority to
select capable commanders and operatives, run an effective incentive system, monitor
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actions of the rank-and-file, sanction the transgression of orders, receive a feedback from
the lower levels and so forth.
The embodiment of these requirements is a centralized organization, where all deci-
sions are usually made by the top leadership, while lower echelons—local leaders, field
commanders, or heads of adjunct parties—can make decisions related to local matters,
but they need to implement broader organizational decisions. In contrast, the decentrali-
zation of decision making entails more control over the creation of local and organiza-
tional strategies by the lower levels of power. The most unstable form of non-centralized
organization is factionalized where certain segments operate autonomously from the lead-
ership but do not collectively exit the organization nor formally establish a new organiza-
tion. These three forms denote different levels of centralization within the militant
organizational structure.
I argue that as organizational structure becomes less centralized, defection should be
more likely. This argument extends Abdulkader Sinno’s proposition that centralized mili-
tants are easier to control by their foreign backers because militant leaders can discipline
the rank-and-file.
Contrary to non-centralized organizations, Sinno argues, centralized
militants lack solid ties to their local communities and, thus, heavily depend on external
supporters for resources.
I develop Sinno’s proposition by transforming the problem of
the sponsor’s control into that of militant behavior toward their sponsors (i.e., defection).
Although we both draw on militant organizational structure, I base my argument on the
length of the delegation chain.
How does the organizational structure affect defection? Centralized organizations
have a firm control of resources provided by sponsors. These resources are channeled to
and through militant leaders together with private rewards. Private rewards motivate the
militant leaders to keep or change their organizational policies in line with the sponsor’s
demands. Resources are delivered to obedient rank-and-file and denied to those who
oppose the central dictate. This way, militant leaders make sure that the rank-and-file is
dependent on them and, therefore, unlikely to voice serious concerns about the change of
course. Given that the rank-and-file in centralized organizations lacks links to the local
level and alternative allies, centralized organizations are unlikely to defect against their
In contrast, non-centralized organizations cannot afford unity, much less blindly fol-
low a rapid change of strategy, because they are dominated by autonomous commanders
and factions whose multiple of goals dilute the organizational objective. These powerful
actors have much stronger contacts with their communities and usually attract alternative
sources of financing. Rebel commanders and constituent factions may often act indepen-
dently from their leadership.
Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham suggests that the frag-
mentation of movements occurs because each faction appeals to its population base in the
ways that frequently do not correspond (or clash) with that of the central leadership.
Sponsors can channel their support to the leadership or a favorite faction, but they cannot
perfectly control the organization when the rank-and-file has incentives to exaggerate its
demands and capabilities. Once the divisions develop, the transaction costs of maintain-
ing organizational integrity sharply rise, and it becomes difficult to prevent future splits.
Because the power is diffused within the organization, commanders may frequently
undertake arbitrary decisions such as engaging in violence that the leadership—let alone
a sponsor—did not sanction.
In conclusion, uncertainty pervades non-centralized organ-
izations, making a defection more likely.
Defection may be a reaction to the sponsor’s policies. As members of the interna-
tional system, sponsors are exposed to external pressures regarding their interventionist
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policies in armed conflicts. Through condemnation, economic sanctions or threat or use of
force, third parties often pressure sponsors to terminate their involvement in a conflict. In
this article, the U.S. government has pressured Pakistan to curtail militants’ activities in
Kashmir in the wake of 9/11. Such international pressure combined with war weariness
may lead to serious civil discontent within the sponsor country endangering its political
regime. As a result, the pressured sponsor may need to change its policy of support to the
militants, usually by making concessions to other states that are directly opposed to the
interests and goals of their clients. For instance, the sponsor may advocate the restraint in
executing offensive operations against the target government, or support a cease-fire,
peace talks, and proposals, all of which may threaten the agent’s territorial gains or its
survival. All these forms of reconciliatory policies are likely to gradually lead to divisions
and tensions between the sponsor and militants because national concerns of sponsors are
not shared by the narrow-focused militant movements. If the sponsor attempts to force its
client to comply with a new course, the militants may resist, by taking up arms against
their sponsor. But if the militants give in, this may create discontent among the
commanders and factions, who may turn both against their leadership and sponsor. The
impact of these external shocks on militant defection is filtered through the delegation
chain, and, particularly, through the militant organizational structure. External shocks
provide structural incentives to non-centralized militants to defect against their sponsors.
Alternative Explanations
I formulate alternative theories on the basis of the principal–agent framework. Principal–
agent theory is chosen for several reasons. The first reason is that power asymmetry is
incorporated into principal–agent models through the notion of delegation of authority.
The delegation of authority involves the ability of principals, that is, sponsors, to oversee
and discipline their agents. Sponsors can use selection mechanisms, strict sanctions, or
hire third-parties to monitor militants and report back to them.
Second, agency models
recognize that agents often behave against the interests of their principals. This behavior
includes shirking, hiding information, opportunism, and the use of resources against the
Finally, agency models suggest two explanations for the agent’s disobedi-
ence: preference convergence and alternative resources.
First, defection may be more likely when militants’ preferences differ from those of
the principal. The most common proxy for shared preferences in civil war studies is eth-
nicity. The basic premise is that throughout civil wars, individuals tend to be loyal to
organizations claiming to embody and protect their ethnic identities.
Shared ethnicity is
thought to be stickier than other ideological forces.
Common norms may bring militant
behavior in line with the preferences of sponsors as ethnic groups cherish primordial
social and authority ties. Owing to these ties, sponsors can claim legitimacy—a belief
that the ruler has the right to issue orders and militants have an obligation to comply with
them. By setting up clear criteria of authority, shared ethnicity solidifies principal–agent
Consequently, common ethnic origin facilitates the sponsor’s monitoring
and control over militants, decreasing the chance of defection.
The second explanation suggests that defection is likely when militants have
access to alternative support. Alternative support may break a sponsor’s monopoly
over strategic resources making militants less willing to follow its orders. If alterna-
tive support is available, the sponsor will have less leverage. When there are no
alternatives sponsors will have greater leverage and militants will be more compli-
ant. Principal–agent theories expect agents with multiple principals to have a greater
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leeway in their behavior than those with a single sponsor. Defection arises due to
collective action problems among principals, which complicates monitoring.
hyan argues that an increase in the number of principals multiplies the heterogeneity
of preferences, creating tensions between them.
This structure is inherently unsta-
ble as principals tend to impose their own preferences on each other. Julia Adams
shows that since multiple principals lack institutional remedies to the consequential
power struggle, the threat of principal fragmentation is omnipresent.
If an agent is
aware of this tension, it may pit multiple sponsors against one another to increase
its freedom of action. To sanction such a behavior principals must synchronize their
policies, which is ultimately very costly, and they often end up issuing contradictory
directives to their agents. With alternative sources of funding and contradictory
orders, militants are, therefore, less susceptible to sanctioning and threats from any
specific principal increasing the probability of defection.
Loyalty and Defection of Pakistani-Sponsored Militants:
Jaish Versus Lashkar
My argument and the two alternative explanations are not mutually exclusive, and they all
may explain important dynamics. In this article, however, I only test whether these three
mechanisms can explain militant defection of two major Pakistani militant outfits in
Kashmir. The Kashmir conflict refers to an insurgency in the Indian-controlled province
of Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of rigged state elections in 1987. In the early 1990s,
the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), comprised of indigenous and mostly
secular Kashmiris who became the frontline of insurgency by carrying terrorist attacks
against the Indian police and army. Pakistan supported the JKLF until the ascendance of
an ideologically more proximate ally, Hizbul Mujahideen, in 1993. In 2000, a Hizbul fac-
tion led by Supreme Commander Abdul Majid Dar defied Pakistan’s dictate by entering
into negotiations with the Indian army and signing a so-called Ramzan cease-fire. Dissat-
isfied with the disobedience of the Hizbul and the inability of Kashmiris to defeat India,
Pakistan introduced foreign militants to the insurgency in the late 1990s. The two largest
and most organized outfits were Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. I examine their
behavior after 2001, because Pakistan slightly changed its policy in this period in
response to U.S. pressures. In particular, Pakistan ordered the militants to lay low and act
only if given permission by the intelligence services. Comparing the two groups against
this context allows me to control for a number of factors that would have not been possi-
ble if I analyzed the entire conflict.
These factors are the following. First, both organizations share ethnic ties with their
sponsors given that their leadership and followers originate from Pakistan’s regions such
as Punjab and North-Western Province. Some authors argue that LeT has proportionally
more Pakistani fighters than any other outfit, which makes it more dedicated to Islamic
State of Iraq (ISI) and the government.
These recruits mostly come from various
Punjab’s districts, where identities and loyalties tremendously vary. Simultaneously, LeT
has been a transnational movement with the most diverse ethnic composition (its cadres
originate from places such as Central Asia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Bosnia) among
the Pakistani-sponsored militant outfits. Although the majority of JeM’s fighters come
from Pakistan the scarcity of evidence about their local origins does not allow for compar-
ing LeT and JeM in terms of the ethnic constitution of their cadre. For this reason, I do not
claim that the two outfits have the similar, let alone an overlapping, membership. Rather I
suggest that the majority of their leaders and members share common ethnic ties with the
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Pakistani government. All in all, if the common ethnic ties argument holds, we should
expect both movements to stay loyal to Pakistan.
Second, both groups have relied on alternative sources of support. In particular, they
both have had links to external non-state actors usually through mutual assistance in the
form of intelligence sharing, training or the provision of shelter.
JeM had close ties to
Al Qaeda (involving the exchange of intelligence, training, and coordination) as they
shared training camps in Afghanistan.
This connection implies that JeM militants also
served Al Qaeda’s interests in Pakistan.
LeT lacked such operational ties with Al Qaeda
and operated its own training camps in Pakistan. On the other hand, LeT has received
covert support from Saudi Arabia at its inception and from private donors in the Gulf
If the alternative support argument holds, we should expect both movements
to defect against Pakistan.
In addition, both outfits have been insulated from the Indian army’s reprisals because
their infrastructure is in Pakistan. LeT seems to be a more specialized organization, as it
operates a huge complex in Muridke comprised of, among other facilities, schools and
research institutes, ambulances and hospitals, and farms.
Finally, both JeM and LeT are
capable organizations; they have between a couple of hundreds to a few thousand fighters
under their command. Even though they are infiltrated in Jammu and Kashmir, their
social network among the local population is weak.
Despite these similarities, there are two important differences between the two outfits
that affect their ideology, organizational structure, and access to resources.
First, they
belong to different religious schools—JeM belongs to Deobandis, while LeT is Ahl-e-
Apart from their doctrinal differences, the adherence to either of the schools also
constraints the outfits’ access to resources. For example, Ahl-e-Hadis may account for
only ten percent of the Pakistani population,
and LeT is even in dispute with the main-
stream Ahl-e-Hadis ulema over the issue of jihad.
As a consequence, LeT has a
restricted access to Ahl-e-Hadis for recruits and funds. In contrast, Deobandis have the
most madrassas in Pakistan, and their ulemas are more supportive of militant jihad.
This allows JeM and other Deobandi groups (Harkat ul Mujahedeen, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
Harkat-il-Jihad-Islam etc.) to draw on a wider social network in search for money and
new cadres. As Stephen Tankel points out, the narrower social base makes LeT more
dependent on the Pakistani state.
Second, the difference in access to social capital affects the recruitment options of the
two outfits. LeT rarely recruits its cadre from madrassas and its focus is on highly skilled
individuals to carry out LeT’s “fidayeen” (high-risk) missions in Kashmir.
JeM, on the
other hand, is heavily reliant on madrassas for combatants.
Unlike LeT, JeM’s main
operational goal is to inflict as much damage as possible to the Indian security apparatus,
conducting suicide missions. This difference is likely to affect how the two outfits orga-
nize their command structure.
In spite of these similarities and differences, LeT remained loyal, while Jaish turned
guns against Islamabad. In the preceding section I first discuss how Jaish’s decentralized
command and control organization crumbled leading to defection against Pakistan. After
that, I indicate why LeT never embraced Jaish’s violent path.
How JeM Turned Against Pakistan
JeM was one of the deadliest Kashmiri militant groups that have ever been sponsored by
Pakistan. Formed on the ruptures of Harkatul Ansar/Mujahideen (HuM), its leadership
never managed to establish a cohesive and centralized organization.
Nominally, JeM
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was headed by Maulana Azhar after he was freed from Indian prison in December 1999 in
exchange for 185 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. In fact, JeM
retained an overlapping membership with its former parent organization, HuM, and rather
autonomous commanders. Since JeM was involved in the Afghan theater, the leadership
established ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Despite its decentralized nature and support from Al Qaeda, JeM quickly became one
of Pakistan’s favored proxies and some argue that the ISI sponsored JeM’s creation in
order to check LeT’s growing power.
The ethnic composition of JeM was an additional
reason for its preferential status. Approximately three quarters of JeM’s members were
Pakistanis from North Punjab, the region from which hails the core of Pakistan’s military
corps. The ISI believed that shared ethnicity would make JeM more obedient to the mil-
itary’s objectives in Kashmir than “foreign” jihadi groups with pan-Islamic agendas.
However, it is precisely Pakistani outfits such as JeM that were most defiant of their
sponsor’s orders. JeM appeared to be hostile to any sort of Pakistani-supported negotiated
settlement with India. Unlike LeT’s ideological rigidity, JeM was less ideologically elec-
trified, more decentralized and able to muster alternative material resources from Afgha-
nistan and its Deobandi connections in Pakistan. Even if Azhar refrained from
undermining the peace process, his rank-and-file was uneager to compromise. This situa-
tion intensified after Pakistan modified its policy toward Kashmir in the wake of 9/11.
Musharraf’s decision to align with Washington against the Taliban and Al Qaeda angered
those organizations that had close ties to them such as HuM, JeM, and LeT. By October
2001, JeM was set on a collision course with the Musharraf regime. Apart from JeM’s
ties to Al Qaeda, the conflict between the outfit and the military regime was fueled by
JeM’s internal squabbles between a moderate leadership and the hawkish rank-and-file.
The hawks decided to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s new course. On 1
October 2001, a handful of JeM operatives carried out a suicide attack on the Kashmir legislative
assembly in Srinagar, center of Indian-administered Kashmir, which killed thirty-one people. A
Jaish operative drove a truck armed with explosives into the Legislative Assembly building in Sri-
nagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing himself and thirty-eight people. The attack undermined
Pakistan’s efforts to portray militants as freedom fighters and put the Musharraf government
under a strong international pressure to shut down the militant organizations.
When ISI urged Azhar to rein in the rank-and-file there was little he reportedly
expelled some of those activists who were involved in the attacks. But most of the mem-
bers disliked Musharraf’s U-turn and perceived the president as a traitor to their cause.
Under these circumstances, a faction of JeM members decided to act in a more defiant
fashion that would bring India and Pakistan to the brink of war. On 13 December 2001
five armed men entered the main gate of the Parliament House in New Delhi in a car with
Home Ministry and Parliament labels, and opened fire as they got out of the vehicle. The
security personnel shot back at the gunmen killing all of the infiltrators.
JeM claimed responsibility for the attack but removed it the next day after ISI put
pressure on Azhar.
Even though Indian authorities put on trial four members of JeM
and found them all guilty, there is no clear evidence that JeM’s central leadership sanc-
tioned the suicide operation. Quite to the contrary, some insider sources even claim that
the leadership was caught off-guard when it happened as they allegedly sent no mission
to New Delhi.
The former ISI chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Javed Ashraf Qazi, however, alleges
that JeM is behind the attack while denying any state involvement.
One journalist who
investigated the attack suggests that the operation was given unilateral approval from an
ISI general who managed militant organizations in India-controlled Kashmir. Musharraf
was supposedly unaware of the operation and enraged by its consequences as he knew
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that this move would give India casus belli and delegitimize the Kashmiri groups he was
meticulously trying to shield from international criticism.
Although Musharraf may not have authorized the operation directly, the go-ahead by
an intelligence officer suggests that ISI was involved in its planning and execution.
Regrettably, whether this is the case of defection can be determined ex post. And, in this
respect, the incident proved to be costly for Musharraf. Soon after the attack, India
demanded that Islamabad stops supporting Kashmiri militants and the two countries
mobilized their armies along the border. On December 20, India deployed its troops to
Kashmir and Punjab in what was India’s largest military mobilization since the 1971
Indo-Pakistani War. Pakistan mobilized its troops as a response and the talk of war, even
nuclear war, between Pakistan and India ensued.
Worried about a dangerous escalation,
U.S. officials began pressuring the Musharraf regime to take concrete steps against JeM.
On 12 October, the U.S. government froze JeM’s accounts.
The Indo-Pakistani tension was de-escalated only after President Pervez Musharraf
followed suit and prohibited all JeM’s financial transactions in December. Azhar was
shortly afterward placed under house arrest even though the Pakistani authorities refused
to hand him over to India. On 1 January 2002, the organization was banned together with
LeT, and three other groups. “No party in future will be allowed to be identified with
words like Jaish, Lashkar or Sipah,”
warned Musharraf in a subsequent speech, which
seemingly marked Pakistan’s abandonment of its jihadist policy in Kashmir.
Indeed, President Musharraf stayed true to his promise and all of the banned militant
groups were encouraged to continue their activities under new names. Lashkar-e-Taiba
became Pasban-e-Ahl-e-Hadith, Jaish-e-Mohammad labeled itself Khuddam-ul-Islam,
and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen changed its name to Jamiatul-Ansar. The financial and intelli-
gence support to JeM was resumed only after a couple of months of official prohibition.
Azhar was released by a court order just a few months after his arrest.
But Pakistan had already created a monster beyond its control. After JeM was offi-
cially banned and its financial assets seized,
the factionalism within the movement
intensified. Masood Azhar was seemingly in favor of compliance with Pakistan’s instruc-
However, by 2002 Azhar had lost support within the group as the majority of
members of the JeM Supreme Council demanded his resignation. Particularly irritated by
Pakistan’s U-turn was a JeM faction led by Maulana Abdul Jabbar who decided to retali-
ate against the ban and the increasing U.S. influence on Islamabad by launching a series
of terrorist attacks across Pakistan targeting western nationals, Christians and Shi’a Mus-
lims. Backed by Osama bin Laden, the rank-and-file of financially impoverished JeM
pressed for a jihad against the “slave” government of Pakistan.
From March to September 2002 the first suicide missions were carried out in Islama-
bad, Karachi, Murree, Taxila, and Bahawalpur, targeting state officials. JeM activists
returning from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban stirred up sectarianism throughout
Pakistan by targeting Christian temples, diplomatic missions, and Shi’a mosques.
arrested JeM members later revealed that the suicide bombings were planned in Novem-
ber 2001 on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. One of the factional leaders,
Maulana Abdul Jabbar, convened a meeting at the Balakot training camp in Pakistan. The
participants were gathered around a so-called Brigade 313 and were members of Pakis-
tani-sponsored organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Harkatul-
They decided to resist the increasing U.S. influence on Islamabad through militant
means including suicide bombings within Pakistan. The ISI demanded Azhar to reign in
JeM’s rank-and-file and stop Jabbar. However, Azhar informed ISI that “the expelled
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members were sectarian terrorists who should be arrested instead of being allowed to
Allegedly, by 2002 Azhar had lost the support within the group: seven out of
ten members of the JeM Supreme Council had distanced from him. One of them was
quoted saying:
Our main difference with Azhar was that he deviated from the cause of jihad
to liberate the occupied Kashmir. Unlike Azhar and his masters in the
Pakistani intelligence agencies we are not ready to sacrifice jihad for the sake
of funds.
Consequently, JeM was engulfed in a turf war between various factions.
Rather than
splitting into separate organizations, these factions continued to compete with their parent
over authority, money, offices, and training grounds across Pakistan. On one hand,
Masood Azhar caved in to ISI pressures and promised to do everything in his power to
stop the targeting of U.S. personal in Pakistan.
On the other hand, this move angered
the bulk of Azhar’s commanders who saw his move as a betrayal of the jihadi cause. In
late 2002, Jabbar launched a faction within JeM called Jamaat-ul-Furqaan, which became
a launching pad for deadlier attacks against the Pakistani government.
Some Pakistani
military sources assert that besides Jabbar’s faction, JeM had become a battleground of
many competing factions that violently opposed Azhar’s adherence to Pakistan and the
The organizational disarray was further exacerbated by the support to competing fac-
tions from some “rogue” members of the ISI. Together with a group of JeM’s factional
leaders and members from other militant organizations the renegade ISI officers provided
logistical support to two failed assassination attempts against President Musharraf.
These assassination attempts were preceded by the second round of repression, which
involved the arrest of militant leaders, seizure of offices, and freezing of bank accounts.
On 15 November 2003, the Musharraf government banned JeM (alias Khudam-ul-Islam),
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (alias Jamiat-ul-Ansar), Jamaat- ul-Furqan (sister organization of
JeM), and Hizb-ul-Tehrir. Of all these groups, JeM received the harshest treatment by the
security forces because Washington seemed to be concerned about the movement’s
“logistical support to fugitive Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”
In contrast, LeT had man-
aged to escape the government’s wraith; it was only issued a warning and placed on the
watch list.
Less than a month after the second ban a group of militants carried out two assassina-
tion attempts against President Musharraf. The first occurred on 14 December 2003, when
a bomb exploded after President Musharraf’s highly guarded motorcade crossed a bridge
in Rawalpindi. Although the bridge is nearby Musharraf’s residence and heavily guarded
by the military, the hitmen were able to install explosives to the pylons below it. The sec-
ond attack occurred on 25 December 2003, when two suicide bombers drove car bombs
into Musharraf’s convoy. Both attacks failed to kill the president.
The identities of the two suicide bombers were soon discovered. One was a member
of the JeM from Azad Kashmir, who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. The
other was from Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) who also fought with the Taliban. Exist-
ing evidence suggests that a number of Pakistani military officers were probably involved
in the attack.
The investigation also revealed that “the explosives used in the attacks
came from an Al Qaeda camp in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan.”
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Therefore, apart from the organizational turmoil, JeM’s links to Al Qaeda significantly
motivated its rank-and-file to turn guns against Pakistan.
As a result, the growing dissatisfaction of JeM’s factions had brewed into a confron-
tation with the Musharraf regime. Many in JeM and other militant organizations were not
eager to put their arms down, even if that meant war with Pakistan. As voiced by a mili-
tant leader in the aftermath of the assassination attempts: “The anger towards Musharraf
and his policies is natural. We have lost so many friends, brothers and relatives in the
Kashmir struggle. What was that for? We are not going to sit quietly.”
The regime
immediately took an action against JeM and interrogated its top circle. The officials
claimed that there was enough evidence against the militant organization. However,
Azhar repeated his earlier claim that those involved in the assassination attempts were
renegades who had been expelled from the organization for misbehavior. As JeM spokes-
person, Maulana Yousaf Hussain, said, “the expulsions of Maulana Abdul Jabbar and
other leaders eventually led to a split in our group. The dissidents were adamant to carry
out suicide missions against the US interests in Pakistan to avenge the fall of the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan.”
The government eventually clamped down on some militants and members of the
security apparatus. More than a hundred military and intelligence employees had been
apprehended and interrogated, and some were even found guilty and sentenced to death.
However, the Musharraf government took no action against other militant groups whose
members were involved in attempts on his life. There were no mass crackdowns similar
to those in 2003, nor arrests of militant leaders. Even Azhar, who had publicly called for
Musharraf’s assassination, was not arrested.
As of 2004, JeM had largely fallen into obscurity. In 2009, it resurfaced with new sui-
cide attacks and a more consolidated leadership under Azhar. The outfit may have
between one and two thousand active fighters and several thousand personal.
It appears
that JeM was allowed to resume operations against the Indian forces after the leadership
has been purged from “problematic” cadres.
A Monster that Never Was: The Loyalty of LeT
In 1986 Markaz-Dawa-ul-Irshad (Center for Preaching, MDI) was founded by two Pakis-
tani engineering professors, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Zafar Iqbal, to participate in the
Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union and to spread the Wahhabi Ahl-e-Hadith
school of thought in Pakistan, a puritanical version of Sunni Islam that forbids television,
cinema, and pictures. Initially, both ISI and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
provided support to MDI, but after the Soviet troops had been ousted the CIA cut its sup-
port to the organization. ISI continued to rely on the organization, sending its fighters and
suicide squads to Jammu and Kashmir to target Hindu population and the Indian army.
The attacks were carried out by MDI’s technically militant wing, Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army
of the Pure, hereafter LeT), which had the identical leadership as its parent organization.
Ever since its introduction to Jammu and Kashmir in 1992,
LeT has meticulously
executed ISI orders related to ethnic cleansing and targeting of the Indian police and
army. The group also became notorious for its massacres of Hindus across Jammu and
Kashmir in the early 2000s, which pitted it against Hizbul Mujahideen who allegedly
refused to carry out such tasks.
LeT was also the first outfit to initiate fidayeen attacks
in the valley—the specialty that made it the most respected and feared among other
organizations. The organization claims to have executed nearly one hundred such mis-
sions in the period 1990–2000.
In December 2000, LeT even carried out a fidayeen
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attack on an Indian barrack inside the Red Fort in Delhi.
Such a deadly specialization
earned LeT the status of the most favorable outfit in the ISI circle. Some authors even
suggest that ISI generals closely planned all LeT attacks together with its leadership and
chief commanders.
Given that “the Markaz and the Lashkar-e-Toiba are extremely secretive organ-
the claims I am making regarding the internal organization should be taken
with a grain of salt. By and large, I draw on various pieces of information from books,
articles, and newspapers, and triangulate them with interviews with Indian security offi-
cials to construct the image of the organization.
Despite the sea of information, one finding is common to all the sources—LeT’s
command and control is highly centralized and Hafiz Saeed rules the organization while
his family members, and cronies occupy key positions in the hierarchy.
Family is a cor-
nerstone of LeT’s recruitment strategy and, unlike JeM, the outfit recruits the mothers of
This co-optation of combatants’ mothers serves to tighten ISI’s control
over the rank-and-file and the outfit as a whole, using blackmail or threats to deter the
cadre from disobedience.
JeM might not exercise the same practice.
Apart from the central leadership, there might be a Majlis-e-Shura (Council of Eld-
ers), similar to the advisory council in Hizbul Mujahideen (a Kashmiri militant organiza-
tion), but even if such a political body exists it is most likely a consultative forum
presided over by Saeed who makes all decisions. Moreover, LeT is compartmentalized
into departments dealing with religious affairs; social welfare, education, and charity; and
Each of these departments is headed by Saeed’s kinsmen or close associates who
are responsible directly to him. The jihadi department is organized in a typical military
fashion, with a supreme commander and his deputy, provisional commander, district
commanders, and battalion commanders.
LeT’s chain of command is a pyramidal and highly specialized structure responsible
for recruitment, training, and execution of militant operations. Unlike JeM, whose
commanders were quite autonomous from their leadership, Saeed controls most of the
processes in LeT’s operational command through the heads of sections who report to
This is the main reason why LeT stayed loyal to Pakistan after the government
cracked down on the militancy in the wake of September 2001. The centralization of the
command and control in LeT is the factor that makes it decisively different from other,
similar organizations, such as Jaish, who turned against Pakistan owing to their decentral-
ized and fractionalized organizational structure.
Apart from operational obedience, there is likewise no record of LeT attacks against
the Pakistani state, nor against any other military or civilian target within Pakistan.
Remember how the fractioning of Jaish triggered a series of attacks against the Pakistani
establishment, religious groups and foreigners after September 2001. The fractionaliza-
tion of JeM was accelerated by Pakistan’s closure of some camps, relocation of others
and, most importantly, by the decision to confine the militants to their camps. The lack of
control and accountability to leadership in JeM prompted the rank-and-file to start free-
lancing or join other outfits. This has accelerated the dissipation of JeM’s command and
control in the aftermath of 9/11 to the extent that the outfit evolved into a conglomerate
of embattled factions.
In contrast, LeT accepted ISI’s demand to lower its profile in Jammu and Kashmir
and act only with the permission from the agency. Reportedly, in 2001 LeT decided to
send small companies, between 10 and 15 fighters, across the Line of Control (LOC)
instead of large formations to adjust to Musharraf’s policy change.
In turn, LeT was
allowed to preserve its large training camps in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (PCK).
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Pakistan’s tolerance of LeT’s militant infrastructure enabled its rank-and-file to carry out,
if limited, operations across the LOC under ISI’s watchful eye. As a result, the leadership
was able to maintain the cohesiveness of the organization and avoid mass defections. LeT
complied to Pakistan’s orders because its “command and control as well as hierarchical
structure has remained intact over the years.”
Owing to its compliance, LeT mostly avoided the “witch-hunt” of 2001–2003, when
Pakistan clamped down on JeM, HUJI, and other militant organizations in the country.
Although Hafiz Saeed was arrested in December 2001 for his fiery speeches, the court
ordered his release within a year time.
But even when Pakistan, under a significant U.S.
pressure, formally banned LeT as a terrorist organization in 2002, the LeT leadership and
organization came through unscathed. Despite the house arrest of some top members,
Hafiz Saeed and his close circle continued to hold meetings, plan terrorist attacks, and
keep in touch with other outfits. In 2003, LeT was sparred the second round of bans. In
return for compliance on Pakistan’s 2004 rapprochement with India—an episode that
enraged many militant outfits—LeT was allowed to freely carry on with fund-raising,
holding public rallies, and the recruitment and training of cadres.
LeT did not change behavior toward Pakistan because it avoided intensive leadership
crises and fractionalization that have plagued JeM. The preservation of organizational
hierarchy meant that LeT’s rank-and-file could not easily turn rogue as the central leader-
ship controlled the key resources necessary for their activities. LeT avoided JeM’s faith
because Hafiz Saeed received the full support of ISI and Pakistan after he had accepted
the change in Pakistan’s policy toward the armed struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. This
support was most visible in Pakistan’s refusal to clamp down on LeT’s militant activities.
While LeT preserved its command and control, it was not immune to individual and
brief splits. For instance, in 2003 a LeT senior member and former Pakistani officer,
Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, left the outfit and joined the infamous Brigade 313 that
was involved in the assassination attempt against Musharraf. Likewise, in 2004 there
were reports indicating a power struggle within LeT’s command and control, but over
funds and not policies. Reportedly, some senior leaders opposed the leadership of Hafiz
Saeed and established a breakaway group labeled Khair-un-Naas (KN).
The breakaway
group was made up of former LeT senior members who had accused Saeed of nepotism,
corruption, and violation of party goals. The split had no significant impact on LeT’s
organizational structure and is thought to be orchestrated by the ISI in response to pres-
sures from the US to ban the LeT.
Some close associates of the LeT leader claim that
ISI engineered the split as a warning to Saeed to tone down his speeches on jihad in
Jammu and Kashmir.
Why Did Pakistan Manage LeT and JeM Differently?
Evidence in this article suggests that the organizational structure influenced the diametri-
cally opposite behavior of LeT and JeM toward Pakistan. It also reveals that ISI was not a
passive bystander in JeM’s factionalism but rather took part in the outfit’s internal dynam-
ics. This means that the longer delegation chain to JeM was not only by organizational
choice; the sponsor’s strategies have also affected JeM’s splitting. The obvious question
is then: Why Pakistan managed LeT and JeM differently? And, why would Pakistan, pos-
sibly knowing that JeM is prone to splitting and defection, decide to sponsor it anyway?
Overall, there might be a general concern in the Pakistani military that propelling a
single militant outfit would diminish Islamabad’s control over the proxy war against
India. Favoring an unstable organization by siding with different factions means that ISI
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may perceive that the benefits of such a control outweigh any potential costs. Back in the
1990s, Pakistan supervised the rise and fall of various organizations, often pitting them
against each other because it feared that a dominant Kashmiri organization could take on
a life of its own and make a compromise with India.
At first, Pakistan trained and armed
the secular JKLF, the organization struggling for a Kashmir independent of India and
Pakistan. JKLF was soon sidelined in favor of a more ideologically proximate ally,
Hizbul Mujahideen, which was created by ISI and Jamaat-e-Islami by merging several
small outfits into a single organization.
By that time, it seemed that ISI was determined
to create a united insurgency based on Hizbul’s hegemony as it turned a blind eye to the
outfit’s decimation of JKLF and other groups. However, Pakistan balanced against
Hizbul’s hegemony by favoring Islamist outfits in missions (LeT, Harkatul Mujahideen,
etc.), and by meddling into the organization’s factional politics.
Fair provides an
insightful account of how ISI later orchestrated similar splits in Deobandi outfits to ensure
that no outfit becomes too powerful.
On the other hand, Tankel suggests that Pakistan could not model JeM after LeT due
to the different social bases of the two groups. While both outfits were considered to be
“good jihadis,” JeM was established as “organizationally fractious, with a weak ideologi-
cal foundation.”
Additionally, it had an overlapping membership with other Deobandi
outfits and close transnational ties with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, making
its organizational structure even blurrier. LeT’s social base, in contrast, comprised of
“retired army and ISI officers (and) Lashkar members had family in the middle ranks of
the army and various civilian security agencies.”
Due to such social connections, Lash-
kar was a more “domesticated” movement, whose leadership and members mostly share
Pakistan’s view of proxy war against India as the priority.
Finally, Fair provides the third and most plausible argument about Pakistan’s man-
agement of the two outfits. She argues that Pakistan benefits from depicting certain mili-
tants as rogue. This strategy gives Islamabad an alibi for failing to suppress domestic
militancy and allows the government to ask for U.S. assistance.
Additionally, this
approach strengthens Pakistan’s “plausible deniability” when terrorist attacks occur in
India. Therefore, supporting a number of fractionalized organizations such as JeM
imposes certain costs that are seemingly marginal compared to the benefits. This argu-
ment also helps one understand why Pakistan is still supporting JeM despite their past
armed confrontation.
Why do militants defect against their sponsors? What explains Jaish’s defection and
Lashkar’s loyalty toward Pakistan? In this article I have argued that militant organizations
that are more decentralized and factionalized are more likely to turn on their sponsors.
Decentralized/factionalized organizations have weak command and control as well as dis-
persed decision making, which both limits the militant leaders’ ability to follow through
on their commitments to the sponsors and makes it more difficult for the sponsors to disci-
pline the militant organization. If a sponsor attempts to coerce them into submission these
militants will take arms against it. When a sponsor detains militant leaders, freezes or
confiscates material assets, and shuts down militant facilities the organization becomes
internally divided over the loyalty to the sponsor, leading the most radical parts to turn
against the sponsor.
The argument I advance in this article engenders considerable explanatory power.
My theory mostly explains why the two Pakistani outfits, Jaish-e-Mohammad and
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Lashkar-e-Taiba, pursued different policies toward Pakistan. It accurately depicts how the
change in Pakistan’s policy toward the Kashmiri militancy in 2001—ushered in by the
U.S. administration—led the fractious Jaish to turn against the state and centralized Lash-
kar to tone down its cross-border activities and synchronize its moves with the govern-
ment. On the other hand, the alternative theories receive mixed support from the
evidence. First, shared preferences cannot explain why Lashkar and Jaish, the two groups
with predominantly Pakistani members, pursued completely different policies in relation
to Pakistan. Second, the alternative resources helps explain Jaish’s behavior, but it fails to
account for Lashkar’s loyalty. Even though both outfits have received alternative support
from non-state sources (Jaish from Al Qaeda and Lashkar from Gulf sponsors), only Jaish
turned against Pakistan.
My work has far-reaching policy ramifications for militant organizations today, such
as ISIS and the Russian separatists in Ukraine, suggesting that decentralized/factionalized
militant organizations are among the most dangerous and unpredictable for both the spon-
soring state and global stability; sponsoring states searching for militant groups to desta-
bilize a regime or tip the scales in favor of one side of a civil war would do well to stay
away from such groups. How foreign governments manage their militant agents, and how
these agents behave toward their sponsors is a topic that must be addressed if we are to
understand the conditions for conflict resolution. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, for
example, shows that dealing with an externally backed insurgency requires disentangling
the relationship between Russia and the Ukrainian separatists.
This study is limited to two militant organizations in South Asia. I recognize that
generalizations to other groups may be difficult to make. It is possible that organizations
operating in other conflicts might defect against their sponsors for other reasons. Future
research should explore whether my results can be found in other contexts. In addition,
future research should address other forms of defection such as defiance and desertion.
To correct this limitation, I have elsewhere developed and tested a data set on militant
defection (1968–2012), which includes organizations from regions such as the Middle
East, Central Africa, or the Balkans.
I thank Erin Jenne, Matteo Fumagalli, Idean Salehyan, Natalia Peral, Vujo Ili
c, Hadas
Aron, the participants of the 2014 ISA conference, and the anonymous reviewer for their
comments on the earlier draft of this article. All errors are my own.
1. Daniel Byman, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism (Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2005); Idean Salehyan, Rebels Without Borders: Transnational Insur-
gencies in World Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009).
2. Idean Salehyan, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and David Cunningham, “Explaining External
Support for Insurgent Groups,” International Organization 65(4) (2011), pp. 709–744, at p. 722.
3. Navin Bapat, “The Strategy of the Weak: State Support for Terrorism and Bargaining
Power.” Manuscript, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Salehyan, Gleditsch and Cunning-
ham, “Explaining External Support for Insurgent Groups.”
4. David Cunningham, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Idean Salehyan, “It Takes Two: A
Dyadic Analysis of Civil War Duration and Outcome,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(4) (2009),
pp. 570–597.
5. Navin Bapat and Kanisha D. Bond, “Alliances Between Militant Groups,” British Journal
of Political Science 42(4) (2012), pp. 793–824.
The Perils of Weak Organization 933
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6. Idean Salehyan, “The Delegation of War to Rebel Organizations,” Journal of Conflict Reso-
lution 54(1) (2010), pp. 493–515.
7. Daniel Byman and Sarah E. Kreps, “Agents of Destruction? Applying Principal-Agent
Analysis to State-Sponsored Terrorism,” International Studies Perspectives 11(1) (2010), pp. 1–18.
8. Jeremy Weinstein, Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 2007).
9. Patrick Regan, Civil Wars and Foreign Powers: Outside Interventions and Intrastate Con-
flict (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000).
10. “Afghan Rebels Reject Power Sharing in Kabul: Guerrillas React to Pakistani State-
ments,” The Washington Post, 18 January 1988. Available at
11. Gerard Prunier, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide and the Making of a
Continental Catastrophe (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009).
12. For a more general study on rebel defection, see Milos Popovic, “Fragile Proxies: The Pol-
itics of Control and Defection in State Sponsorship of Rebel Organizations,” Ph.D. Dissertation
(Budapest: Central European University, 2014).
13. According to Zahid Hussain, Le T and Je M were “from the same source, had similar moti-
vations and goals, and recruited from the same kind of people (often unemployed youth from Punjab
and the North West Frontier Province).” I could not find more evidence supporting this argument.
Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam (London and New York: I.B.
Tauris, 2007), p. 52.
14. See C. Christine Fair, “Insights from a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-
Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies 37(2) (2014), pp. 259–290; Mariam Abou
Zahab, “I Shall be Waiting at the Door of Paradise: The Pakistani Martyrs of the Lashkar-e-
Taiba (Army of the Pure),” in Aparna Rao et al., eds., The Practice of War: Production,
Reproduction and Communication of Armed Violence (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007),
pp. 133–158; C. Christine Fair, “Leader-Led Jihad in Pakistan: The Case of Lashkar-e-Taiba,”
in Bruce Hoffman and Fernando Reinares, eds., The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat:
From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden’s Death (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014),
pp. 571–599.
15. I am thankful to the reviewer for pointing this out.
16. Praveen Swami, “Lashkar Chief’s Release Cause of Global Concern,” The Hindu,13
October 2009. Available at
global-concern/article161075.ece (accessed 1 December 2014). Whereas JeM’s link to Al Qaeda
are transparent, LeT’s cooperation is not supported. See C. Christine Fair, “Militant Recruitment in
Pakistan: Implications for Al-Qa’ida and Other Organizations,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism
27(6) (2004), pp. 489–504, at p. 497.
17. Stephen Tankel, Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2011), p. 93.
18. Bertin Martens, Uwe Mummert, Peter Murrell, and Paul Seabright, The Institutional Eco-
nomics of Foreign Aid (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 46.
19. Abdulkader Sinno, Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2008), pp. 78–80.
20. Ibid., p. 14.
21. Adria Lawrence, “Triggering Nationalist Violence: Competition and Conflict in Uprisings
against Colonial Rule,” International Security 35(2) (2010), pp. 88–122, at p. 90–91; Wendy Pearl-
man, “Spoiling Inside and Out: Internal Political Contestation and the Middle East Peace Process,”
International Security 33(3) (2008), pp. 79–109.
22. Kathleen G. Cunningham, “Actor Fragmentation and Civil War Bargaining: How Internal
Divisions Generate Civil Conflict,” American Journal of Political Science 57(3) (2013), pp. 659–
23. Ernesto Zirakzadeh, “From Revolutionary Dreams to Organizational Fragmentation: Dis-
putes over Violence within ETA and Sendero Luminoso,” Terrorism and Political Violence 14(4)
(2002), pp. 66–92, at pp. 75–77.
24. Roderick Kiewiet, and Mathew McCubbins, The Logic of Delegation: Congressional Par-
ties and the Appropriations Process (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 27–34.
934 M. Popovic
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25. Susan Shapiro, “Agency Theory,” Annual Review of Sociology 31 (2005), pp. 263–284, at
p. 279.
26. Chaim D. Kaufmann, “Intervention in Ethnic and Ideological Civil Wars: Why One Can
be Done and the Other Can’t,” Security Studies 6(1) (1996), pp. 62–100; Stephen Biddle, “Seeing
Baghdad, Thinking Saigon,” Foreign Affairs 85(2) (1996), pp. 2–14.
27. Chaim D. Kaufmann, “Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars,” Interna-
tional Security 20 (1996), pp. 136–175.
28. James D. Fearon, “Why Ethnic Politics and ‘Pork’ Tend to Go Together.” Mimeo, Stan-
ford University.
29. Edward Banfield, “Corruption as a Feature of Governmental Organization,” Journal of
Law and Economics 18 (1975), pp. 587–605, at p. 595.
30. Idean Salehyan, “The Delegation of War to Rebel Organizations,” Journal of Conflict Res-
olution 54(1) (2010), pp. 493–515.
31. Julia Adams, “Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colo-
nial Control in the Dutch East Indies”, American Sociological Review 61(1) (1996), pp. 12–28.
32. Amir Mir, The True Face of Jehadis (Lahore: Mashal Books, 2004), p. 78; Ashley J. Tellis,
“The Menace That Is Lashkar-e-Taiba,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2012), pp. 10–
11. Available at (accessed 15 February 2014).
33. Swami, “Lashkar Chief’s Release Cause of Global Concern.”
34. Tankel, Storming the World Stage; Tim McGirk, and Hanna Bloch, “Has Pakistan Tamed
its Spies?,” Time Magazine. Available at
0,8599,233902,00.html (accessed on 3 June 2015).
35. Abou Zahab, “I Shall be Waiting at the Door of Paradise.”
36. See note 12.
37. Mir, The True Face of Jehadis, p. 76.
38. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for bringing up this issue.
39. For more information on the Ahl-e-Hadith school of thought see, for example, Saeed Shaf-
qat, “From Official Islam to Islamism: The Rise of Dawat-ul-Irshad and Lashkar-e- Taiba,” in
Christophe Jaffrelot, ed., Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation (London: Zed Books, 2002), pp.
131–147, at pp. 142–145; Tankel, Storming the World Stage, pp. 25–28. For the main attributes of
Deobandis please consult: Tankel, Storming the World Stage, pp. 21–25. For similarities and differ-
ences between the two schools, see, for example, C. Christine Fair, “The Madrassah Challenge: Mil-
itancy and Religious Education in Pakistan” (Washington, DC: Unitited States Institute of Peace,
2008), pp. 56–58; Husain Haqqani, “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups,” in Eric Brown,
Hillel Fradkin, and Husain Haqqani, eds., Current Trends in Islamist Ideology (Washington, DC:
Hudson Institute, 2005), pp. 12–26.
40. Abou Zahab, “I Shall be Waiting at the Door of Paradise.”
41. C. Christine Fair, “Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Pakistani State,” Survival 53(4) (2011), pp.
1–23, at p. 6.
42. Fair, “The Madrassah Challenge.”
43. Tankel, Storming the World Stage.
44. Fair, “The Madrassah Challenge.”
45. Ibid.
46. In fact, the separation from HuM and the establishment of JeM had turned into a violent
conflict over property. See Amir Muhammad Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan
(Lahore: Mashal Books, 2004), pp. 220–221.
47. Hussain, Frontline Pakistan, p. 66.
48. Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism: Allah, then Army, and America’s War
Terror (London: M. E. Sharpe, 2005), p. 214.
49. Farzana Shaikh, Making Sense of Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p.
50. Hussain, Frontline Pakistan, p. 67.
51. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 234.
52. B. Muralidhar Reddy, “Jaish Behind Parliament Attack: Ex-ISI Chief,” The Hindu,7
March 2004. Available at
(accessed 3 March 2014).
53. “Who Will Strike First?,” The Economist, 22 December 2001. Available at http://www. (accessed 21 January 2014).
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54. Personal interview with a former senior intelligence officer (name withheld), 18 October
2012, Delhi; Personal interview with Praveen Swami, 23 October 2012, Delhi.
55. Rorry McCarthy, “Dangerous Game of State-Sponsored Terror that Threatens Nuclear
Conflict,” The Guardian, 25 May 2002. Available at
25/pakistan.india (accessed 11 January 2014).
56. “UN Sanctions on Jamaatud Dawa,” 12 December 2008, Dawn. Available at http://www. (accessed 23 January 2014).
57. It appears that Pakistan opened Pandora’s box with the seizure of JeM’s financial assets
because the lack of resources ignited quarrels over money. Jabbar, along with other members,
accused Azhar of nepotism and personal enrichment to the detriment of the organization. Azmat
Abbas, “Death Wish,” Herald (Karachi), July 2003.
58. Peter Chalk and C. Christine Fair, “The Re-Orientation of Kashmiri Extremism: A Threat to
Regional and International Security,” Terrorism Monitor, 17 November 2005, 3(22), pp. 8–10, at p. 9.
59. Anatol Lieven, Pakistan: A Hard Country (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), p. 225.
60. Mariam Abou Zahab, and Olivier Roy, Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connec-
tion (London: Hurst and Company, 2006), p. 31.
61. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 20.
62. Ibid., p. 26.
63. Mir, The True Face of Jehadis.
64. Rohit Honawar, “Jaish-e-Mohammed,” IPCS Special Report, 4 (2005), pp. 1–7, at p. 2.
65. Abbas, Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism,p.60
66. By 2003, JeM had split into Khuddam ul-Islam (KuI), led by Azhar and Jamaat ul-Furqan
(JUF), led by Abdul Jabbar. Despite the split, JeM continued to operate as a single organization and
be associated with its original identity. Source: Honawar, “Jaish-e-Mohammed,” p. 1.
67. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 27.
68. Syed Shoaib Hasan, “Profile: Islamabad’s Red Mosque,” BBC News, 27 July 2007. Avail-
able at (accessed 11 January 2014).
69. Mir, The True Face of Jehadis, p. 47.
70. Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos:The United States and the Failure of Nation Building
in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (New York: Viking, 2008), p. 272.
71. Ibid., pp. 230–232.
72. Ibid.
73. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 25.
74. Hassan Abbas, “Defining the Punjabi Taliban Network,” CTC Sentinel, April 2009. Avail-
able at (accessed 3 Febru-
ary 2014).
75. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 329.
76. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Washington, DC: Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, 2005), p. 290.
77. Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p.337.
78. My Indian interviewees claim that ISI was behind this operation.
79. Tankel, Storming the World Stage, p. 61.
80. Amir Mir, “Hafiz Mohammad Saeed: Lashkar-e-Toiba,” in Harinder Baweja, ed., Most
Wanted: Profiles of Terror (New Delhi: Roli Books, 2002), p. 66.
81. Wilson John, The Caliphate’s Soldiers: The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s Long War (New Delhi:
Observer Research Foundation, 2011), pp. 137–139.
82. Farhat Haq, “Militarism and Motherhood: The Women of the Lashkar-i-Tayyabia in Pak-
istan,” Signs 32(4) (2007), pp. 1023–1046.
83. Stephen Tankel, “Lashkar-e-Taiba: Past Operations and Future Prospects.” New America
Foundation, National Security Studies Program Policy Paper. April 2011.
84. Tankel, Storming the World Stage, pp. 68–69.
85. Ibid., p. 142.
86. Fair, “Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Pakistani State,” pp. 9–10; Ahmed Rashid, Pakistan on
the Brink: The Future of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West (New York: Penguin Books, 2012),
p. 53.
87. Mir, The True Face of Jehadis, p. 96.
88. Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, p. 53; Tankel, Storming the
World Stage, p. 127; Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, p. 57.
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89. Abbas, Defining the Punjabi Taliban Network.
90. Saeed’s allies in the government might have played a crucial role in his release. Nicholas
Howenstein, “The Jihadi Terrain in Pakistan: An Introduction to the Sunni Jihadi Groups in Paki-
stan and Kashmir,” Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), 5 February 2008, pp. 1–41, at p. 21.
91. Zaffar Abbas, “Endgame Begins,” The Herald, February 2004, pp. 51–62, at p. 61.
92. “Lashkar Parent Unit Jamaat-ud-Dawa Splits,”, 16 July 2004. Available at (accessed 7 February 2014).
93. A senior KN member even stated that “Khairun Naas and Lashkar-e-Taiba are basically
the same, but the LT is banned in Pakistan so we adopted the name Khairun Naas.” Amir Rana,
“Jamaatud Dawa Splits,” 18 July 2004. Available at
pageDstory_18-7-2004_pg7_20 (accessed 9 February 2014).
94. This theme is recurring through the responses from my interviewees.
95. Arif Jamal, Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir (Brooklyn, NY: Melville
Publishing House, 2009).
96. In one such instance, Mir speculates that ISI might have supported commander Sarfraz
against its leader Syed Salahuddin for disassociating Hizbul from Jamaat-e-Islami, “an act that
(also) infuriated Pakistan’s ISI.” Mir, The True Face of Jehadis, p. 107.
97. Fair, “Militant Recruitment in Pakistan.”
98. Tankel, Storming the World Stage, p. 123.
99. Ibid.
100. Fair, “Leader-Led Jihad.”
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... Moreover, the explosives for the attacks were traced to Al-Qaeda camps in South Waziristan in FATA. The rebellious factions in JeM later aligned themselves with TTP (Popovic, 2015). ...
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... Armed groups' institutionalization is shaped by the factors mentioned previously. When these researchers argue that armed groups' resources, networking structures (both pre-and in-war), foreign support, and material gains affect their organizational cohesion (Staniland, 2014), internal discipline (Weinstein, 2007), and divisions and splits (Popovic, 2015(Popovic, , 2017, they suggest that these independent variables shape armed groups' institutional strength. On the other hand, the dependent variables analyzed in organizational studies, such as armed groups' behavior at war and use of violence, are affected by armed groups' institutionalization (Hoover Green, 2016. ...
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Institutionalizing Violence offers a detailed focus on the two most influential Egyptian jihadi groups—al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya and Islamic Jihad. From the killing of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 to their partial association with al-Qaeda in the 1990s, the two groups illustrate the range of choices that jihadis make overtime including creating political parties. Jerome Drevon argues that these groups’ comparative trajectories show that jihadis embracing the same ideology can make very different strategic decisions in similar environments. Drevon’s analysis of these groups’ histories over the past four decades illustrates the evolution of jihadism in Egypt and beyond. Institutionalizing Violence develops an institutional approach to radicalization to compare the two Egyptian groups’ trajectories based on ethnographic field research and hundreds of interviews with jihadi leaders and militants in Egypt. Drevon provides a unique perspective on how jihadi groups make and implement new strategic decisions in changing environments, as well as the evolution of their approaches to violence and non-violence.
... Jamaat-ul-Furqan, a faction of JeM with the backing of Osama bin Laden, declared jihad against the Pakistani state and launched a series of terrorist attacks across Pakistan targeting Shia Muslims, Christians, and Western nationals. In December 2003, JeM and HuJI carried out two assassination attempts against President Musharraf in connivance with rogue ISI officials (Popovic 2015). ...
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... By October 2001, hawk elements of JeM and others were set on a collision course with the military regime. 47 The anger precipitated further during 2002 when General Musharraf announced curbs on the Kashmiri groups for operations inside Indian-controlled Kashmir. The renegade ex-JeM formed a new underground group, Jamaat-al-Furqan (JaF). ...
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The debate over what constitutes terrorism spans a wide, diverse and largely a competing body of intellectual strands. In particular, the lack of consensus on the need (or otherwise) for a universally acceptable definition or no definition at all characterizes the discursive dynamics of the definitional subfield. Conversely, there is a persistent tendency of circumspection to embrace methodologies, e.g. case study frameworks, that can prove to be more helpful in conceptualizing terrorism. By contextualizing the terrorist violence in Pakistan as a case, this article demonstrates that an objective definition of terrorism is conceivable if the phenomenon is understood contextually and as part of communication processes.
... The immediate aftermath of Pakistan's decision to join WOT had spawned a new (but loose) breed of terrorists mostly comprising the renegades from Kashmiri groups, called the Punjabi Taliban (Popovic, 2015;Tankel, 2016). Nonetheless, the largest and most formidable terror organization the country had ever seen, the TTP, was formed during end 2007. ...
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The central hypothesis of this article is that there are a large number of terrorist groups which prolifically employ strategic communication (stratcom), while paradoxically, there are others who markedly underutilize it, and therefore, fail to mobilize support for the professed cause. The decisive determinant for either of the two ends, it is argued, obtains in the intellectual endowment or its banality among the conspiratorial groupings. A case of stratcom by two leading Pakistani Taliban groups – Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and TTP – Jammat ul Ahrar – is systematically investigated. The analysis clearly engenders that these terrorist organizations are communication un-savvy, because, they are not only religiously and secularly less informed and increasingly rhetorical but are intellectually far less creative to articulate a people inspired rhetorical vision. The brutalization of the civilians further trivializes their discourses. They have thus largely failed to evoke meaningful social mobilization. Besides further elaborating on the findings, the conclusion reflects on a few limitations of the research, offers input for broadening the research scope of some of the key dimensions of terrorism literature and ends with the discussion on some policy implications.
What 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.
The literature on delegated rebellion has treated principals (external states) and their agents (rebel groups) as the main factors in the inception of rebellion. Intriguingly, no attention has been paid to subnational elites as a separate, third actor. This article takes a novel perspective on delegated rebellion by ascribing agency to subnational elites. It introduces the theoretical concept of strategic entrapment, which shows that even subnational elites unwilling to follow the path of rebel violence may be trapped between the incipient rebel groups and a principal. As a result, subnational elites are sidelined and replaced by the principal’s rebel proxies.
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This paper explores Pakistani public opinion toward the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) (also known as Jamaat ul Dawa, or JuD), which is one of the most competent and lethal Pakistan-based and backed militant groups operating in India and elsewhere in South Asia. Building on the theory of significance quest, this study argues that Pakistanis who believe that the group will increase their own sense of personal significance are most likely to sympathize with the group. This study contends that the LeT, which is allied with the Pakistani state, should be most favorably viewed by those who look favorably on the political status quo in Pakistan, Punjabis, Ahl-e-Hadith adherents and women as these are the groups most likely to believe they gain status because of the LeT. Conversely, the LeT should be opposed by Shia, Barelvis, Deobandis, and Baloch Pakistanis, all groups that are disparaged by the LeT and thus see it as a threat to their status. Using data from a country-wide survey of 7, 653 Pakistanis carried out in 2013, these contentions are tested in a multiple regression analysis and are supported. 1
In September 2016, militants who were allegedly backed by Pakistan attacked an Indian Army camp in Uri. The government in New Delhi was facing important regional elections. It faced intense public pressure to muster a military response. Such a response, however, ran the risk of triggering a nuclear exchange. Ten days after the Uri attack, India reported that it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ on terrorist training camps in Pakistan-controlled territory. The paper examines this specific episode in India–Pakistan deterrence dynamics, focusing on the nomenclature ‘surgical strikes’. The paper argues that the choice of the term itself is new and worthy of investigation. Using qualitative content analysis of the official announcement of the operation, it identifies specific rhetorical moves by the Indian government that framed the response as a surgical strike. The paper also considers other statements in the media by high-ranking political and military leaders regarding the strikes, and the reception of these statements by the Indian audience, by Pakistan, and by the international community. The concluding section sounds a note of caution about future iterations of so-called surgical strikes. While the term ‘surgical strike’ can be useful in some circumstances, it produces destabilising outcomes in others.
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This chapter will focus upon one of the most lethal and effective militant group operating from Pakistan: the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT. (LeT regrouped under the name of Jamaat-ul-Dawa when LeT was banned in 2002. For this reason, after 2002, I use the terms JuD and LeTinterchangeably). Because LeT differs substantially from other groups operating in Pakistan, this chapter first briefly lays out the key features of the contemporary militant landscape in Pakistan. Next, this chapter provides key details about the organization and leadership. Third and most important, this chapter provides an account of what is perhaps LeT’s most audacious attack to date: the November 26, 2008 coordinated attack on numerous targets throughout Mumbai, which lasted some 60 hours and killed 172 people while receiving full media coverage on Indian and international media. The chapter concludes with a discussion the policy implications that emerge from this analysis.
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Patrimonial states and their chartered East India companies propelled the first wave of European colonialism in Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The metropolitan principals of these organizations faced special problems in monitoring and controlling their own colonial agents. Focusing primarily on the Dutch United East Indies Company and secondarily on its English counterpart, I argue that the network structure of each organization affected the degree to which relationships between patrimonial principals and their agents could serve as a disciplinary device. Dutch decline was imminent when alternative opportunities for private gain, available via the ascending English East India Company, allowed Dutch colonial servants to evade their own patrimonial chain and encouraged its organizational breakdown. Features of network structure determined whether colonial agents saw better alternatives to the official patrimonial hierarchy, when they could act on them, and whether principals could respond.
Contentious as the current debate over Iraq is, all sides seem to make the crucial assumption that to succeed there the United States must fight the Vietnam War again --but this time the right way. The Bush administration is relying on an updated playbook from the Nixon administration. Pro-war commentators argue that Washington should switch to a defensive approach to counterinsurgency, which they feel might have worked wonders a generation ago. According to the antiwar movement, the struggle is already over, because, as it did in Vietnam, Washington has lost hearts and minds in Iraq, and so the United States should withdraw. But if the debate in Washington is Vietnam redux, the war in Iraq is not. The current struggle is not a Maoist "people's war" of national liberation; it is a communal civil war with very different dynamics. Although it is being fought at low intensity for now, it could easily escalate if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices.
Wars within states have become much more common than wars between them. A dominant approach to understanding civil war assumes that opposition movements are unitary, when empirically, most of them are not. I develop a theory for how internal divisions within opposition movements affect their ability to bargain with the state and avoid conflict. I argue that more divided movements generate greater commitment and information problems, thus making civil war more likely. I test this expectation using new annual data on the internal structure of opposition movements seeking self-determination. I find that more divided movements are much more likely to experience civil war onset and incidence. This analysis suggests that the assumption that these movements are unitary has severely limited our understanding of when these disputes degenerate into civil wars.