Violent Non-State Actors in Modern Conflict

Recent conflicts such as those in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly characterised by a pluralisation of irregular and privatised forms of violence. These actors include, among others, warlords, mercenaries, terrorists, transnational organised crime groups, foreign fighters and Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs). While some pose a direct challenge to the state, others are in a complementary and symbiotic relationship with it. As such, violent non-state actors are both competing and cooperating with state actors in modern conflicts and their hybrid nature raises questions with regards to how best to understand these actors, as they often escape neatly defined categorisations. In modern conflicts the lines between terrorists and organised crime groups, irregular and regular forces, as well as economic and political motivations to fight, are increasingly blurred. As a result, ‘new’ and ‘old’ types of violent non-state actors are defining elements of modern conflict.  The extreme complexity of twenty-first century conflicts requires a more integrated approach between military and civilian actors in order to respond more effectively to its challenges.


If you want to understand VNSAs theoretically, conceptually and empirically, this book is the one to read. The clarity of understanding around the core concepts of VNSAs (sovereignty, statism, legitimacy and de-legitimacy for example) makes this volume ideal for undergraduate studies, in particular, in the area of New Wars.  Personally, I see it as a core text on the topic.


Christopher Kinsey, King’s College London at the Joint Services Command and Staff College



Paperback 9781912440207  I  246 pages  I  14th January 2021

Violent Non-State Actors in Modern Conflict

  • Foreword Major General Duncan Capps CBE. Introduction: Dramatis Personae Dr Donette Murray. Chapter 1 A Convergence of Territory: Warlords, Rebels and Terrorists in the Modern African State Dr Caroline Varin. Chapter 2 Who gets to fight? The De-Legitimation of Mercenaries and the Search for the Ideal Polity Helene Olsen. Chapter 3 Thinking Beyond the Divide: The Complex Relationships Between State/Non-state Armed Actors in Syria’s War Dr Helle Malmvig. Chapter 4 Violent Non-state Actors Write Their Own Laws of War Dr Jack Watling. Chapter 5 The Yemen Conflict at Sea: Houthi Maritime Operations and the Strategic Reconfiguration in the Gulf of Aden Dr James A. Fargher. Chapter 6 Warfare by Proxy: Russia’s Use of Violent Non-state Actors in Syria Dr Marina Miron. Chapter 7 Uneasy Alliances: The Political Consequences of Arming Non-state Groups in Counter-Terrorism Campaigns Abigail Watson. Chapter 8 The Evolving Character of Violent Non-State Actors in Modern Conflict: Perspectives from the Stabilisation Unit, Army Legal Services and the Land Warfare Centre Julien Bastrup-Birk, Lt Col Grant Davies and Lt Col Matthew Walker. Conclusion Dr Malte Riemann and Dr Norma Rossi. Index.

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