Hybrid Wars is a podcast series produced by United Nations University Centre for Policy Research exploring how violent conflict around the world is becoming more deadly and more difficult to resolve than ever before. This podcast builds upon original fieldwork for Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Peace on pro-government militias in armed conflict, particularly Nigeria’s Civilian Joint Task Force, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units and Somalia’s darwish forces. Listen here or subscribe to the series on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your other favourite podcast players.
In the first episode, Adam Day speaks to Erica Gaston to consider the complex role and impact of paramilitary groups in some of the most conflicted-affected areas in the world. Paramilitary and militia forces are often hybrid actors, playing a role somewhere in between official State and non-State armed groups. They are creatures of fragmented, hybrid systems who then often uphold such systems and structures post-conflict.
In the second episode, Adam Day speaks to Vanda Felbab-Brown, one of the foremost experts on Nigerian counter-insurgencies and the battle against the terrorist group Boko Haram. This episode considers the untold stories in this fight: the community-based militias that emerged to defend themselves against Boko Haram. Today, these paramilitary forces have become more than just fighters against Boko Haram, they are likely to be a permanent feature in the Nigerian landscape.
In the third episode, Adam Day sits down again with Vanda Felbab-Brown, who regularly does fieldwork in Somalia. One of the groups she’s most interested in is Al-Shabaab, a group that emerged as a radical youth wing of the Islamic Courts that controlled Mogadishu in 2006. The group is listed as a terrorist group and may have links to other terrorist groups in the region. How are the Somali militias, particularly the darwish, battling against Al-Shabbab and what is the group’s role in the country today?
In the fourth episode, Adam Day and Fanar Haddad discuss Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, paramilitary groups that sprung up in 2014 in local Iraqi communities to defend themselves against the Islamic State. They and consider the role that the PMUs play in the Iraqi State today.
In the fifth episode, Adam Day and Mara Revkin, National Security Law Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center, discuss her research regarding the Islamic State, particular the “stayers” – those who decided to stay in Islamic State-controlled territory and who are now considered ISIS affiliates. What happens to the cooks and cleaners of ISIS, or those forced to pay taxes to them? Is there a likelihood of an ISIS resurgence? How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted these groups?
This material has been funded by UK aid from the UK Government; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies, United Nations University or its partners. The views expressed in these episodes are those of the speakers.