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Outsourcing state violence: The National Defence Force, ‘stateness’ and regime resilience in the Syrian war

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-180
Number of pages24
JournalMediterranean Politics
Issue number2
Early online date16 Oct 2017
Accepted/In press28 Sep 2017
E-pub ahead of print16 Oct 2017


King's Authors


This article engages with and contributes to a nascent debate on state-sponsored militias by way of an analysis of the formation and deployment of the Syrian regime’s National Defence Force (NDF). This militia emerged from the regime’s rich repertoire in outsourcing violence and allowing ‘heterarchical orders’ to serve regime maintenance purposes at home and abroad. During the Syrian war (2011–…), the key rationale for using such militias is primarily to address manpower shortages. For an important but limited period, the NDF served this goal well as it contributed to the regime’s military advances. The regime’s devolution of its violence to militias including the NDF brought about a sharp contraction of its ‘stateness’ but this did not constitute ‘state failure’ or its collapse. In this context, the regime’s elaborate measures to manage or counter the risks and downsides of deploying non-state militias such as the NDF underscore its general adaptability in its authoritarian governance.

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