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The tyranny of color-coded maps: what we get wrong about measuring control during armed conflict

Bahiss, Ibrahim, Jackson, Ashley, Mayhew, Leigh and Weigand, Florian ORCID: 0000-0003-2629-0934 (2022) The tyranny of color-coded maps: what we get wrong about measuring control during armed conflict. Modern War Institute (28 Nov 2022). Blog Entry.

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After a stunning military advance, the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. This seemingly sudden takeover, with hundreds of districts falling like dominos, took most observers by surprise. After all, maps had long shown most of Afghanistan’s districts under government control, with the Taliban holding just a small share. But what appeared to be an almost overnight shift in control was in fact the result of an insufficient understanding of how armed groups in conflict zones around the world operate and exercise control. How the security community commonly conceptualizes and maps territorial control does not accurately capture reality on the ground. This makes it exceedingly difficult to understand how and why the balance of power between governments and armed groups shifts—sometimes rapidly—over the course of military campaigns. Drawing on a recently published study, we argue that there is an urgent need to rethink how armed groups exercise control. The security community, donors, and international organizations can benefit from looking at what we call the entire “cycle of control,” which considers the practices armed groups apply to exercise control in different spheres, and the capacities they draw on to achieve this. Adopting a fuller understanding of control can help policymakers move beyond simplistic maps and develop real-time analysis of control during irregular warfare.

Item Type: Online resource (Blog Entry)
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2023 15:51
Last Modified: 21 May 2024 09:27

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