Regional Rebels

By Pat Host / March 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Existing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the difficulties in confronting transnational rebel groups, as relations with neighboring states may pose challenges for security forces, according to a political science professor at the University of North Texas.

Idean Salehyan, also a fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, notes in a new Strategic Studies Institute monograph, "Transnational Insurgencies and the Escalation of Regional Conflict: Lessons for Iraq and Afghanistan," that many contemporary insurgencies pit governments against rebel organizations that span international boundaries, finding sanctuaries in neighboring states and support from rival governments. Because military and security forces must respect international boundaries, militant groups often use border regions to their advantage as safe havens.

A taste:

Once transnational rebels have established themselves on foreign soil, the conflict ceases to be a wholly domestic one and necessarily draws in regional governments. Traditional counterinsurgency strategies can only go so far in containing the threat as foreign soil is off limits to security forces. This threatens to change the dynamic of the war and lead to an escalatory process which encompasses neighboring states. The problem of cross-border militancy has the potential to raise tensions in the region, and even lead to a full-blown war between governments.