Publications by Erica Gaston

  • Web essay 18 Feb 2019

    At the Tip of the Spear: Armed Groups’ Impact on Displacement and Return in Post-ISIL Iraq

    This web essay disentangles the motivations and strategies of various sub-state forces accused of forced displacement, blocked returns, and related protection concerns.…
  • Study 20 Apr 2018

    Local Forces, Local Control

    The threat posed by ISIL provoked mass mobilization across Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) regions. Much greater attention has focused on the larger forces that led operations on the ground, not only the regrouped Iraqi army but also the militias and popular forces converted into the…
  • Study 21 Mar 2018

    Iraq After ISIL

    As the Islamic State of Iraq swept through central and northern Iraq in 2014, Iraqi forces crumbled and state control collapsed. A range of local, sub-state, and hybrid security forces mobilized to fill the gap, helping Iraqi Security Forces retake and hold territory. Although an immediate solution…
  • Study 27 Dec 2017

    Iraq after ISIL: An Analysis of Local, Hybrid, and Sub-State Security Forces

    egional or community forces, militias, and other forms of local security actors have long existed in Iraq. However, when the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over large swaths of territory in 2014, Iraqi government control splintered and the number of local, hybrid, or…
  • Commentary 24 Oct 2017

    The Micro-Politics of Territorial Control in Iraq

    This commentary is related to a larger study on local, hybrid and sub-state security forces (LHSFs) in Iraq. Please see the main page for more findings, and summaries about other field research sites. “What government?” scoffed Abu Ali, a local Turkmen force commander affiliated with the League of…
  • Working paper 07 Sep 2017

    Security Classification and Right to Information

  • Study 30 Aug 2017

    Sunni Tribal Forces

    Local, Sunni tribal forces have been key to recapturing and holding ISIL-held areas. However, different mobilization and control patterns in Ninewa and Salah ad-Din have created different forms of Sunni forces, and may determine how much these Sunni forces contribute to stability or tension in the…
  • Web essay 29 Aug 2017

    Iraq after ISIL: Tikrit and Surrounding Areas

    By Erica Gaston, Frauke Maas
    Shi’a PMF and local tribal Sunni Arab hashd hold off ISIL on the frontline in Dour, but their strong presence, and periodic outbreaks of violence and looting challenge ISF’s ability to maintain rule of law in Salah ad-Din’s capital area.…
  • articles 24 Aug 2017

    Fracturing of the State

    Although Iraq now appears awash in pro-government militias, the majority of the sub-state or non-state groups that exist today are a relatively recent phenomenon. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Saddam Hussein’s strong security apparatus dominated the security landscape. Except for a few notable…
  • Study 21 Aug 2017

    ISIL after Iraq: Mosul

    Only fully liberated in July 2017, half of the city is severely damaged while weak rule of law allows ample opportunities for a range of armed actors to intervene in Iraq’s second largest city.…
  • Study 16 Aug 2017

    Who’s Who: Quick Facts About Local and Sub-State Forces

    This backgrounder is part of a larger study on the role and impact of Local, Hybrid or Sub-state Security Forces (LHSFs) in Iraq. The research surveyed the role played by different local or sub-state groups across three governorates, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Kirkuk, and the impact for local…
  • Working paper 06 Aug 2017

    Literature Review of Local, Regional or Sub-State Defense Forces in Iraq

    By Erica Gaston, András Derzsi-Horváth, Christine van den Toorn, Sarah Mathieu-Comtois
    This literature review is part of a larger study on local, hybrid, and sub-state security forces in Iraq (LHSFs). Please see the main page for more further reports and research summaries about individual field research sites. Regional or community forces, militias, and other forms of local security…
  • Web essay 05 Aug 2017

    Iraq after ISIL: Qaraqosh, Hamdaniya District

    Local Christian and Shabak forces vie to police this decimated ghost town and surrounding Christian areas, a part of the larger Baghdad versus Kurdish competition and demographic reshaping of the Ninewa Plains.…
  • Web essay 02 Aug 2017

    Iraq after ISIL: Qayyara

    US-supported and -trained Sunni tribal PMF have played a larger role in this relatively stable Sunni area south of Mosul, but tribal revenge attacks, Shi’a PMF on the outskirts, and a recent ISIL takeover of a liberated town illustrate the uneven control and stability even in safe and politically…
  • Commentary 23 Jun 2017

    Soldier Self-Defense and the Strikes in Syria

    On Tuesday, U.S. forces shot down an armed Iranian drone in southern Syria, a few days after a similarly justified strike on a Syrian aircraft that dropped a bomb near a U.S. training outpost. Combined with the U.S. decision to ramp up support to Syrian Kurds seeking to retake Raqqa, these actions…
  • Study 22 Jun 2017

    When Looks Could Kill: Emerging State Practice on Self-Defense and Hostile Intent

    Executive Summary In the last decade and a half since September 11, armed conflict has been marked by new patterns of warfare. Non-international conflict – conflict between a state(s) and non-state actors – is more likely than direct conflict with other state parties, and is often characterized by…
  • Commentary 06 Mar 2017

    The Leahy Law and Human Rights Accountability in Afghanistan

    The Leahy Amendment, or Leahy law, is a little known piece of United States legislation that bans US assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information that a member has committed gross violations of human rights. The Leahy law has accomplished far less than its…
  • Study 01 Feb 2017

    Harmonizing Donor Reporting

    The World Humanitarian Summit set ambitious targets to maximize existing resources in critical, emergency situations, including harmonizing and streamlining donor reporting. Donors and aid organizations committed to significant, but achievable harmonization measures by the end of 2018, including…
  • Working paper 16 Jan 2017

    Literature Review of Local, Community or Sub-State Forces in Afghanistan

    Afghanistan’s history has long been dominated and shaped by the interaction of militias with the state. In the post-2001 era, international actors, sometimes with Afghan state cooperation, have tried to use militias to fill perceived gaps in security. Since 2002, a range of foreign-backed local,…
  • Article 31 May 2016

    Rule of Law and Statebuilding in Afghanistan: Testing Theory with Practice

    By Erica Gaston, Erik Jensen
    Introduction Underfunded, underprioritized and underperforming, rule of law development has been a much-maligned part of the Afghan statebuilding exercise. Critics argue that rule of law efforts were not only poorly managed and implemented but also poorly conceived and designed, driven by…
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