Western policymakers have long sought to distinguish between ‘state’ and ‘non-state' armed actors. Yet, in the MENA region, a number of armed groups straddle this binary: they are affiliated with the state and at times cooperate with it, while at other times they compete against it. 

Moreover, these actors have developed a range of interests that extend beyond security functions. These include engagement in the public and private sectors, often supplementing their income from state sources, and engagement in representative politics.

This project seeks to explore means of characterising and defining these ‘hybrid’ armed actors, examine their military and economic capabilities, their relationships with local communities and perceptions of legitimacy, the role of ideology, and their relationships with external patrons and interactions with regional conflict dynamics.