Perspectives on Terrorism is an initiative of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Visit website
VOL. XIV, Issue 5

Organizational Capacity and Constituency Dominance: Why Some Militant Groups Wage SustainedInsurgencies

Why do some militant groups wage sustained insurgencies while other groups do not? To address this puzzle, this study uses a resource mobilization framework and quantitative regression analyses of 246 prominent militant groups featured in the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) from 1970–2007. Findings show that proxies for organizational capacity and constituency dominance are better predictors of sustained insurgencies than traditional measures of group capabilities, diverging from current explanations of insurgency onset and outcomes. An insurrection led by a single group is the strongest determinant of a sustained insurgency, suggesting that rival consolidation plays a key role in the nascent stages of an armed conflict. While rarely achieving ultimate objectives, this study finds that religious militant organizations are associated with a higher likelihood of waging sustained insurgencies. Hub-spoke structured groups, with relatively decentralized command and control, are similarly as likely to sustain insurgencies as hierarchically structured groups. There is no single model that can explain particular militant group trajectories and counterinsurgency campaigns require context-specific analysis. However, this study presents generalizable empirical associations across diverse militant groups to examine an underexplored outcome of interest.

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…