1st Edition

Fighting and Negotiating with Armed Groups The Difficulty of Securing Strategic Outcomes

By Samir Puri Copyright 2016

    What constitutes an effective and realistic strategy for dealing with non-state armed groups? This question has bedevilled states the world over. From Colombia and FARC, Turkey and the PKK, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the persistent insurgency in Iraq – the governments concerned struggle to either fight or negotiate their way to an end.

    Fighting armed groups is an uncertain business, and so is negotiating. Doing both alternately, concurrently or selectively, is highly demanding. This book develops a framework to help analysts and policymakers understand the challenges of using a combination of coercion and diplomacy in dealing with armed groups. It considers which complexities have proved most inhibiting, and which have been worked around. What are the obvious traps that states fall into? What appear to be the smarter moves?

    Thinking in terms or ‘military’ or ‘political’ solutions is unhelpful – to be genuinely strategic, a response must concern itself with managing the mix. Ten examples from around the world are worked through to examine this theme. The net is cast wide purposefully, so that the lessons for strategy can be made explicit, rather than lost amid a bloody contemporary history of wars involving armed groups.


    1. The difficulties of accommodating or eliminating armed groups

    2. Struggling to move from military stalemate to negotiations

    3. The ruthless pragmatism of fighting and talking to be selective and deceptive

    4. When partnerships of states confront armed groups

    5. The lopsided strategies of very weak or very strong states



    Samir Puri lectures in War Studies at King’s College London. He previously worked for the Foreign Office (2009-15), where his assignments included counter terrorism strategy and a number of peace processes. He started his career as a defence analyst at RAND (2006-09).