Warlord-Islamist Competition

A Comparison of Support Structures


  • Hamza Deniz Kobus University of Potsdam


Warlord armies and Islamist groups are two types of violent non-state actors that frequently compete against each other in situations of internal conflict. This article strives to compare these actor types with regards to their internal and external sources of support. Examination of the consistent conflicts in Somalia and Afghanistan suggests that different support structures assist the armed groups with various resources for divergent reasons. The most salient pattern identifiable in the case studies indicates that local populations tend to support Islamist groups due to shared religious identities and desires for lasting governance. The non-ideological and pragmatic orientation of warlords on the other hand seems to attract backing primarily by international actors seeking influence in internal conflicts. While further research has to corroborate the findings, they indicate possible implications for military interventions in situations that are shaped by warlord-Islamist competition.