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Which Conditions Increase the Likelihood of Foreign Fighters in Civil Wars?

Fri, August 30, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton, Columbia 7


Which factors of civil war dynamics are likely to draw foreign fighters? Previous studies of transnational participation in insurgencies have focused on the strategies of rebel groups to recruit combatants, and on the social “push” factors that prompt volunteering. This paper analyzes data coded from a wider set of variables to examine whether there are also conflict conditions under which foreign fighters are more likely to appear. The BAAD 2 Insurgency data set coded observations of 140 militant organizations between 1998-2012, with foreign fighters observable during 86 total organizational years for religious, ethnic, and ideological insurgencies. There has been a rapid growth in the number of insurgencies employing foreign fighters in the contemporary era, from less than 1 percent to more than 10 percent. Rather than a particular ideology such as jihadism being the best predictor of foreign fighters, we find that rivalry between insurgent groups is most likely to cause one or more to recruit externally. This effect is especially pronounced when governments employ strongly punitive measures against the rebels. We examine potential explanations for these findings including outbidding and the use of framing of threat narratives by the insurgents.