From Freedom Fighters to Jihadists: Human Resources of Non State Armed Groups

ISBN : 9780190939755

Vanessa Everts
304 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jul 2019
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At the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, thousands of pro-democracy rebel groups spontaneously formed to fight the Assad regime. Years later, the revolution was unrecognizable as rebel opposition forces had merged into three major groups: Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al Sham, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Why did these three groups rapidly increase in size and military strength while others simply disappeared? What is it about their organizational structure and their Islamist ideology that helped group manage their fighters so successfully?

With these questions at the forefront, this book examines the internal organization of armed groups and, in particular, their human resources.

Analyzing the growth of these groups through the prism of a labor market theory, this book shows that extreme Islamist groups were able to attract fighters away from more

moderate groups because they had better internal organization, took better care of fighters both physically and monetarily,

experienced less internal corruption, and effectively used their Islamist ideology to control recruits. With unparalleled access and extensive ethnographic research drawn from her interviews and her year embedded with Iraqi Special Operation forces, Mironova delves deep into the ideological and practical nexus of some of the most radical groups in the Middle East. This book brings together more than 600 survey-interviews with local civilians and fighters on the frontline in Syria and a dataset of human resource policies from 40 armed groups; it is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants insight into the on the ground functioning of rebel organizations.


1. Armed Groups HR Manual
2. Leaving, Staying, Fighting
3. Finding a Group That Fits
4. Making a Rebel Group Work
5. Help From Abroad
6. How to Handle Foreign Fighters
7. Handling Ultra-Radicals
8. Managing Ideology
9. Funding the Fight
10. Rebel CEOs and Managers
11. Policy Implications
12. Other Conflicts and Ideologies

About the author: 

Vera Mironova is Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. She received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Maryland and for three years was an International Security Fellow at the Robert and Renee Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Dr. Mironova, whose research explores individual level behavior in conflict environments, has conducted fieldwork in numerous active conflict zones and post-conflict regions all over the world, and from 2016 to 2017, she was embedded with Iraqi Special Operations Forces during the Mosul Operation. Her scholarship has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, Foreign Policy, BBC, and The Boston Globe. She has also served as a commentator for a number of major media outlets, including The New York Times, the Associated Press, Washington Post, and Vice News.

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