New research project on Islamist armed groups


According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme, ISIS, Al Qaida and their affiliates represented 25 out of 45 armed groups active in state-based armed conflicts and more than half of all deaths caused by organised violence in 2015. These groups are characterised by their radical religious ideology (rooted in Salafi-based Islamism) and the brutality of their modes of action.

Attempts to defeat such insurgencies through military means have largely proved ineffective so far, inducing Western governments to explore alternative options to the ‘war on terror’, primarily through approaches aiming to prevent violent extremism (PVE) or to ‘rehabilitate’ former jihadists. However, there is an acute lack of research and debate on policy options for engaging groups that are already/still radicalised through third-party dialogue or negotiation.

Against this background, the Conflict Transformation Research team has embarked on a new research project aiming to advance knowledge on the patterns, critical junctures and factors of conflict (de)escalation by radical Islamist armed groups (RIAGs). We will also explore the role of dialogue engagement by third-parties (such as local bridge-builders, humanitarian actors or international mediators) with their leaders, members or ‘proxies’, in order to reduce violence or to create momentum for a peace process. The empirical research will result in three case studies in Syria, Somalia and Mali. The project, funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF), runs from November 2017 to April 2019.

For more information, see our project description >