Paramilitarism represents a dangerous dilemma for developing states seeking to monopolize the use of force. On one end of the spectrum, paramilitaries serve as an extra-legal, internal mechanism for states to extend their influence, build capacity, and institutionalize informal systems of security and governance; on the other end, they challenge the writ of the state, facilitate criminal enterprise, and destabilize local communities. In other words, some paramilitaries are protective, while others are predatory. What explains the variation? I argue that paramilitary behavior in Afghanistan’s state formation era is a result of state-society relations within the emerging market of protection. While strong patron-client relations based on incentives and controlling processes are important to mitigate bad behavior, complementary management between patrons and communities is a more important check on paramilitary group behavior. When patrons rely on community control mechanisms over paramilitaries, state and society coordinate an efficient market of protection based upon collective interests. The less reliant patrons are on community controls, the more likely clients diverge toward predation as they seek to monopolize the market of protection for personal interests. Using empirical evidence from exclusive government archives, field interviews, and original paramilitary artifacts, I analyze three cases at the sub-national level in post-2001 Afghanistan.
A completed book manuscript is anticipated in early 2018.