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A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Armed Non State Actors (ANSAs): Strategic Roles and Operational Dynamics

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Technical Report

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Defence Research and Development Canada Toronto Toronto, Ontario Canada

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This is the Final Report of the Technology Investment Fund TIF Project entitled A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Armed Non-state Actors ANSAs Strategic Roles and Operational Dynamics Project Code 10az01. The Socio-cognitive Systems Section SCSS at Defence Research and Development Canada DRDC, Toronto Research Centre, undertook this multi-year Project in order to advance our understanding of the motivation, intent, and behaviour of ANSAs. Consistent with DRDCs support-to-operations mandate, this understanding will help the Canadian Armed Forces CAF effectively engage these actors in future expeditionary operations. The in-house Project team and two world-class academic contracting teams carried the Project through three Phases. Phase 1 Conceptual Development established the boundaries of the conceptual problem space. Phase 2 Framework Calibration calibrated the first-cut Irregular Adversary Insurgent IAI Concept Map Cmap8 using a real-world test case the Somali Islamist ANSA al-Shabaab. Phase 3 Project Integration integrated the findings of the first two phases and recast the IAI Cmap in order to create the key end-product of this Project the ANSA Cmap. The generic ANSA Cmap is a high-level conceptual framework grounded in both multidisciplinary theory and mixed methods practice that distills our understanding of these actors to its core strategic-level factors. It serves as a cognitive model or primer on this class of irregular adversary as well as a knowledge model or template for organizing and managing the overwhelming mass of information collected on ANSAs. The Projects independent research thrusts triangulated on two critical factors that featured as focal elements of the ANSA Cmap, that is, the competition between the in group and an out groups social conflict, and the perceived threat to the future vitality of the in group arising from this competition collective threat.

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