Policy Memos

Economic Lures and Ungoverned Territories: Overcoming Warlordism

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Several states in Eurasia have been forced to deal with “ungoverned territories,” areas technically within the borders of recognized states but where the state lacks the authority or capacity to provide security or enforce the rule of law. These territories aren’t actually “ungoverned.” They are usually governed by warlords: actors who use a combination of force, charisma, and patronage to control the political economy of small slices of territory, whether a village, border area, or entire province. The presence of warlords is most obvious in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas, where the state clearly lacks much writ. We have also seen warlord-controlled territories emerge from time to time in the post-Soviet space, though, including in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, Adjara and parts of Abkhazia in Georgia, and the Fergana Valley in Central Asia. Parts of post-war Kosovo, too, have suffered from warlordism. [...]

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About the author

Professor; Chair of the Political Science Department
Barnard College, Columbia University