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Beyond frontlines: rethinking control in civil wars - 31 May 2022

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Within civil wars, control and influence are often thought of in terms of territory. In any given conflict, there is an array of colour-coded maps aiming to illustrate who controls what. Yet they often fail to capture the everyday complexity of how armed groups operate and exert control. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rapid state collapse in Afghanistan have demonstrated, flawed or inaccurate understandings of how combatants exert influence have profound and painful consequences.

This talk will explore a new conceptual framework for understanding how armed groups exert control, outlined in a paper from the ODI Centre for the Study of Armed Groups. Its aim is to help analysts, donors and others enhance their understanding of conflict dynamics, and ultimately improve conflict early warning.

This event will take place online via Zoom.

Speaker biographies

Dr Ashley Jackson is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups at ODI. She has over a decade of experience working in and on Afghanistan, and researching armed groups. She received her PhD in War Studies at King’s College London.

Dr Florian Weigand is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups at ODI. His work focuses on armed groups, illicit economies and political order across South and Southeast Asia.

Ibrahim Bahiss is an Afghanistan analyst with the International Crisis Group. He has worked as a researcher and consultant on Afghanistan for a range of civil society organisations and NGOs.

Leigh Mayhew is a Research Officer at ODI, focused on critically assessing approaches to illicit economies, smuggling networks and the intersection with armed conflict.


Ed Hadley is an Conflict Advisor at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). He has worked for the UK government on foreign policy and conflict issues for over 15 years.


Dr Christine Cheng is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London and author of Extralegal Groups in Post-Conflict Liberia: How Trade Makes the State.

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