The second day of the Militias and Armies Conference took off in Doha this morning with the panel on "Hybrid Warfare: Local Militias and Foreign States", chaired by Younes Mohamed al-Dharb. The first speaker, Anthony Chimente, began with his paper "The UAE and Proxy Warfare in Yemen: The Political and Military Role of Armed Non-State Surrogates," examining the impact of Emirati military support on the development of combat compacities of proxy forces in Yemen. Chimente predicted that these militias will develop into a strong independent non-state actor similar to Hezbollah or the Popular Mobilization Units, which could lead to the fragmentation of Yemen and deterioration of the conflict, restricting the possibility of security sector reform.
Göktuğ Sönmez followed with his paper, "Foreign Shi'i Fighters in the Syrian Civil War: Actors, Recruitment Strategies and Iran's Regional Role". Sönmez looked at Iran's proxy warfare efforts to shape its immediate geography through militias in Syria's Civil War, focusing on Iran's use of a transboundary strategy to ensure the regime's authority in Syria through the Fatemiyoun and Zeynabiyoun militias. Sönmez noted that the assassination of Qasem Soleimani has recently spurred a number of new recruits but wonders if the unifying effect of Soleimani's assassination will continue to increase numbers joining militias, and if the success of current Shi'i recruitment strategies is sustainable in light of international developments.
Osama Kubaar was the final panellist this morning, discussing his paper "The "Libyan National Army" Militia in Libya". He traced Khalifa Haftar's historical relationship with Gaddafi and his military background and challenged the notion that the LNA is entirely Libyan or a legitimate reflection of the Libyan public wishes. Kubaar questioned if the LNA is a truly national force with geographical reach across the country, arguing that rather than being comprised of regular armed forces, it is made up of autonomous militia groups, foreign mercenaries and supported by external forces from Egypt, the Emirates and Sudan. Kubaar concluded by detailing the impacts of hybrid warfare and the alliance between tribal militias, local warlords, Salafi armed networks and foreign units of regular armies on Libya's prospects of peace, stability, and democratization.
The second session of the day "Global Politics of Combat", was moderated by Hend Al Muftah. Thomas H. Johnson spoke first on "The Afghan Taliban's Developments in Combat and Political Performance." He argued that while the government of Afghanistan attempted to modernize and liberalize, the Taliban set out to revolutionize their structure and ideologies. Organizational alterations transitioned the Taliban away from a patrimonial structure and more towards a centralized structure.
Anna Bulakh followed with her paper "Resilience Building as Response to Russian Asymmetric Warfare in Ukraine". She argued that the methods Russia applied to wage war targeted a key weak link—the lack of trust between society and government institutions. The moment an aggressor succeeds in discrediting state actors it achieves momentum of controlling popular opinion in its favour. The control and manipulation of the information in the region was core to prepare the ground for paramilitary proxies reaching the control of the enough terrain to shape the negotiations and continuous pressure on Ukraine's government.
The final speaker on this panel, David Darchiashvili spoke on "August 2008: The Pinnacle of the Russo-Georgian Hybrid War," arguing that after the annexation of Crimea and set-backs of Ukrainians in the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, pro-Russian ANSAs failed to expand from the Eastern to the Southern Ukraine, grabbing the whole of the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, named in Russia as Novorossiya. By 2003 nothing changed in Georgian political-military landscape. In 1999 Shevardnadze left the Collective Security Treaty. The US helped to raise few battalions for anti-terrorist purposes and in 2002 announced that Georgia was going to "knock" on the NATOs door.
The third and final panel of the day, "Militias to Armies", was moderated by Abdelwahab El-Affendi. The first speaker of the third session Hamid Ali began with his piece on the "Rapid Support Forces in Sudan: From Militia to Army". He argued that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) evolved from a Janjaweed tribal force fighting on horsebacks to militiamen riding SUVs equipped with heavy machine guns. This force performed effectively and turned the fortunes of the government side. Tijana Rečević followed to present her research undertaken with Filip Ejdus on "Complex Links Between DDR, TJ and SSR: A Shadow of the Never Dismantled Paramilitary Units in Serbia". They found that since no external pressure for DDR was exercised over Serbia in the aftermath of the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, a chance for more responsibility in dealing with these issues arose with the victory of a democratic coalition in October 2000. In exchange for their passivity during the revolution, some segments of the security forces managed to veto the lustration and opening of secret files from during the war and authoritarian rule thus ensuring near-total impunity for many officials who had been implicated in human rights abuses.
The final paper of the day, "From Insurgents to Regulars: The Military and Political Implications of the Peshmerga's Transformation" was presented by Allan Hassaniyan on behalf of himself and Gareth Stansfield. They argued that the Peshmerga has been in the process of being absorbed into a regularized military since the 1990s but that interaction between the Peshmerga and the political institutions of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has hindered the process. The Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) attained a heightened level of international attention following the emergence of the Islamic State in the north of Iraq from 2014 onwards. In recent years, several Western governments, including the US, UK, and Germany, have been involved in promoting a strategy to unify and normalize the Peshmerga forces, but with only a limited effect to date.