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Transnational Rebels: Neighboring States as Sanctuary for Rebel Groups

  • Idean Salehyan (a1)


To what extent do international factors affect domestic conflict processes? How do external conditions affect the state's repressive capabilities and the opportunities for opposition groups to mobilize, launch an insurgency, and sustain it? This article argues that because state strength is limited by international boundaries, rebel groups often organize transnationally in order to evade repression. External bases, refugee communities, and characteristics of neighboring states are expected to increase the likelihood of civil war onset and continuation. Importantly, external mobilization is difficult for states to monitor and verify, a factor that exacerbates bargaining problems and increases the probability of armed conflict. These claims are tested through a quantitative analysis of civil conflicts from 1951 to 1999. Results suggest that weak neighbors, rival neighbors, and refugee diasporas contribute to rebellion and that conflicts endure longer when rebels have access to external bases.



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1 See Collier, Paul and Hoeffler, Anke, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War,” Oxford Economic Papers 56, no. 4 (2004); Fearon, James D. and Laitin, David D., “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War,” American Political Science Review 97, no. 1 (2003); Hegre, Havard, Ellingsen, Tanja, Gates, Scott, and Petter Gleditsch, Nils, “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816–1992,” American Political Science Review 95 (2001); Reynal-Querol, Marta, “Ethnicity, Political Systems and Civil Wars,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 1 (2002); Posen, Barry, “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict,” Survival 35, no. 1 (1993).

2 Skocpol, Theda, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China (New York:Cambridge University Press, 1979).

3 See, for example, Balch-Lindsay, Dylan and Enterline, Andrew J., “Killing Time: The World Politics of Civil War Duration, 1820–1992,” International Studies Quarterly 44, no. 4 (2000); Byman, Daniel, Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2005); Byman, Daniel, Chalk, Peter, Hoffman, Bruce, Rosenan, William, and Brannon, David, Trends in Outside Supportfor Insurgent Movements (Santa Monica, Calif.:Rand, 2001); Elbadawi, Ibrahim and Sambanis, Nicholas, “How Much War Will We See? Explaining the Prevalence of Civil War,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 3 (2002); Lake, David A. and Rothchild, Donald, “Containing Fear: The Origins and Management of Ethnic Conflict,” International Security 21, no. 2 (1998); Gleditsch, Kristian S., All International Politics Is Local: The Diffusion of Conflict, Integration, and Democratization (Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press, 2002); Midlarsky, Manus, ed., The Internationalization of Communal Strife (New York:Routledge, 1992); Regan, Patrick M., Civil Wars and Foreign Powers: Interventions and Intrastate Conflict (Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press, 2000); Saideman, Stephen M., The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict (New York:Columbia University Press, 2001); Salehyan, Idean and Gleditsch, Kristian S., “Refugees and the Spread of Civil War,” International Organization 60, no. 2 (2006); Walter, Barbara F., Committing to Peace: The Successful Resolution of Civil Wars (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2002).

4 But see Byman (fn. 3); Bapat, Navin, “State Support for Insurgency and International Conflict” (Manuscript, Pennsylvania State University, 2007); idem, “State Bargaining with Transnational Terrorist Groups,” International Studies Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2006).

5 For example, Tilly, Charles, From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, Mass.:Addison-Wesley, 1978).

6 Fearon, James, “Rational Explanations forWar,” International Organization 49, no. 3 (1995).

7 Ansell, Christopher K. and Palma, Giuseppe Di, Restructuring Territoriality: Europe and the States Compared (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2004); Kahler, Miles and Walter, Barbara, eds., Territoriality and Conflict in an Era of Globalization (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2006); Kratochwil, Friedrich, “Of Systems, Boundaries, and Territoriality: An Inquiry into the Formation of the State System,” World Politics 39 (October 1986); Gerard Ruggie, John, “Territoraliry and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations,” International Organization Al, no. 1 (1993); Starr, Harvey and Most, Benjamin, “The Substance and Study of Borders in International Relations Research,” International Studies Quarterly 20, no. 4 (1976).

8 Weber, Max, From Max Weber, ed. Gerth, H. H. and Mills, C. W. (New York:Galaxy, 1958), emphasis added.

9 Herbst, Jeffery, “The Creation and Maintenance of National Boundaries in Africa,” International Organization 43, no. 4 (1989); Jackson, Robert H., “Quasi-states, Dual Regimes, and Neoclassical Theory: International Jurisprudence and the Third World,” International Organization 41, no. 4 (1987).

10 Krasner, Stephen, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1999).

11 Camilleri, Joseph and Falk, Jim, The End of Sovereignty? The Politics ofa Shrinking and Fragment ing World (Brookfield, Vt.:Elgar, 1992); Cornelius, Wayne, Tsuda, A. Takeyuki, Martin, Philip, and Hollifield, James, eds., Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford, Calif:Stanford Univer sity Press, 2004); Elkins, David J., Beyond Sovereignty: Territory and Political Economy in the Twenty-Century (Toronto:University of Toronto Press, 1995); Ohmae, Kenichi, The Borderless World: and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy (New York:Harper Business, 1990).

12 Cohen, Edward, “Globalization and the Boundaries of the State: A Framework for Analyzing the Changing Practice of Sovereignty,” Governance 14, no. 1 (2001); Evans, Peter, “The Eclipse of the State: Reflections on Stateness in an Era of Globalization,” World Politics 50 (October 1997); Helliwell, John F, How Much Do National Borders Matter? (Washington, D.C.:Brookings Institution Press, 1998).

13 Sahlins, Peter, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1989).

14 Andreas, Peter, “Redrawing the Line: Borders and Security in the Twenty-first Century,” International Security 28, no. 2 (1998); Zacher, Mark, “The Territorial Integrity Norm: International Boundaries and the Use of Force,” International Organization 55, no. 2 (2001).

15 See Krasner (fn. 10).

16 Tilly (fn. 5), 101.

17 Fearon and Laitin (fn. 1); Hegre (fn. 1); Herbst, Jeffrey, States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2000); idem, “African Militaries and Rebellion: The Political Economy of Threat and Combat Effectiveness,” Journal of Peace Research 41, no. 3 (2004); Muller, Edward N. and Weede, Erich; “Cross-National Variation in Political Violence: A Rational Action Approach,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 34, no. 4 (1990).

18 Fearon (fn. 6); Fearon, James D.“Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer than Others?” Journal of Peace Research 41, no. 3 (2004); Lake, David, “International Relations Theory and Internal Conflict: Insights from the Interstices,” International Studies Review 5, no. 4 (2003); Powell, Robert, In the Shadow of Power: States and Strategies in International Politics (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1999); Toft, Monica, The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2003); Walter (fn. 3).

19 Rebel mobilization may itself be violent, as insurgent groups use force to capture resources, intimidate civilian populations, and/or signal their strength and viability to constituents.

20 Transnational organizations have received a good deal of scholarly attention, although much of this research has neglected violent groups. See, for example, Porta, Donatella Delia and Tarrow, Sidney G., Transnational Protest and Global Activism (Lanham, Md.:Rowman and Littlefield, 2005); Keck, Mar garet E. and Sikkink, Kathryn, Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.:Cornell University Press, 1998); Keohane, Robert and Nye, Joseph, eds., Transnational Relations and World Politics (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1972); Risse-Kappen, Thomas, ed Bringing Transnational Relations Back In: Non-State Actors, Domestic Structures, and International tutions (New York:Cambridge University Press, 1995).

21 Empirically, others have found a statistical relationship between the location of civil wars within countries and international borders. See Buhaug, Halvard and Gates, Scott, “The Geography of Civil War” Journal of Peace Research 39, no. 4 (2002).

22 Bapat, Navin, “The Internationalization of Terrorist Campaigns,” Conflict Management and Peace Science (forthcoming).

23 Several recent studies have begun to explore the relationship between external support for insur-gencies and conflict between states. In this regard, see Bapat (fn. 4,2006); Schultz, Kenneth, “War as an Enforcement Problem: Interstate Conflict over Rebel Support in Civil Wars” (Manuscript, Stanford University, 2007); Salehyan, Idean, “No Shelter Here: Rebel Sanctuaries and International Conflict,” Journal of Politics (January 2008)

24 On governance costs, see Lake, David A.. “Anarchy, Hierarchy, and the Variety of International Relations,” International Organization 50, no. 1 (1996).

25 Leites, Nathan and Wolf, Charles Jr., Rebellion and Authority: An Analytic Essay on Insurgent Conflicts (Chicago:Markham, 1970).

26 See Katzenstein, Peter J., The Culture of National Security Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York:Columbia University Press, 1996).

27 Indeed, Leites and Wolf (fn. 25) argue that cutting off external support approaches a necessary condition for counterinsurgency (p. 40).

28 Adamson, Fiona, “Crossing Borders: International Migration and National Security,” International Security 31, no. 1 (2006); Lyons, Terrence, “Diasporas and Homeland Conflict,” in Walter, M. Kahlerand B. F., eds., Territoriality and Conflict in an Era of Globalization (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2006); Shain, Yossi and Barth, Aharon, “Diasporas and International Relations Theory,” International Organization 57, no. 3 (2003).

29 Christian Davenport, Moore, Will, and Poe, Steven, “Sometimes You Just Have to Leave: Domestic Threats and Refugee Movements, 1964–1989,” International Interactions 29, no. 1 (2003); Moore, Will and Shellman, Stephen, “Fear of Persecution: Forced Migration, 1952–1995,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 40, no. 5 (2004); Susanne Schmeidl, “Exploring the Causes of Forced Migration: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis, 1971–1990,” Social Science Quarterly 78, no. 2 (1997); Myron Weiner, “Bad Neighbors, Bad Neighborhoods: An Inquiry into the Causes of Refugee Flows,” International Security 21, no. 1(1996).

30 Not all refugees flee because of government persecution. Situational refugees flee general conditions of violence in a country and do not necessarily have a stake in the conflict; see Kenyon Lischer, Sarah, Dangerous Sanctuaries: Refugee Camps, Civil War, and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid (Ithaca, N.Y.:Cornell University Press, 2005). However, a significant subset of any refugee outflow is likely to include people who have a direct grievance against the state.

31 Byman et al. (fn. 3); Lischer (fn. 30); Stedman, Stephen J. and Tanner, Fred, Refugee Manipulation: War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering (Washington, D.C.:Brookings Institution, 2003); Weiner, Myron, “Security, Stability, and International Migration,” International Security 17, no. 3 (1992–93); Weiner (fn. 29); Zolberg, Aristide, Suhrke, Astri, and Aguayo, Sergio, Escapefrom Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World (New York:Oxford University Press, 1989).

32 Bapat (fn. 4, 2007); Dorff, Robert H., “Failed States after 9/11: What Did We Know and What Have We Learned,” International Studies Perspectives 6, no. 1 (2005).

33 See Bapat (fn. 4, 2007); Byman (fn. 3), 260–62.

34 Lischer (fn. 30).

35 It is argued here that refugee camps are a source of recruits and bases for rebels. However, refugees may themselves complicate the bargaining environment, and that may lead to longer conflicts. States must offer credible commitments to allow refugees to repatriate and reintegrate back in the home country. They must also promise not to violate human rights again in the future, which may be difficult. Special bargaining problems posed by refugee communities are not addressed in depth here but are left for future work. On strategic issues involving refugee repatriation, see Zeager, Lester and Bascom, Johnathan, “Strategic Behavior in Refugee Repatriation: A Game Theoretic Analysis,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 40, no. 3 (1996).

36 Filson, Darren and Werner, Suzanne, “A Bargaining Model of War and Peace: Anticipating the Onset, Duration, and Outcome of War,” American Journal of Political Science 46, no. 4 (2002); Wagner, R. Harrison, “Bargaining and War,” American Journal of Political Science 44, no. 3 (2000).

37 Byman (fn. 3), 70.

38 Fearon (fn. 6).

39 Walter (fn. 3).

40 Cunningham, David, “Veto Players and Civil War Duration,” American Journal of Political Science 50, no. 4 (2006); Bapat (fn. 4,2006).

41 Kim, Julie, “Macedonia: Country Background and Recent Conflict,” CRS Report for Congress (Washington, D.C.:Congressional Research Service, 2001).

42 Elbadawi and Sambanis (fn. 3).

43 Cunningham, David, Gleditsch, Kristian, and Salehyan, Idean, “Dyadic Data on Civil War,” Data Project (Colchester, U.K., and Denton, Tex.:University of Essex and the University of North Texas, 2007).

44 Elbadawi and Sambanis (fn.3).

45 A high threshold for classifying binary events has important methodological limitations when using either a lagged dependent variable or counts of years at “peace.” With a threshold of one thousand deaths, an event that falls just short of the cutoff point would not be counted as a conflict and would be assumed to have no impact on the subsequent probability of violence. In practice, however, low-intensity conflicts are likely to be systematically associated with a higher likelihood of future large-scale conflict.

46 Peter Gleditsch, Nils, Wallensteen, Peter, Eriksson, Mikael, Sollenberg, Margareta, and Strand, Havard, “Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset,” Journal of Peace Research 39, no. 5 (2002). I include all intrastate and internationalized intrastate disputes (type 3 and type 4 conflicts in U/PACD) that occur on a state's territory.

47 Alternative approaches (five-year intervals and no consolidation) were also considered, but results do not vary significantly.

48 Thompson, , “Identifying Rivals and Rivalries in World Politics,” International Studies Quarterly 45, no. 4 (2001).

49 See Thompson (fn. 48) for details. I thank William Thompson for providing me with an electronic version of this data set.

50 I thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out. Results do not change substantially when using contemporaneous values.

51 Gleditsch, Kristian S., and Ward, Michael D., “Measuring Space: A Minimum Distance Database,” Journal of Peace Research 38, no. 6 (2001).

52 For an additional discussion of clustering, see Salehyan and Gleditsch (fn. 3).

53 Gleditsch, Kristian, “Expanded Dyadic Trade and GDP Data, 1946–92,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 51 (2002).

54 Fearon and Laitin (fn. 1).

55 Alternative measures indicating the GDP per capita of the poorest neighbor and the mean neighborhood GDP were also used, but this did not significantly change the results.

56 I thank Bela Hovy of the UNHCR for providing me with these data. However, the UNHCR does not keep track of figures for Palestinian refugees. Therefore, these data are supplemented with figures from the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Palestinian refugees are counted as originating from the state of Israel.

57 Davenport, Moore, and Poe (fn. 29); Neumayer, Eric, “Bogus Refugees? The Determinants of Asylum Migration to Western Europe, International Studies Quarterly 49, no. 3 (2005); Schmeidl (fn. 29).

58 Because conflict data are available from 1945, the count of peace years since 1945 is taken.

59 Lagging refugees one year and including a peace years indicator presents a high hurdle and may understate the effect of refugees if conflict and refugee militarization occur simultaneously or unfold quickly. In addition, civilian populations may anticipate future conflict and flee before fighting begins. Endogenous relationships are difficult to disentangle and will require finer temporal units and alternative methodologies. This will be left for additional research.

60 In alternative models separate variables were created for refugees in rival states, civil war states, and all others. This analysis does not yield significant results, although there is a high degree of collinearity among the variables.

61 Collier and Hoeffler (fn. 1); Fearon and Laitin (fn. 1).

62 See Gleditsch (fn. 53).

63 Hegre (fn. 1); Muller and Weede (fn. 17).

64 Marshall, Monty and Jaggers, Keith, Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transi tions, 1800–2002 (College Park, Md.:Integrated Network for Societal Conflict Research, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, 2002),

65 Countries with special indeterminate codes ( -88, -77, -66) are assigned a value of zero, according to the standard practice in the literature and the recommendation of the Polity project.

66 Fearon and Laitin (fn. 1).

67 Elbadawi and Sambanis (fn. 3).

68 Nathaniel Beck, David Epstein, Simon Jackman, and Sharyn O'Halloran, “Alternative Models of Dynamics in BinaryTime-Series Cross-Section Models: The Example of State Failure” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, Emory University, July 2001).

69 This approach is analogous to the dynamic probit used by Elbadawi and Sambanis (fn. 3), among others. In the dynamic probit model, a lagged dependent variable and interaction terms between each IV and the lagged DV are included on the right-hand side. A major advantage of the transition model is presentational. It is easier to interpret a sample broken into two different sets than it is to compare coefficients between interacted and nomnteracted variables.

70 Beck, Nathaniel, Katz, Jonathan N., and Tucker, Richard M., “Taking Time Seriously: Time-Series Cross-Section Analysis with a Binary Dependent Variable,” American Journal of Political Science 42, no. 4 (1998).

71 There is a debate in the statistics literature on the utility of using tests of statistical significance for apparent populations. Normally, significance testing is used to give a measure of how confident the analyst or reader can be that the relationship in the sample holds true for the population to which one is generalizing. In the current study nearly all country-years since 1945 are analyzed, so the sample size approaches the entire universe of cases that the theory addresses. In this case, then, standard errors are not used to understand true population parameters but rather are used to determine the consistency of the statistical relationship in the observed data. They reveal how often the expected (probabilistic) relationship between the DV and IV occurs in practice. For a discussion, see Berk, Richard A., Western, Bruce, and Weiss, Robert E., “Statistical Inference for Apparent Populations,” SociologicalMethodology 25 (1995); and Bollen, Kenneth A., “Apparent and Nonapparent Significance Tests,” Sociological Methodology 25 (1995).

72 For details, see Cunningham, Gleditsch, and Salehyan (fn. 43).

73 For methodological reasons, this variable was lagged. Because data on extraterritorial bases were collected onlyforcountry-years where the value of the dependent variable equals 1 (that is, when there i s a civil conflict), the model cannot be estimated with the variable itself because there is no variation on the DV. However, including lagged values of the extraterritorial bases variable eliminates this problem, and lagged values are very highly correlated with current values: R=.95.

74 The three coefficients fail to reach joint significance in a likelihood ratio test: p>chi-squared = .15

75 Results are available from the author.

* I would like to thank Kristian S. Gleditsch, Barbara F. Walter, David Lake, Wayne Cornelius, Gordon Hanson, Will H. Moore, Scott Gates, and David Cunningham for their comments and suggestions. I also thank the three anonymous reviewers and the editors at World Politics. A previous version of this article received the 2005 Carl Beck Award from the International Studies Association.

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Transnational Rebels: Neighboring States as Sanctuary for Rebel Groups

  • Idean Salehyan (a1)


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