Post-conflict environments often face the challenge of how to deal with non-state armed actors (NSAAs). The roles of NSAAs is nonetheless an understudied subject, and is as a consequence not properly understood. By far the most common perception is that they are spoilers of state building processes. This thesis contradicts this notion in asking whether non-state armed actors might in fact play a significant and constructive role in the inevitable and persistent insecurity of the post-conflict state.
By analyzing and drawing lessons learned from three differing strategies implemented in Afghanistan, each affiliated with a particular strand of international relations theory, this thesis aims to explore the potential of non-state armed actors in the provision of security.
The central argument of the thesis is that as security institutions are often critically weak in the initial period of transition from war, assistance from local armed actors in the provision of security may in fact greatly benefit state building efforts. This potential relies above all on NSAAs will and ability to contribute, and secondly on whether or not it in contributing undergoes a behavioural and motivational change. Despite not undergoing such change the contributions of NSAAs may be beneficial in the short run, as it leaves room for the strengthening of state institutions while simultaneously controlling NSAAs to prevent confrontation. However, this thesis demonstrates that co-optation and socialization of NSAAs is more likely to be effective if NSAAs are subject to control mechanisms and strategies for how to remove underperforming NSAAs. By utilizing the potential in NSAAs as agents of peace and stability, the security system created becomes more efficient and tailored to the local context, while also allowing the government to map and address local grievances.