Trends in Militancy across South Asia

A Region on the Brink

The bulk of international counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and related efforts over the last decade have focused on targeting a select few extremist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Yet looming security transitions, international fiscal strictures, demographic trends, religious and ethnic tensions, popular dissatisfaction, and weak governance are likely having significant and worrying effects on a wide array of militant actors around the world. A narrow focus on those groups perceived to be the most immediate threats has, at times, come at the cost of a broader understanding of militancy and how it may manifest in a given region.

This void can, in part, be blamed on the often-necessary structural limitations placed upon the analysis of violent extremism and militancy. Territorial and functional boundaries, combined with the need to respond to today’s exigencies, limit practitioners’ ability to consider threats on a regional basis. This inability to “see the whole board” can prevent practitioners from identifying commonalities, nascent trends, and strategic shifts among groups. Without a sense of how militancy may evolve in the future, nations have no choice but to adopt atomized and reactionary security policies. Because of these shortfalls, additional efforts must be made to detect and understand the strategic and tactical changes that may be afoot among militant groups. This report seeks to address this need by identifying region-wide trends so that holistic and comprehensive strategies to combat militancy may be enacted.

Stephanie Sanok Kostro, Zachary I. Fellman and Rob Wise

Thomas M. Sanderson