Insurgent Operational Claims and Networks

23 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 9 Sep 2010

See all articles by Michael Gabbay

Michael Gabbay

University of Washington

Ashley Thirkill-Mackelprang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2010


Insurgent operational claims in Iraq are analyzed from the perspective that such claims can help illuminate the internal structure of an insurgency, especially in situations of intense factional competition between rival groups. Our primary focus is on the types of target classes that different insurgent groups claim to attack and claims of joint operations between insurgent groups. The former allows us to construct a targeting policy variable and the latter enables us to construct a network of relationships between insurgent groups, particularly at the foot soldier level. We contend that variations in the claimed target classes should reflect differences in group composition. Correlations between targeting policy and the joint operations network structure support this hypothesis. We also present a model of insurgent cooperation with respect to joint operations. In addition to a homophily process driven by targeting policy proximity, the model posits both a horizontal interaction mechanism – that foot soldier units can initiate joint operations with units from other insurgent groups – and a hierarchical one in which the network linking the leaderships of insurgent groups also plays a role. Simulation results indicate a good ability to match the structure of the observed networks.

Keywords: insurgency, political networks, insurgent networks, rhetoric, social network analysis, rhetoric

Suggested Citation

Gabbay, Michael and Thirkill-Mackelprang, Ashley, Insurgent Operational Claims and Networks (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Michael Gabbay (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Ashley Thirkill-Mackelprang

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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