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An insurgency is an organized rebellion that engages in deliberate actions to cause the downfall of a governmental authority, through destruction and armed actions. [1] This can include a range of behavior, but primarily focuses on armed activities of irregular forces that rises up against an established authority, a government, an administration, or an occupation. Those carrying out an insurgency are "insurgents". Insurgents engage in regular or guerilla combat against the armed forces of the established regime, such as conducting sabotage and harassment. Insurgents usually are in opposition to a civil authority or government primarily in order to overthrow or obtain a share in government, to further a separatist or revolutionary agenda, or improve their condition.


Tactics and strategies

Insurgent tactics and strategies vary widely, as well as the type of targets insurgents attack. Raids are amongst most common actions taken by insurgent in a dominated state of province. In addition, insurgents establish ties with other outlaws and double agents to further thier goals. Some militants can also be sponsored by competing or enemy state governments. Some elements of an insurgency may use bombs, kidnappings, hostage-taking, hijackings, shootings and other types of violence to target the establishment's power structure and other facilities with little regard for civilian casualties. Other elements may only target their attacks on military objectives and avoid the targeting of civilians. Manytimes, insurgent groups conduct violent attacks but do not reveal the groups's identity or leader. Usually, an individual with iconic and symbolic status throughout the movement becomes it's principal leader against the governmental authority. Leaders of differing background from the insurgency movement itself may, at times, take over an insurgency.

Insurgents use a variety of asymmetrical warfare tactics, usually because of the insurgents force's capabilities are unequal to the authority's capabilities. Insurgents attacks against the authority may take the form of attacks on supply trains and security forces using hidden explosives. These explosive devices, attimes made from military-grade materials, are concealed or camouflaged along transport routes and detonated when a supply transports and security forces come within distance. Insurgents frequently launch ambushes on military targets, with automatic and antitank weapons. Unarmored targets are commonly targeted. The congested and constricted terrain of the urban areas, and in the rural areas, offer cover and concealment for insurgents launching ambushes for a force multiplier by the insurgent force and as a force inhibitor against the targeted force. Such attacks are usually broken off before support or reinforcements can be called in.

Political discourse and the mass media

The term has built-in political connotations and requires much effort to use without taking a political position. It is most commonly used to describe a movement's unlawfulness by virtue of not being authorized by or in accordance with the law. When used by a state or an authority under threat, "insurgency" implies an illegitimacy of cause upon those rising up. Whereas those rising up will see the authority itself as being illegitimate. In cases of rebellions, the term insurgents refers to those who are not part of the decision-making entity that has the ability to make laws. For example, "the congress has the authority to pass laws to stop the insurgency" vs "the police have the power to arrest insurgents".

The term “insurgency”, beginning in 2003, has been used by various politicians (at times, in the western world) and mainstream media (at times, english speaking outlets) to describe the tactics favored by forces in opposition to the invasion of and occupation of Iraq, as well as the legitimate Iraqi government. The Iraqi insurgency has been an armed campaign waged by various irregular forces, both Iraqi and external in origin, against the multinational force and the new Iraqi government. If the current government is legitimate and established, then the term can considered valid in this context; as the "Iraqi resistance" to the new government is being perpetrated by militants against a authorized political structure that is sanctioned by and in accordance with international law. As of 2005, the term is being used to signify violence against the new sovereign of Iraq. The term is concurrently used to signify the conflict against the multinational force's invasion and occupation of Iraq (ed. see 2005 in Iraq)

In some other venues, this force is sometimes described as a legitimate "Iraqi resistance" which is fighting against the occupation forces and the interim government. Whether the Iraqi participants in this conflict can be accurately labelled insurgents is a matter of debate due in no small part to the political implications of how the groups are discussed. Not all those opposed to the new Iraqi government, multinational forces and/or the reconstruction are militant groups. Various Iraqi groups and political parties advocating non-violent resistance also exist.


  • ^  "insurgency", WordNet Search - 2.1; Cognitive Science Laboratory, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), 2005.

See also

Against insurgencies
  • Counter insurgency -- the combatting of insurgency, by the government (or allies) of the territory in which the insurgency takes place. It therefore falls somewhere between ordinary policing, on the one hand, and conventional warfare on the other.
Compare and contrast
  • Rebel -- person active in rebellion, such as members of paramilitary forces.
  • Freedom fighter -- those engaged in rebellion against an established government.
  • Members of uprisings:
    • subversives (intent to overthrow or undermine an established government),
    • insurrectionists (armed rebels against the constituted authority),
    • mutineers (rebels within the authority's military that refuse to obey orders),
    • guerillas (small combat groups who strike, harass and retreat),
    • partisans (group of citizens organized to provide paramilitary service),
    • militants (violent actors who do not belong to an established military).
Ongoing insurgencies
  • Iraqi insurgency -- the armed campaign being waged by various irregular forces, both Iraqi and external in origin, against the multinational force and the new Iraqi government.
  • Kashmiri insurgency -- a campaign of terrorism and militancy by all sides of the conflict.
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