How Armed Groups Fight: Territorial Control and Violent Tactics Articles uri icon

publication date

  • October 2015

start page

  • 795

end page

  • 813


  • 10


  • 38

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1057-610X

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1521-0731


  • This article analyzes the choice of tactics by armed groups. We claim this choice is largely determined by the capacity of the rebel groups to control territory. Groups that are not able to liberate territory remain underground and have to rely mainly on bombings. Groups with territorial control engage in guerrilla-like attacks in which there is a physical encounter with the enemy. This conjecture is tested and largely confirmed at three levels: a cross-sectional analysis of the distribution of tactics in 122 armed groups, using compositional data analysis; a geographical analysis of the distribution of tactics in the largest cities as opposed to the rest of the country; and a case study of Hezbollah.