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Enhancing U.S. Diplomatic Engagement with Nonstate Armed Groups

A CPA Working Paper

Author: , Senior Adviser, Crisis Management Initiative

Enhancing U.S. Diplomatic Engagement with Nonstate Armed Groups - enhancing-us-diplomatic-engagement-with-nonstate-armed-groups

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date October 2011

19 pages



In this CPA Working Paper, Payton L. Knopf, a former Council on Foreign Relations fellow and current Foreign Service officer, discusses the importance of developing innovative diplomatic strategies for evaluating U.S. engagement with nonstate armed groups (NSAGs). He argues that the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have sought to broaden the State Department's mission beyond state-to-state diplomacy. However, little work has been done to prepare U.S. diplomats for analyzing and engaging with NSAGs, often the most influential nonstate actors. Taking into account the basic challenges that confront U.S. engagement with these groups, Knopf calls on the State Department to develop clear guidelines as to why, when, and how its diplomats should conduct such outreach. His proposed framework for this decision process has a three-phase process: developing a profile of the NSAG, defining U.S. government objectives toward the group, and conducting a cost-benefit analysis. The timing for engagement, in Knopf's view, should be determined by when it is best suited to achieve U.S. objectives rather than near-term timelines. Finally, Knopf stresses that several bureaucratic and operational reforms are necessary to allow the State Department to execute this increasingly important mission.

More About This Publication

Payton L. Knopf is a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State. He authored this Working Paper as a 2010–2011 international affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations. Currently the deputy spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, he previously served as the political officer on the staff of U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell and in the Department of State's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs. His overseas assignments have included postings at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, and the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

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