from Center for Preventive Action

Enhancing U.S. Diplomatic Engagement with Nonstate Armed Groups

October 13, 2011

Report

More on:

Diplomacy and International Institutions

United States

Wars and Conflict

Overview

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 on:

Diplomacy and International Institutions

United States

Wars and Conflict

Explore More on CFR

Russia

If the President wants to use an arms build-up to advance arms control, he should take his cues from the Reagan record.

Yemen

The Gulf nation’s ground troops have cultivated alliances in Yemen with local armed groups, but its ability to shape the civil war’s outcome is limited.

U.S. Foreign Policy

U.S. competition with China continues to intensify, but rather than adopting a strategy of containment, the United States should respond by reinforcing its relationships with allies and leveraging China's desire for stability to discourage disruptive behavior.