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Newport, R.I. - A new Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG), located at the U.S. Naval War College, is taking a complex and rapidly evolving problem and exploring ways to help scholars and military leaders develop a sufficient understanding of the unique challenges posed by armed groups.

Established on Jan. 5, the center is the result of two Strategy and Policy Department professors' vision to address the issues of irregular warfare and armed groups.

Drs. Marc Genest and Andrea Dew received a $150,000 grant in late 2008 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation to create the center. The grant was awarded under the Bradley Foundation's "Defend and Advance Freedom" category for 2008 and accepted through the assistance of the Naval War College Foundation.

"The establishment of CIWAG at the Naval War College will allow us to leverage expertise from around the world to create a premier center for the study of irregular warfare and armed groups," said Genest.

The Center will also help fund research projects and promote and support research and teaching on irregular warfare and armed groups.

"While much public attention has been devoted to understanding the phenomena of specific terror groups such as al-Qaeda, the group itself is just one facet of the issue," Dew said. "Far less attention is paid to the wider phenomenon of armed groups and their long term impact on regional and global security."

This Naval War College initiative is especially important and timely considering the December 1, 2008 Department of Defense Directive on Irregular Warfare, which set out the responsibility of professional military educational schools to prepare personnel for irregular warfare. In particular the directive emphasized the importance of "developing appropriate education and training programs and courses" to teach students about irregular warfare.

"It is critically important that education on irregular warfare and armed groups is timely and easily accessible to military officers who will use this instruction when devising strategies to deal with armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world," said Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, President of the Naval War College.

With this in mind, the target audiences for CIWAG conferences, research programs and outreach activities are faculty who teach at civilian universities, military professional institutions and military academies.

"We are trying to expand the community of interest in irregular warfare and armed groups by extending outreach to domestic and international institutions of higher learning," said Genest.

Part of the center's mission will be to hold a series of conferences that bring U.S. and international scholars together with military scholars and practitioners to analyze the national and international security challenges posed by armed groups and irregular warfare.

The center's first major event is scheduled for June, during which NWC will host a symposium on teaching about armed groups and irregular warfare, said Genest.

"Irregular warfare is the overarching term the Department of Defense uses to describe the violent struggle among state and armed groups for legitimacy and influence over a population," explained Dew. This deceptively straight-forward definition covers the full range of complex and challenging tasks that includes Counter-Insurgency, Counter-Terrorism, Unconventional Warfare, and Stability Operations.

"Armed groups" describes a wide range of non-state organizations that are involved in violent conflicts against governments and/or other armed groups. They range from terrorists, militias, insurgents and criminal organizations and also use a variety of tactics to achieve their goals.

"Armed groups are increasingly becoming the new face of warfare in the 21st century," said Genest. "The types and tactics of armed groups are as numerous as their goals."

For example, al-Qaeda relies primarily on terrorism aimed at civilians in order to achieve radical change in the international status quo. Other armed groups have more modest aims such as pirates operating off the coast of Somalia who are common criminals boarding ships at sea to commit robbery. What all these groups have in common is that they threaten international stability and undercut economic and political progress in many countries around the world.

The creation of CIWAG is the next phase of a project on armed groups begun by Dr. Richard Shultz, Director of International Security Studies, at the Fletcher School, Tufts University and Dr. Roy Godson, President of the National Strategy Information Center. CIWAG expands their work by providing an institutional home for symposia, seminar, workshops, and research activities that promote the systemic study of irregular warfare and armed groups.

Dew and Genest serve as co-directors of CIWAG in cooperation with the Special Operations Forces Chair, Cdr. Tom Sass, a Navy SEAL in the Joint Military Operations Department. CIWAG will also draw on expertise within the Naval War College and other military and academic institutions to support its activities.