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A paramilitary is an organization whose structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not part of a country's official or legitimate armed forces. Paramilitary units carry out duties that a country's military or police forces are unable or unwilling to handle. Other organizations may be considered paramilitaries by structure alone, despite being unarmed or lacking a combat role.
Though a paramilitary is, by definition, not a military, it is usually equivalent to a light infantry or special operations forces in terms of strength, firepower, and organizational structure. Paramilitaries use "military" equipment (such as long guns and armored personnel carriers; usually military surplus resources), skills (such as battlefield medicine and bomb disposal), and tactics (such as urban warfare and close-quarters combat) that are compatible with their purpose, often combining them with skills from other relevant fields such as law enforcement or search and rescue. They rarely use extensive military equipment such as artillery and armed military aircraft.
In peacetime, paramilitaries are often assigned to protect high-profile sites, such as government facilities, infrastructure, airports, seaports, or borders. They may also be tasked with roles of VIP protection or counterterrorism. Depending on the organization the paramilitary operates under, they may also be reassigned until they are needed again; for example, members of a police tactical unit may be assigned to standard patrol duties until requested.
A paramilitary may fall under the command of a military, train alongside them, or have permission to use their resources, despite not actually being part of them. In some instances, paramilitaries may train members of an actual military in tactics they specialize in, such as arrest procedures.
Under the law of war, a state may incorporate a paramilitary organization or armed agency (such as a law enforcement agency or a private volunteer militia) into its combatant armed forces. The other parties to a conflict have to be notified thereof.
Some countries' constitutions limit freedom of association by prohibiting paramilitary organizations outside government use. In most cases, there is no definition of paramilitary, and court decisions are responsible for defining that concept.
Depending on the definition adopted, "paramilitaries" may include:
- The auxiliary forces of a state's military or government, military reserve forces, such as national guard, presidential guard, republican guard, state defense force, home guard, civil guard, and royal guard forces
- Private military corporation, mercenary, colonial troops, military legions, and opposing forces
- Irregular military forces, such as militias, militants, partisans, resistance movements, freedom fighters, rebel groups, guerrillas, insurgents, and terrorists
- Semi-militarized law enforcement units within civilian special police forces, such as police tactical units, SWAT, Emergency Service Units, and incident response teams
- Local, county, and state law enforcement agencies, such as local police, marshals, county sheriffs, constables, park rangers, and state patrol
- Military police, such as Shore patrol, and Regimental police
- Gendarmeries, such as the Dutch Royal Marechaussee, Egyptian Central Security Forces, European EUROGENDFOR, Turkic TAKM, and Chilean Carabineros de Chile
- Border guards, such as the Australian Border Force, Indian Border Security Force, Bangladeshi Border Guards Bangladesh, and Turkish village guards
- Coast guards such as Water police, and Maritime police
- Security forces of ambiguous military status, such as internal troops, railroad guard corps, or railway troops
- Branches of intelligence agency tasked with law enforcement or security operations:
- CIA Special Activities Center Special Operations Group and Global Response Staff
- Tactical federal agency branches of the American FBI, DEA, ATF, and ICE, among other federal agencies and Federales
- Federal Protective Forces
- NASA Emergency Response Teams
- Fire departments in many countries are often organized like paramilitaries despite being unarmed
- Belgian Civil Protection
- Singapore Civil Defence Force
- Australian State Emergency Service
- Ukrainian State Emergency Service and Territorial Defense Forces
- Lithuanian Riflemen's Union
- Armed, semi-militarized wings of existing political parties:
- the Italian Fascist Party's Voluntary Militia for National Security
- Weimar paramilitary groups, belonging to political parties in the Weimar Republic:
- the Nazi Party's paramilitary groups: NSFK, NSKK, SA, and SS
- the Monarchist German National People's Party's Der Stahlhelm
- the Communist Party of Germany's Parteiselbstschutz
- Northern Irish paramilitary groups during the Troubles
- Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
- African National Congress' UMkhonto we Sizwe
Examples of paramilitary unitsEdit
- Category:Rebel militia groups
- International Association of Gendarmeries and Police Forces with Military Status
- List of Serbian paramilitary formations
- Militarization of police
- Fourth-generation warfare
- Violent non-state actor
- Military urbanism
- Private army
- Guerrilla warfare
- List of countries by number of military and paramilitary personnel
- List of paramilitary organizations
- ^ "paramilitary". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. June 2011 [online edition; original published in June 2005]. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
Designating, of, or relating to a force or unit whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which is not D regarded as having professional or legitimate status.
- ^ "Customary IHL - Section B. Incorporation of paramilitary or armed law enforcement agencies into armed forces". Icrc.org. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- ^ https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/1702-20#Text The Law Of Ukraine "On the foundations of national resistance", Section II, Article 3, Item 3: "3) participation in defence of population, territories, natural environment and property from emergencies, liquidation of concequences of military (combat) actions"
- Golkar, Saeid. (2012) Paramilitarization of the Economy: the Case of Iran's Basij Militia, Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 38, No. 4
- Golkar, Saeid. (2012). Organization of the Oppressed or Organization for Oppressing: Analysing the Role of the Basij Militia of Iran. Politics, Religion & Ideology, Dec., 37–41. doi:10.1080/21567689.2012.725661
- Üngör, Uğur Ümit (2020). Paramilitarism: Mass Violence in the Shadow of the State. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-882524-1.