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About this Event: Why do some governments give foreign militants missiles that can destroy aircraft while giving others only bullets and AK-47s? Why do some governments deploy special operations forces to carry out joint attacks with some insurgent groups, while only giving others basic training on weapons handling? Despite the fact that governments often provide costly - and controversial - forms of support to foreign militant groups, we know little about why some groups receive advanced weapons technology and boots on the ground while others do not. In this presentation, I unpack trends in third-party provision of support through an in-depth examination of the CIA's provision of anti-tank missiles and the Pentagon's deployment of Special Operations Forces to support specific militant groups in the recent Syrian conflict. Drawing from an original dataset of the over 150 Syrian militant brigades that received some form of US support and over 60 interviews with Syrian militants and US and Jordanian government officials, I find that, when militant groups have similar organizational characteristics as the armed forces of their government partners, they are more likely to receive and accept costly forms of support.
About the Speaker: Melissa Carlson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at U.C. Berkeley, specializing in international relations, comparative politics, and methodology. She will join CISAC in 2019-2020 as a Middle East Initiative Pre-doctoral Fellow. Broadly, her research examines the dynamics of military partnerships between state governments and foreign militant groups. Melissa's dissertation develops an organizational theory of third-party provision of support: when foreign militant groups and state armed forces share similar organizational characteristics, they are more likely to form joint commands, carry out joint attacks, and provide each other with advanced weapons systems. Melissa's other research interests focus on factors that influence informal cooperation between states, and on how refugee perceptions of host communities, host governments, and aid organizations influence refugee decision-making. Prior to beginning her PhD at U.C. Berkeley, Melissa worked as Public Information consultant for the International Organization for Migration, Iraq Mission in Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan. Melissa has a M.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley, and a B.A. in International Relations and Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Claremont McKenna College.