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Not to be confused with Paratrooper or Private army.
Paramilitaries of Iran man a DShK heavy machine gun during the Iran-Iraq War

A paramilitary is a militarized or semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, and which is not included as part of a state's formal armed forces.[1]

Under the law of war, a state may incorporate a paramilitary organization or armed agency (such as a national police or a private volunteer militia) into its combatant armed forces. The other parties to a conflict have to be notified thereof.[2]

The use of the term paramilitary is debated, with different groups differently classifying groups as paramilitary or not based on disagreements as to what constitutes the correct standards as to what is similar to a military force and what is the correct method for deciding if a group meets those standards. The evaluation of the nature of a paramilitary force varies depending upon the nature on the individual group, the standards used to discern the list of groups that are paramilitary, and the list of groups that have been categorized as paramilitary. Organizations that have been described as paramilitary are as diverse as the Minutemen, youth groups (from scouting to the Pioneer movement), and even martially-themed boarding schools.


Depending on the standards used, "paramilitaries" may include:

In the United Kingdom, the term is often restricted to armed groups involved in the Northern Ireland Troubles, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force or the Provisional Irish Republican Army.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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 regarded as having professional or legitimate status. 
  2. ^ "Customary IHL - Section B. Incorporation of paramilitary or armed law enforcement agencies into armed forces". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  3. ^ Gellman, Barton; Greg Miller (August 29, 2013). "U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget’ summary". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 

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