A paramilitary is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, 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.
Under the law of war, a state may incorporate a paramilitary organization or armed agency (such as a national police, a private volunteer militia) into its combatant armed forces. The other parties to a conflict have to be notified thereof.
The use of the term paramilitary can be debated, but the general consensus being of a combatant force or organization, more military-like than civilian. Organizations that have been described as paramilitary are as diverse as the Minutemen, Black Panthers, youth groups (from scouting to the Pioneer movement), and even military-themed boarding schools.
Though a paramilitary is not a military force, it is usually equivalent to a military's light infantry force in terms of intensity, firepower and organizational structure. A paramilitary may also commonly fall under the command of a military, even despite not being part of the military or play an assisting role for the military in times of war.
Depending on the standards used, "paramilitaries" may include:
- Irregular military forces: militias, guerrillas, insurgents, terrorists, and so forth
- The auxiliary forces of a state's military: National Guard, Presidential Guard, Republican Guard, State Guard
- Some kinds of police forces, such as auxiliary police
- Gendarmeries, such as Egyptian Central Security Forces and Russia's National Guard
- Border guards, such as Russia's Border Guard Service
- Security forces of ambiguous military status: internal troops, railroad guards or railway troops
- Semi-militarized law enforcement personnel, such as SWAT teams in the United States
- Foreign volunteers
- Youth Military Cadet Organisations, such as Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Bangladesh National Cadet Corps
- In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term is often restricted to the various armed groups involved in the Northern Ireland Troubles, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force or the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
Examples of paramilitary units:
- Category:Rebel militia groups
- Weimar paramilitary groups
- List of Serbian paramilitary formations
- Militarization of police
- Fourth-generation warfare
- Private army
- Death squad
- Violent non-state actor
- "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.
- "Customary IHL - Section B. Incorporation of paramilitary or armed law enforcement agencies into armed forces". Icrc.org. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- 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
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