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A private army (or private military) is a military or paramilitary force consisting of armed combatants who owe their allegiance to a private person, group, or organization, rather than a nation or state.
A military is a heavily-armed, highly-organized force primarily intended for warfare, also known collectively as armed forces. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defense of the state and its interests against external armed threats. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards.
A paramilitary is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, but which is formally not part of a country's armed forces.
A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, and warfare. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target.
Private armies may form when land owners arm household retainers for the protection of self and property in times of strife and where and when central government is weak. Such private armies existed for example in the Roman Empire following the collapse of central authority. The dynamics at play in such circumstances can be observed in modern-day Colombia: on the one hand there are those forces affiliated with the drug cartels, existing to protect their criminality, and on the other those of the landlords created to resist kidnappings and extortion, i.e. the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.
A drug cartel is any criminal organization with the intention of supplying drug trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine. Since that agreement was broken up, drug cartels are no longer actually cartels, but the term stuck and it is now popularly used to refer to any criminal narcotics related organization.
Extortion is a criminal offense that consists in the obtainment of money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion. It is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a "protection racket" since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for "protection" from threats from unspecified other parties; though often, and almost always, such "protection" is simply abstinence of harm from the same party, and such is implied in the "protection" offer. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups.Exaction refers not only to extortion or the demanding and obtaining of something through force, but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.
The United Self-Defenders of Colombia was a Colombian paramilitary and drug trafficking group which was an active belligerent in the Colombian armed conflict during the period from 1997 to 2006. The AUC was responsible for retaliations against the FARC and ELN rebel groups as well as numerous attacks against civilians beginning in 1997 with the Mapiripán Massacre.
In many places these private household retainers evolved into feudal like structures, formalising obligations and allegiances and becoming household troops, and in some cases gaining the strength to allow them to usurp power from their nominal suzerain or create new sovereign states.
Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.
Private armies may also form when co-religionists band together to defend themselves from real and perceived persecution and to further their creed, for example the Hussites, Mormon Nauvoo Legion and the Mahdi Army in Iraq; because of their nature such militias are formed by or fall under the influence of charismatic leaders and can become instruments of personal ambition.
The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were fought between the Christian Hussites and the combined Christian Catholic forces of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, the Papacy and various European monarchs loyal to the Catholic Church, as well as among various Hussite factions themselves. After initial clashes, the Utraquists changed sides in 1423 to fight alongside Roman Catholics and opposed the Taborites and other Hussite spinoffs. These wars lasted from 1419 to approximately 1434.
The Nauvoo Legion was a state-authorized militia of the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, United States. With growing antagonism from surrounding settlements it came to have as its main function the defense of Nauvoo, and surrounding Latter Day Saint areas of settlement.
Sōhei were Buddhist warrior monks of both medieval and feudal Japan. At certain points in history, they held considerable power, obliging the imperial and military governments to collaborate.
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar or simply the Templars, were a Catholic military order recognised in 1139 by the papal bull Omne datum optimum. The order was founded in 1119 and was active until 1312 when it was perpetually suppressed by Pope Clement V by the bull Vox in excelso.
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Order of Malta, Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta and Saint Petersburg.
A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is an individual who takes part in military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any other official military. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms of payment rather than for political interests. Beginning in the 20th century, mercenaries have increasingly come to be seen as less entitled to protections by rules of war than non-mercenaries. Indeed, the Geneva Conventions declare that mercenaries are not recognized as legitimate combatants and do not have to be granted the same legal protections as captured soldiers of a regular army. In practice, whether or not a person is a mercenary may be a matter of degree, as financial and political interests may overlap, as was often the case among Italian condottieri.
Condottieri were Italian military leaders involved in classical formation battles, first as mercenary captains commanding free companies and later as generals of multi-national armies. In medieval Italian, condottiero meant "contractor" but the term later acquired the broader meaning of "military leader", also in reference to Italian Catholics serving as commanders for the Roman Catholic side during the Counter-Reformation.
A private military company (PMC) is a private company providing armed combat or security services for financial gain. PMCs refer to their staff as "security contractors" or "private military contractors". Private military companies refer to their business generally as the "private military industry" or "The Circuit".
A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class. Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.
A gendarmerie or gendarmery is a military component with jurisdiction in civil law enforcement. The term gendarme is derived from the medieval French expression gens d'armes, which translates to "armed people". In France and some Francophone nations, the gendarmerie is a branch of the armed forces responsible for internal security in parts of the territory with additional duties as a military police for the armed forces. This concept was introduced to several other Western European countries during the Napoleonic conquests. In the mid twentieth century, a number of former French mandates or colonial possessions such as Lebanon, Syria, and the Republic of the Congo adopted a gendarmerie after independence.
National Guard is the name used by a wide variety of current and historical uniformed organizations in different countries. The original National Guard was formed during the French Revolution around a cadre of defectors from the French Guards.
In some militaries, foot guards are senior infantry regiments. Foot guards are commonly responsible for guarding royal families, or other state leaders, and they also often perform ceremonial duties accordingly.
The Peace Companies, frequently mistranslated as Peace Brigades in US media, are an Iraqi armed group linked to Iraq's Shia community. They are a 2014 revival of the Mahdi Army that was created by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003 and disbanded in 2008.
Irregular military is any non-standard military component that is distinct from a country's national armed forces. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used. An irregular military organization is one which is not part of the regular army organization. Without standard military unit organization, various more general names are often used; such organizations may be called a "troop", "group", "unit", "column", "band", or "force". Irregulars are soldiers or warriors that are members of these organizations, or are members of special military units that employ irregular military tactics. This also applies to irregular troops, irregular infantry and irregular cavalry.
The Badr Organization, previously known as the Badr Brigades or Badr Corps, is an Iraqi political party headed by Hadi Al-Amiri. The Badr Brigade was the Iran-officered military wing of the Iran-based Shia Islamic party, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formed in 1982. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq most of Badr's fighters have entered the new Iraqi army and police force. Politically, Badr Brigade and SCIRI were considered to be one party since 2003, but have now unofficially separated with the Badr Organization now an official Iraqi political party. Badr Brigade forces, and their Iranian commanders, have come to prominence in 2014 fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. It is a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia are paramilitary groups acting in opposition to revolutionary Marxist-Leninist guerrilla forces and their allies among the civilian population. These paramilitary groups control the large majority of the illegal drug trade of cocaine and other substances and are the parties responsible for most of the human rights violations in the latter half of the ongoing Colombian Armed Conflict. According to several international human rights and governmental organizations, right-wing paramilitary groups have been responsible for at least 70 to 80% of political murders in Colombia per year. The remaining political murders are often committed by leftist guerrillas and government forces.
A guard of honour (en-GB), guard of honor (en-US), also honour guard (en-GB), honor guard (en-US), also ceremonial guard, is a guard, usually military in nature, appointed to receive or guard a head of state or other dignitary, the fallen in war, or to attend at state ceremonials, especially funerals. In military weddings, especially those of commissioned officers, a guard, composed usually of service members of the same branch, form the Saber arch. In principle any military unit could act as a guard of honour. However, in some countries certain units are specially designated for guard of honour duty.
Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer such military capability as a national defense policy may require. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces, though not considered military. Armed forces that are not a part of military or paramilitary organizations, such as insurgent forces, often mimic military organizations, or use ad hoc structures, while formal military organization tends to use hierarchical forms.
The Paramilitary forces of China are composed of three main forces, the People's Liberation Army reserve force, the People's Armed Police (PAP), and the Militia, and they act as auxiliaries to the active forces of the People's Liberation Army. They generally perform a wide range of roles. Altogether, the paramilitary has 17,835,000 troops, as of 2018.
Special Groups (SGs) is a designation given by the American military to the cell-based Shi'a paramilitary organizations operating within Iraq, backed by Iran. According to the Americans these groups are funded, trained, and armed by the Iranian Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to the Pentagon, 603 American troops in total were confirmed to have been killed by IRGC-backed Shia militias during the Iraq War.
The Facilities Protection Service is an Iraqi paramilitary force tasked with the fixed site protection of Iraqi Government buildings, facilities, and personnel. The FPS includes Oil, Electricity Police and Port Security. It works for all Iraqi government ministries and governmental agencies, but its standards are set and enforced by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. It can also be hired to protect private property.
In international relations violent non-state actors (VNSA) are individuals and groups that are wholly or partly independent of state governments and which threaten or use violence to achieve their goals.
The Dwekh Nawsha is a Christian military organization created in June 2014 in order to defend Iraq's Assyrian population from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and possibly retake their lands currently controlled by ISIL. The militia defends the Christian cities in the Nineveh province of the historical Assyria region.
The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as the People's Mobilization Committee (PMC) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups, but also including Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Yazidi individuals as well. The popular mobilization units have fought in nearly every major battle against ISIL. It has been called the new Iraqi Republican Guard after it was fully reorganized in early 2018 by its then-Commander in Chief Haider al-Abadi. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued "regulations to adapt the situation of the Popular Mobilization fighters," giving them ranks and salaries equivalent to other branches of the Iraqi military.
The Militia or China Militia is the militia part of the armed forces of China, other two parts being the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police (PAP). The Militia is under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and serves as an auxiliary and reserve force for the PLA. It is one of the largest militias in the world.
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