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 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.
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 definition adopted, "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, Home Guard, Royal Guard, and Imperial Guard
- Some police forces, such as police SWAT Teams, or auxiliary police and Indonesia's Mobile Brigade Corps (Brimob)
- Gendarmeries, such as Egyptian Central Security Forces and Russia's National Guard
- Border guards, such as Russia's Border Guard Service, Australian Border Force and India's Border Security Force
- The United States' Federal Protective Forces
- 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 and a number of other countries
- Volunteer Defence Corps, such as Volunteer Defence Corps in Thailand, Volunteer Defence Corps in Australia, Shanghai Volunteer Corps and Royal Hong Kong Regiment
Examples of paramilitary units
- "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
- Mexico's Plan to Create a Paramilitary Force
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