A Hybrid Approach to Modeling Territorial Control in Violent Armed Conflicts

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geographic information systems, hexagon grid, hybrid movement, network analysis, spatial analysis, territorial control

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Territorial control is central to the understanding of violent armed conflicts, yet reliable and valid measures of this concept do not exist. We argue that geospatial analysis provides an important perspective to measure the concept. In particular, measuring territorial control can be seen as an application of calculating service areas around points of control. The modeling challenge is acute for areas with limited road infrastructure, where no complete network is available to perform the analysis, and movements largely occur off road. We present a new geospatial approach that applies network analysis on a hybrid transportation network with both actual road data and hexagon‐fishnet‐based artificial road data representing on‐road and off‐road movements, respectively. Movement speed or restriction can be readily adjusted using various input data. Simulating off‐road movement with hexagon‐fishnet‐based artificial road data has a number of advantages including scalability to small or large study areas and flexibility to allow all‐directional travel. We apply this method to measuring territorial control of armed groups in Sub‐Saharan Africa where inferior transport infrastructure is the norm. Based on the Uppsala Conflict Data Program's (UCDP) Georeferenced Event Data (GED) as well as spatial data on terrain, population locations, and limited transportation networks, we enhance the delineation of the specific areas directly controlled by each warring party during civil wars within a given travel time.

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Transactions in GIS, v. 20, issue 3, p. 413-425