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 is not formally part of a country's 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. Paramilitary forces can also include Private Military Contracting missions.
Depending on the definition adopted, "paramilitaries" may include:
- Irregular military forces: militias, guerrillas, insurgents, terrorists, etc.
- The auxiliary forces of a state's military: national guard, presidential guard, republican guard, state defense force, home guard, royal guard, and imperial guard
- Some police forces or auxiliary police: Indonesia's Mobile Brigade Corps (Brimob), Detachment 88, India's Assam Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, etc.
- Semi-militarized law enforcement personnel within normal police forces, such as SWAT teams in the United States and a number of other countries
- 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
- Volunteer Defence Corps, such as Volunteer Defence Corps in Thailand, Volunteer Defence Corps in Australia, Shanghai Volunteer Corps, and Royal Hong Kong Regiment
- The fire departments of many countries and locales, although unarmed, are often organized in a manner similar to military or police forces.
Examples of paramilitary units
- Category:Rebel militia groups
- Weimar paramilitary groups
- List of Serbian paramilitary formations
- Militarization of police
- Panamanian Public Forces
- Fourth-generation warfare
- Private army
- Private Military Companies
- Death squad
- Violent non-state actor
- List of countries by number of military and paramilitary personnel
- "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 D 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