Here is Part III of ‘Ungoverned Space: American Foreign Policy’:
Ungoverned Space Framework
We would now like to offer a framework regarding different variations in ungoverned spaces and territories. As we mentioned earlier, no two cases of ugs are exactly the same, as the extent of governmental control may vary from completely absent to just rather weak. China may have a problem putting the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang Province completely under control, but no one would call China a weak government. Many other nations struggle to rein in powerful business interests or rogue gangs, but nevertheless have a decent amount of leverage over most of their society. Local geography, culture, type of governance, levels of civil society, and individual leaders and groups also differentiate one case of ugs from another. For example, the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan have a distinct history, culture, and geography from any other place in the world and this makes them a unique case of ugs.
This is an important distinction because different types and levels of governed and ungoverned space beget different types and scales of criminal and terrorist elements. So we think it is appropriate to create a framework featuring three levels of ugs and connect these individual levels to the criminal and extremist behaviors that are most likely to occur within them.
1. Absolute Ungoverned Space (AUS)—An almost total lack of governmental control over domestic and international security combined with an inability to provide essential services for the population. Utter absence of authority filled by individuals and groups.
Negative Implications—Deeply rooted criminal and terrorist organizations, capable of independent action, can thrive. Large scale, cross-border human and narcotics trafficking, organized crime, domestic and international terrorist activities
Examples—Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas, Somalia, Barbary Coast (1700s), Haiti
We consider the Afghan/Pakistan border areas to be Absolute Ungoverned Spaces (AUS) because of the inability of the Afghan and Pakistan governments to sustain security and provide essential services for the region’s inhabitants. The region does have some semblance of governance, known as Pashtunwali, where cultural norms and values are followed, and in many ways very strictly, but this still does not constitute governed space. The Karzai government in Afghanistan and the newly elected government in Pakistan are still failing to spread their rule to this region and this has had serious implications. The production and transport of narcotics in this southern part of Afghanistan is increasing to highs never before seen and Islamic extremists are being trained to carry out terrorist acts, including a tremendous rise in suicide bombings, against the Pakistan and Afghan governments, local population, and according to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, the homeland of the United States. These extremist elements and drug lords made quick work filling in the gaps of authority and both nation’s governments and NATO forces will continue to be fighting an uphill battle for regional stability and good governance.
2. Quasi Ungoverned Space (QS)—Weak, ineffectual, illegitimate governmental presence. Competition for control and legitimacy between government forces and the groups and individuals who seek to fill large gaps in governmental authority.
Negative Implications—Presence of nearly identical criminal and terrorist activities as AUS, due to smaller gaps in governmental authority these groups face greater challenges to their operations; largely a difference in degree.
Examples—Hezbollah, Burma, Tamil Tigers, Malay Emergency
Colombia represents an example of Quasi-Ungoverned Space (QUS) as though the Colombian government has taken strides to extend its authority and legitimacy in recent years, large sectors of the country remain largely outside governmental control. In the Colombian case, as in many other examples of QUS, the central government has been able to establish a foothold within urban centers, where the authority of the state is largely unchallenged. However, the Colombian government has not demonstrated the ability to consistently extend its control into the rural areas of the country, where radical political parties and criminal organizations openly subvert the authority of the state. In these rural areas drug cartels, and extreme political organizations such as FARC, exploit the absence of governmental authority and openly compete for direct control of large swaths of territory. In these regions organized criminal behavior is widespread and violent attacks against public institutions and private citizens are commonplace. Whether motivated by criminal enterprise or revolutionary political ideology these challenges to the state represent direct threats to the legitimacy and authority of the Colombian government, and the outcome of the struggle for control in rural Colombia will have far reaching national, regional, and international consequences.
3. Governed Space (GS)—Presence of a strong, effective and legitimate government, capable of providing domestic and international security and essential services for its citizenry. Small gaps in authority can still be taken advantage of by individuals and groups.
Negative Implications—Mainly faced with traditional crime such as murder, theft, fraud and other various misdemeanors, however, small gaps still exist in governmental authority that can be taken advantage of by terrorists and organized criminal elements.
Examples—US, Western Europe, Japan
Though the United States has tremendously strong, capable, and legitimate government on the federal, state, and local level, it is not immune to small gaps being exploited by criminal, extremist, or both, elements. There are city spheres in East Los Angeles and Detroit largely controlled by local gangs, where police struggle at times to implement and maintain a hold on power and legitimacy. The aforementioned nexus between organized crime/terrorism/ugs has occurred within the US border. Hezbollah supporters have been caught illegally shipping low-tax cigarettes from North Carolina to Detroit in order to earn a profit. These profits were being used to purchase and then ship to Hezbollah night vision goggles, mine detection equipment, laser range finders, blasting caps, and other sensitive and prohibited military equipment. Hezbollah, which raises much of its funds with the production of methamphetamines, has also been documented to have labs in the rural western United States. The attacks of 9/11 could not have occurred without Al Qaeda being able to find small gaps where they could communicate, plan, and execute their nefarious assault. Lastly, though in decline, organized crime is still present in the country, as the recent arrest of the Gambino crime family showcased, and as was discussed before, its connections and use of ungoverned space has been well-documented. Once again, we reiterate that the US and other strongly governed nations are not poorly controlled or policed, but we emphasize that criminals and terrorist at times only need a little bit of breathing room to commit dangerous and violent acts.
Unfortunately, the world has seen that all types of crimes can happen in all types of societies and political systems. The 9/11 hijackers may have trained and planned in the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan, but they also convened in Germany, and stayed for months and learned to fly in the United States. But this does not mean that certain types of crimes and terrorist activities aren’t more likely to occur in particular levels of governance, or the lack there of. Plain and simple, narco and human trafficking is much more likely to be seen in AUS or QG spaces, such as Myanmar or Colombia, than in GS lands, such as Canada or Japan. Governed areas may have small holes, but QG space has deeper pockets and AUS Grand Canyon-like crevices where criminal and extreme elements can operate.
 For further research: Groh, Ty, “Ungoverned Spaces: The Challenges of Governing Tribal Societies”, Naval Post Graduate School, June 2006.; Jones, Seth, “The Rise of Afghanistan’s Insurgency: State Failure and Jihad”, International Security, Vol. 32, No.4, Spring, 2008.; Schweich, Thomas, “Is Afghanistan a Narco-State,” New York Times Magazine, July 27, 2008.; Johnson, Thomas, Mason, Chris, “No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier,” International Security, Vol. 32, No.4, Spring, 2008.; Rubin, Barnett R., and Siddique, Abubakar, “Resolving the Pakistan- Afghanistan Stalemate,” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report No. 176, October, 2006.; Rubin, Barnett R., “The Search for Peace in Afghanistan: From Buffer State to Failed State,” Yale University Press, 1995.
 Sanderson, Thomas M., “Transnational Terror and Organized Crime: Blurring the Lines,” SAIS Review Vol. XXIV No. 1, Winter-Spring, 2004, pg. 52.