Definitions: What’s the difference between Intrastate, Interstate & Extrastate???

These terms are often used in articles which explore conflicts and war. They are confusing terms, so I thought I should write up some more definitions as they are worth knowing! The terms listsed here have been ‘inspired by’ articles by Sambanis, and Alan Collins book on Contemporary Security Studies.

Intrastate: Intrastate violence is the most common form of conflict today. It describes sustained political violence that takes place between armed groups representing the state, and one or more non-state groups. Violence of this sort usually is confined within the borders of a single state, but usually has significant international dimensions and holds the risk of spilling over into bordering states (the current conflict in Syria would be described as a Intrastate conflict).

Interstate: Interstate violence is a conflict between two or more states (both members of the international system), who use their respective national forces in the conflict.

Extrastate: Extrastate conflict is between a state (member of the international system) and a political entity which does not come in the form of a recognized state. This type of conflict can take place outside the boundaries of the state recognized by the international community.

Hope this helps! 🙂

Miss S.

36 thoughts on “Definitions: What’s the difference between Intrastate, Interstate & Extrastate???

  1. “the current conflict in Syria would be described as a Inreastate conflict” is this a spelling mistake in your reference to Syria under intrastate?

    • I’m glad they were helpful! The conflict between Israel and Palestinians would be defined as an extrastate conflict. Most states recognise that Palestine is a political entity, but they don’t have a defined and accepted state of their own. Hope that helps! *waves*

    • Hi Maggie, I’m glad it helped! North Korea is accepted by the international community as a state (and they have diplomatic ties with other nation states) so it wouldn’t classify today as an intrastate conflict – however, you could make the argument that the conflict between the two Koreas began as an intrastate conflict. Hope that helps! 🙂 *waves*

    • Hi Karla, an intrastate war is usually a civil war. Every now and again you might have a government commissioning a paramilitary/proxy group on it’s behalf, but even then you could argue that those particular groups are representative of the government. Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Thank you for your defination ..and can we say the conflict which going on in North -East States is inter-state conflict

  3. Would it be accurate to state: The OIF began as an interstate war and morphed into an intrastate war upon establishment of an elected government?

    The same may not necessarily hold true for the war in Afghanistan since there were opposition groups fighting the Taliban and thus it could be described as an intrastate war that morphed into an interstate war with the intervention of the US and then back to intrastate with the election of a government. Is this description accurate?

    • Hi Roger!

      In regards to Iraq, yes – you are spot on!

      Afghanistan is a little different however. Yes, it began as an interstate war (just as Iraq did) but I would argue, that once a new government was elected and the Taliban was fighting an insurgency – the US was actually fighting an Extrastate war (on behalf of the Afghan government in a country or territory which is not their own). Feel free to let me know what your thoughts are on this – because the term ‘extrastate’ isn’t used all that often (because it is so rare) 😉


      • Thank you for your response. Upon reflection, I concur that it stands as a given that the initial US intervention was an interstate war until after the election of a government.
        Defining the Taliban and their system of government as one that is ideologically based upon Sharia Law than they, I think, can be described as not only a fundamentally religious movement but also a political one. Because the Taliban were/are a religious/political movement (entity) fighting the elected government of Afghanistan with the assistance of the US than I do believe it aptly fits within the definition of an Extrastate war.
        Am I close, or do I have it wrong?

  4. Wow its a very conceptual information about conflicts related .. Thanks for sharing such information with we people.. Thanks a lot.. Because I first didn’t known about conflicts types but now I’m fully understanding it ..

  5. Interstate conflict Intrastate conflict
    Interstate conflict is conflict between two or more states example include; the dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over Bakossi Peninsula
    In terms of magnitude and population, interstate conflict is bigger but will lose fewer people during the conflict since the conflict will cover a particular area of fighting. example include
    Cambodian–Thailand border dispute.On 11th,November 2013,

    In terms of nature of war, Interstate conflict is conventional, rules are defined and they use conventional armies who are well organize. example include ;the Uganda-Tanzanian war in 1979 While intrastate conflict is conflict within state example of include the Anglophone crisis over ancestral heritage

    On the other hand, intrastate conflict is smaller but will lose many people since the conflict will be taken place all over that state. example include the conflict in Central Africa Rebublic (CAR) involving the government, rebels from the Séléka coalition, and anti- balaka militias.

    While, intrastate conflict it is not usually conventional or both parties; that is the government may have a conventional army but the other party will use militia men who are not well organize and no rules are defined. example the Rwandan genocide in 1994 between the Hutu against the Tutsi 1994

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