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The prevalence of the small-world phenomenon in numerous efficient networks, such as social networks, Internet, nervous systems, implies that small-worlds are an evolutionary solution for locally growing networks. These networks require short communication distances between their nodes in spite of their potentially large network diameter but at the same time are robust against randomly occurring failures. Integrating these properties into human-made communication networks drastically increases their efficiency and performance but represents an enormous challenge in the case of mobile ad hoc networks since their communication graphs rely on local construction principles. In this paper, the focus is on backbone-assisted ad hoc networks. In such networks devices connect arbitrarily to other devices within their transmission range, and dedicated devices are able to connect to a backbone network. This construction principle leads to a geometric graph that has a small average path length, but that is sensitive to random attacks or failures. The challenge in evoking small-world properties in backbone-assisted mobile ad hoc networks is to build a topology control algorithm that works with localized data (i.e. using neighboring information) despite knowledge of average path length and clustering coefficient requiring global information. Such a topology control algorithm is described here. Empirical results show that depending on network density, small-world properties can be efficiently evoked.