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In the past decade, the United States and its allies have invested billions of dollars on assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones. In Afghanistan, the U.S. Agency for International Development has implemented projects to help stabilize the country as part of a counterinsurgency strategy. Making sure that such efforts are effective is vital to national security and efficient spending. To evaluate such stabilization-related assistance, USAID commissioned a study by the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University. On June 21, USIP took a first look at the results, which can inform more effective stabilization work in future conflicts.

Displaced residents of Abi Barak unload bags of tents from the International Organization for Migration, in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, May 5, 2014.
Photo courtesy of the New York Times/Bryan Denton

Among the findings of the forthcoming study is evidence that smaller, targeted projects tend to work better—an idea that will challenge policymakers to address how the U.S. government can best manage hundreds of smaller projects that are sensitive to local conditions amid a country at war. The study also finds that stabilization aid should account for the ways in which insurgents in a conflict are likely to undermine such projects. It also underscores that better data collection and monitoring are essential to calibrate stabilization activities to be most effective.

On June 21, USIP and USAID specialists on Afghanistan and stabilization efforts held a public discussion of this study which provides lessons to improve U.S. policies and practices in calming conflicts abroad that threaten U.S. security and international stability.

A recording of the event can be found on this event page.


Andrew Wilder
Asia Center Vice President, USIP

William Byrd
Senior Expert-Afghanistan, USIP

Jason Foley
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan, USAID

Rob Jenkins
Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID

Radha Iyengar Plumb
Senior Economist, RAND

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