U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have used a new tool in the past decade—millions of dollars spent by battlefield commanders for local relief and reconstruction projects. These projects have drawn criticism for gaps in financial accountability, but a new study from the RAND Corporation suggests they improved local security and led to reductions in hostilities. On October 13, the report’s authors, along with other experts, discussed their findings on the role in Afghanistan of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP)—and on ways that such programs can be improved.

Money as a Weapon 2058-X3.jpg
Pictured left to right, Scott Worden, Amb. Charles Ries, Daniel Egel, John Acree, Renard Sexton

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are raising new debate on their complex mixing of military operations and relief and development work. This includes CERP, which U.S. forces in Afghanistan have called “money as a weapon system.” Last year the U.S. government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction raised questions about the accounting for $2.2 billion in CERP funds. RAND experts Charles Ries and Daniel Egel have completed a study on the impacts of CERP projects in Afghan localities. Their research finds that CERP projects improved local economic conditions and security for Afghans, helped build U.S. forces’ rapport with local residents, and eventually led to reduced hostilities. The authors discussed their forthcoming RAND report, “Investing in the Fight: Assessing the Commander’s Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan.”


Scott Worden
Director of Afghanistan, U.S. Institute of Peace

Ambassador Charles Ries
Vice President, International at RAND  

Daniel Egel 
Economist, RAND

Stephen Lennon
Director, USAID Office of Transition Initiatives

Renard Sexton
New York University

Related Publications

Want more accountability for the Taliban? Give more money for human rights monitoring.

Want more accountability for the Taliban? Give more money for human rights monitoring.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Scott Worden

Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly last week, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Afghanistan Richard Bennett released his first report grading the Taliban’s treatment of Afghans’ rights. It was an F. In the past year, the Taliban have engaged in a full-scale assault on Afghan’s human rights, denying women access to public life, dismantling human rights institutions, corrupting independent judicial processes, and engaging in extralegal measures to maintain control or to exact revenge for opposition to their rule. That is one of the main reasons — along with their continued support of al-Qaida and a refusal to form a more inclusive government — that Afghanistan has no representation at the U.N.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human RightsJustice, Security & Rule of Law

U.S. to Move Afghanistan’s Frozen Central Bank Reserves to New Swiss Fund

U.S. to Move Afghanistan’s Frozen Central Bank Reserves to New Swiss Fund

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

For almost seven months, Afghan central bank reserves frozen by the United States and set aside to somehow help the Afghan people, have sat, immobilized. Now those funds — $3.5 billion — are at long last on the move. On September 14, the U.S. and Swiss governments unveiled the “Fund for the Afghan People” as a Geneva-based foundation with its account at the Bank for International Settlements. The Fund will preserve, protect and selectively disburse this money. With this major policy step accomplished, new questions arise: What do these developments mean, what are realistic expectations for the reserves, and what needs to happen next?

Type: Analysis and Commentary


View All Publications