The question for international assistance efforts in fragile and conflict-affected countries is the extent to which aid programs are associated with changes in key metrics, including security, popular support for the government, community cohesion and resilience, population health, economic well-being, and internal violence. With an eye to lessons learned for the future, this report examines USAID stabilization programming in Afghanistan, focusing on whether it reduced violence, increased support for the government, and promoted other desirable political and economic outcomes.

Summary

  • Stabilization programs generally have only a modest impact on violent conflict and other key outcome measures. Policymakers and implementers should not expect to generate large or persistent effects.
  • Smaller projects can be targeted at specific gaps in particular communities and may be less likely to fuel instability.
  • Despite the potential benefits, the U.S. government would find it difficult—given its current management structure—to manage hundreds of smaller projects.
  • Program design needs to account for the role of antigovernment elements.
  • Data collection is a crucial part of program design and needs to be integrated from the outset.
  • Evaluating the impact of complex stabilization programs in ways that can improve future programming is critical to economic development and national security.

About the Report

This Special Report addresses the lack of clarity on which programs best foster stability in fragile and conflict-affected areas. It is the result of a collaboration of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University to assess the impact of USAID’s stabilization programs on Afghanistan. The report does not reflect the views of USIP, USAID, or any U.S. government agency.

About the Author

A former special adviser on economics and conflict at USIP, Ethan B. Kapstein holds the Arizona Centennial Chair of International Affairs at Arizona State University and is associate director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University. His most recent book is Seeds of Stability: Land Reform and U.S. Foreign Policy (2017).

Related Publications

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?

Gender; Religion; Peace Processes

How to Secure Afghanistan’s Future

How to Secure Afghanistan’s Future

Monday, December 10, 2018

By: William Byrd

From a diplomatic and process standpoint, Geneva Conference on Afghanistan was generally seen as a success by participants (though some countries were not represented at the minister level), and the Afghan government showcased the progress it made in implementing reforms and national priority programs over the past two years. But what did the GCA accomplish substantively, what was left undone, and what questions were left unanswered?

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

Johnny Walsh on Election Season in Afghanistan

Johnny Walsh on Election Season in Afghanistan

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

By: Johnny Walsh

As Afghans wait for official results from the parliamentary polls, Johnny Walsh says that the country is already entering “high political season” in preparation for the critical April 2019 presidential election. Although the Taliban continues to carry out high-profile attacks across the country, Walsh says that many Afghans are focused on the presidential polls and its implications for the peace process.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications