Geospatial analysis and mapping have a critical role to play in reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected regions. This report explains the core problem in typical data collection techniques: bias. Data is collected only where collection is safe and thus is not representative. To be more effective, development programs need more in-depth analysis of their reconstruction efforts, even in the most insecure spaces.

Summary

  • Current methods of monitoring and evaluation in conflict-affected environments such as Afghanistan have typically focused on achievements in more secure and accessible areas where international investment is higher and the population has historically been more attuned to the interests of the state.
  • The institutional interests of donors and an overreliance on quantitative data collection techniques, such as polling, has led to this bias in assessing the impact of programs.
  • Thus, international organizations often find themselves blind to the outcomes of their investments and to the experience of the population in more contested areas, where state fragility is highest.
  • As the conflict has worsened in Afghanistan, oversight of foreign assistance has become even more circumspect. Concerns are growing as to whether current methods offer any-thing but the most cursory review of program expenditures and outputs.
  • To better understand the outcomes of foreign assistance in conflict-affected environments, we need to supplement existing data collection techniques with geospatial analysis and mapping, combined with well-focused fieldwork.
  • Although not a panacea, the advent of lower cost and more accessible high-resolution imagery combined with a growing inventory of investments with corresponding global positioning system (GPS) coordinates can support more in-depth analysis of the delivery of infrastructure and agricultural inputs, as well as their subsequent effects, even in the most insecure space.

About the Report

This report addresses the oversight of reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected environments. Following on from a symposium discussion, this report explains how existing data collection techniques might be supplemented by high-resolution geospatial imagery and analysis and well-focused fieldwork to improve oversight, particularly where state fragility is most extreme. The symposium—“Monitoring and Management in Insecure Environments: Applying Best Practices to Afghanistan”—was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

About the Author

David Mansfield is an independent researcher who has conducted in-depth fieldwork in rural Afghanistan for eighteen consecutive years. His research has evolved with the worsening security situation in rural areas and increasingly combines fieldwork in some of the most insecure parts of rural Afghanistan with detailed geospa-tial analysis and mapping. Currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Mansfield has a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Related Publications

Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Two months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country is grappling with twin economic and humanitarian crises the response to which has been complicated by international aid cutoffs, the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves and sanctions on the militants. USIP’s William Byrd discusses the implications of these crises and the challenges to alleviating them.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Economics & Environment

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By: Andrew Watkins; Ambassador Richard Olson; Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.; Kate Bateman

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly expressed the expectation that the international community will recognize their authority as the new government of Afghanistan and have taken several procedural steps to pursue recognition. But the group has done very little to demonstrate a willingness to meet the conditions put forward by Western powers and some regional states. USIP’s Andrew Watkins, Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Kate Bateman assess the latest Taliban efforts to win international recognition, the position of Pakistan and other key regional players and options for U.S. policy to shape Taliban behavior and the engagement decisions of other international partners.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Reconciliation

China and the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan: Not a Zero-Sum Outcome

China and the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan: Not a Zero-Sum Outcome

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

By: Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.

It has become fashionable to characterize recent events in Afghanistan as a loss for the United States and a win for China. This zero-sum interpretation framed in the narrow context of U.S.-China relations is too simplistic and off the mark. The reality is far more complex and nuanced. The end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the collapse of that country’s pro-Western government do not automatically translate into significant Chinese gains, nor do they trigger a swift Beijing swoop to fill the vacuum in Kabul left by Washington.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

What Does IS-K’s Resurgence Mean for Afghanistan and Beyond?

What Does IS-K’s Resurgence Mean for Afghanistan and Beyond?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

Last month’s bombing outside the Kabul airport was a devastating sign of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province’s (IS-K) recent resurgence. The group had already launched 77 attacks in the first four months of 2021 — an increase from 21 in the same period last year. This renewed capacity for mass-casualty attacks could further destabilize Afghanistan’s already precarious security situation, leaving both the new Taliban government and the United States with a vested interest in mounting an effective campaign to undercut IS-K’s presence in the region. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

View All Publications