Winning hearts and minds examining the effectiveness of aid as a stabilization tool in afghanistan
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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Effectiveness of Aid as a Stabilization Tool in Afghanistan. Andrew Wilder Feinstein International Center, Tufts University. Questionable Stabilization Assumptions.

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Winning hearts and minds examining the effectiveness of aid as a stabilization tool in afghanistan

Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Effectiveness of Aid as a Stabilization Tool in Afghanistan

Andrew Wilder

Feinstein International Center, Tufts University


Questionable stabilization assumptions

Questionable Stabilization Assumptions

  • Reconstruction and “modernization” efforts are stabilizing rather than destabilizing (Aid → Economic Development → Stability)

  • Poverty and a lack of reconstruction are an important cause of conflict

  • Aid projects help “win hearts and minds” and increase public support for the Afghan govt and for our military presence

  • Extending the reach of the central government in Afghanistan contributes to stabilization (PRT Objective)


Usaid lessons from 1950 79

USAID Lessons from 1950-79

  • The initiation of many large scale devt. projects severely strained Afghan capacities for implementation… The country faced a critical shortage of trained technical personnel which endangered the utility of much of the capital investments.

  • Major and sustained efforts were undertaken by the US Mission over several decades to improve the management and efficiency of govt. services in Afghanistan…. The results were to prove highly disappointing…. Despite these varied and sustained efforts, the Afghan civil service did not change its basic orientation.

  • Economic development, far from being the panacea Afghans had expected, seemed to raise successively more difficult problems.


Usaid lessons from 1950 79 2

USAID Lessons from 1950-79 (2)

  • The high US staff turnover in the AID Mission was a weakness which worked against a sustained and more successful technical assistance program.

  • Afghan officials were highly skilled at negotiating their way around difficult reform issues….

  • US expectations of the time required to achieve effective project results in Afghanistan were generally unrealistic.

  • The US generally had too much confidence in the applicability of technical solutions to complex social and economic development problems and of the appropriateness and transferability of US values and experience. This over confidence in American technical expertise, and its universal applicability, meant that too little attention was paid to local circumstances and values in the preparation and execution of aid activities.


Conclusion usaid s 1950 1979 experience

Conclusion: USAID’s 1950-1979 Experience

  • “The use of aid for short-term political objectives, in the competition with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, tended to distort sound economic rationale for development, and in the process to weaken the longer-term political interests of the United States. Aid as a tool of diplomacy has its limitations when politically motivated commitments are at much higher levels – and promise more – than can reasonably be delivered in economic returns.”


Case study findings losing hearts and minds

Case Study Findings: Losing Hearts and Minds


Perceptions of reconstruction assistance

Perceptions of Reconstruction Assistance

  • Unmet Expectations – Impression that nothing or not enough has been done

  • Zero sum game – “They received more than we did”

  • Corruption of contractors, government, NGOs and PRTs

  • Poor quality of projects

  • Inappropriate projects

  • Lots of money wasted

  • Lots of broken promises

  • Too little consultation with and employment of members of local communities


Aid and destabilization

Aid and Destabilization

Need to invest more in understanding the political economy of aid and security:

  • Contracting and sub-contracting (elite capture)

  • Delegitimizing impact of massive corruption

  • Contractor wars

  • Paying the Taliban for security

  • Perverse incentives for some actors to create insecurity so that we pay them to provide security

  • Urozgan example


Is extending the reach of the central government stabilizing

Is Extending the Reach of the Central Government Stabilizing?

  • Paktia -- Paktia has lots of problems, but the issue of lack of clinics, schools and roads are not the problem. The main problem is we don’t have a good govt… Without a clean govt. millions of dollars are stolen. If you increase the amount of money it will also be useless because the govt. will simply steal more. There’s a growing distance between the people and the govt. and this is the main cause of the deteriorating security situation.”

  • Urozgan – “In this areas the family and friends of Karzai get all the important positions. All aid in these areas is to make them more powerful. They are corrupt and cruel people but donors continue to support them.”


Roads stabilization

Roads & Stabilization

“Where the road ends the Taliban begins”

“How do you spell ‘hope’ in Dari and Pashto? A-S-P-H-A-L-T. Asphalt. That’s how you spell ‘hope’ in my humble opinion.” (Senator Joe Biden)


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