Can Economic Assistance Shape Combatant Support in Wartime? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan
104 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 3, 2018
Governments, militaries, and aid agencies use economic interventions to influence wartime support for combatants. Yet credible evidence of whether these programs can shift support for governments and insurgents remains scarce. We experimentally evaluate a program of livelihood training and one-time unconditional cash transfers on combatant support among 2,597 at-risk youths in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Employing survey methodologies for sensitive questions, we find that training alone has little effect on combatant support. Cash has a boom-and-bust dynamic, initially increasing pro-government sentiment before reversing itself months later, leading to higher Taliban support. When combined with livelihood training, cash increased support for the Afghan government in the medium term. We interpret these results as consistent with a credit capture argument. While each intervention alone was a weak signal of government competency, the combination of training and cash provided participants with sufficient information to revise their beliefs about government performance and responsiveness.
Keywords: insurgency, credit capture, opportunity cost, theories of rebellion, livelihood training, unconditional cash transfer, Afghanistan
JEL Classification: B03, D14, D71, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation