Can Economic Assistance Shape Combatant Support in Wartime? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan

129 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Jason Lyall

Jason Lyall

Dartmouth College

Yang-Yang Zhou

Princeton University, Department of Politics

Kosuke Imai

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 20, 2019

Abstract

Governments, militaries, and aid organizations all rely on economic interventions to shape civilian attitudes toward combatants during wartime. We have, however, little individual-level evidence that these "hearts and minds'' programs actually influence combatant support. We address this problem by conducting a factorial randomized control trial of two common interventions -- vocational training and cash transfers -- on combatant support among 2,597 at-risk youth in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We find that training only improved economic livelihoods modestly and had little effect on combatant support. Cash failed to lift incomes, producing a boom-and-bust dynamic in which pro-government sentiment initially spiked and then quickly reversed itself, leaving a residue of increased Taliban support. Training and cash jointly failed to improve beneficiaries' livelihoods but did increase support for the Afghan government for at least nine months. These findings suggest that aid affects attitudes by providing information about government resolve and competence rather than increasing recipients' income.

Keywords: insurgency, credit capture, opportunity cost, theories of rebellion, livelihood training, unconditional cash transfer, Afghanistan

JEL Classification: B03, D14, D71, D74

Suggested Citation

Lyall, Jason and Zhou, Yang-Yang and Imai, Kosuke, Can Economic Assistance Shape Combatant Support in Wartime? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan (April 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3026531 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3026531

Jason Lyall (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Government
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Yang-Yang Zhou

Princeton University, Department of Politics ( email )

Princeton, NJ
United States

Kosuke Imai

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
625
Abstract Views
3,989
rank
41,272
PlumX Metrics