Civilian Casualties, Humanitarian Aid, and Insurgent Violence in Civil Wars

60 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 8 Nov 2018

Date Written: November 6, 2018


Indiscriminate violence against civilians has long been viewed as a catalyst for new rounds of violence in civil wars. Can humanitarian assistance reduce violence after civilians have been harmed? Crossnational studies are pessimistic, drawing a connection between humanitarian aid and increased civil war violence, lethality, and duration. To date, however, we have few subnational studies of wartime aid and subsequent violence. To examine this relationship, I draw on the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP II), a USAID-funded initiative that investigated 1,061 civilian casualty incidents (2011-13). Aid was assigned as-if randomly to about half (55.8%) of these incidents, facilitating counterfactual estimation of how assistance affected Taliban attacks against the International Security Assistance Force, Afghan forces, and civilians. Challenging prior studies, ACAP was associated with an average 23% reduction in attacks against ISAF, but not Afghan forces or civilians, at the village level for up to two years after the initial incident.

Keywords: Humanitarian Aid, Violence, Wartime, Afghanistan

Suggested Citation

Lyall, Jason, Civilian Casualties, Humanitarian Aid, and Insurgent Violence in Civil Wars (November 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Jason Lyall (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Government
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics