Country Lead: Eli Berman
The ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan offers a unique opportunity to deepen our understanding of challenges facing domestic and international efforts to democratize and stabilize conflict-ridden countries. In the Afghan case the poor quality of existing governance is a particular challenge. Prolonged US and NATO presence in Afghanistan has generated a wealth of data which will enable unprecedented research opportunities if declassified. Over the course of the conflict, military strategies for dealing with the insurgency have changed, as have government strategies for providing goods and services to the civilian population.
As in other target countries, ESOC researchers in Afghanistan are engaged in multiple projects related to this model of insurgency and governance. The ongoing insurgency offers an opportunity to empirically test extant theories of the production of violence, counterinsurgency tactics, and aid’s ability to reduce violence and stabilize territory. Micro-level data on civilian casualties are analyzed to see if they reduce insurgent attacks against ISAF personnel, and to see in what ways civilian behavior affects battlefield violence. A related study uses survey data to find out whether the identity of the perpetrator of violence against civilians affects their civilian attitudes toward armed actors. In the midst of such violence, governments struggle to deliver aid in ways that reduce violence and encourage reliance on government provision of services. Various efforts are underway to study the determinants of good governance in this conflict-ridden society. A central problem confronting emerging democracies is how to hold free and fair elections, which establish the basis for Schumpeterian democracy. In novel field experiments, ESOC researchers have examined the effect of citizen monitoring using cell phone picture technology. In another project, researchers use survey experiments to find out whether voters reward or punish perceived corruption in politicians, and the specific mechanisms leading to such voting behavior. Replicating results from the Philippines and Iraq, researchers have also used survey data on unemployment to investigate whether increased employment predicts lower levels of political violence. Other research is ongoing.