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Civilian Casualties and the Conditional Effects of Humanitarian Aid in Wartime

Fri, August 31, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hynes, 205


Can humanitarian assistance reduce, or eliminate entirely, the likelihood that civilians support or join insurgent movements after suffering indiscriminate violence? Can aid "short-circuit" the radicalization process? I adopt a nested design-based approach that examines the effects of the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program II (ACAP II), a USAID-funded program designed to render assistance to civilians harmed (in)directly from International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) actions in 2011-13. I first examine village-level program effects on insurgent violence by exploiting plausible as-if randomization in whether an incident was deemed eligible (N=592) or ineligible (N=469) for an ACAP II response. Taking advantage of the plausibly exogenous nature of victimization at the individual level, I then employ a 3,045-respondent survey experiment among both aid beneficiaries and non-recipients that explores multiple mechanisms for how aid might affect an individual's support for, and participation in, the Taliban. ACAP II assistance is also associated with a nearly 20% reduction in insurgent attacks for approximately six months after aid distribution. I find evidence for cross-cutting individual level effects: the program increased opportunity costs for participation in the insurgency but also increased support for the Taliban.