Aid, exclusion, and the local dynamics of insurgency in Afghanistan

Daniel Karell, Sebastian Schutte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can developmental aid bring peace to war-torn communities? The current literature is divided on this issue. One line of reasoning suggests that aid is likely to decrease violence by improving employment and prosperity, thereby making participation in conflict more costly. Another view cites evidence showing an association between aid projects and increased insurgent activity. Addressing this contradiction, we argue that different types of aid projects lead to different outcomes, as some projects foster an unequal distribution of benefits within communities. Our reasoning draws on qualitative accounts from conflict zones, recent research on how grievances associated with exclusion can foster civil war onset, and experimental findings regarding perceived inequity and punishment. Building on this scholarship, we use a recently developed event-matching methodology to offer insight from contemporary Afghanistan. Aid projects that tend to exclude portions of the community yield more insurgent activity in their wake than more inclusive projects. These results shed light on why some aid projects reduce violence while others do not, emphasizing that efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ can be a source of both contentment and contestation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-725
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Afghanistan
  • development aid
  • event analysis
  • grievances
  • insurgency
  • matching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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