Can military forces mitigate insurgent activity—“win hearts and minds”—by implementing small, localized aid projects? Evidence from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has provided contradictory answers to the question of aid’s ability to mitigate violence. Some research finds that aid projects increase the legitimacy of the state among civilians and, under specific circumstances, dampen violence. Other studies, however, show that aid projects provoke insurgent activity, even when delivered by non-military organizations.
For recipients aid has been a very mixed blessing, but for donors it’s been a bonanza.
It’s astonishing when you think about it. Why should an old and poorly-performing industry carry on, burdened with even more tasks, and provided with yet more money? I’m talking about foreign aid, whose mixed results have been reconfirmed countless times in the last 70 years.
For aid’s backers, such skepticism is unfair or at best premature. Successes, from combating diseases to promoting the ‘green revolution,’ are held as self-evident. With new, smarter policy formulas and management focused on results, failure is soon going to be minimized. Across most of the Left-Right spectrum, aid still enjoys political backing. Western spending continues largely upward. New aid donors from Turkey to Thailand are joining in. And tasks are expanding.To achieve the 169 targets of the world’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030, global leaders concur that foreign aid is vital.
The US Department of State and USAID have laid out how American development and diplomacy agencies will work together to reduce violent extremism abroad. David Alpher urges caution in the melding of development and security agendas – a prospect that risks undermining the objectives of both.
The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda has grown so rapidly in American policy that, “at this point,” one government official jokes, “even the lunch ladies in the cafeteria are doing CVE.” The White House held a head-of-state level summit on the subject in 2015, and the State Department recently merged its CVE and counter-terrorism work into one combined bureau—but until May 2016, the term had never been officially uttered by USAID. Alternative phrasing like The Development Response to Violent Extremism, for example—the title of the last USAID report on the subject — helped insulate American development and peacebuilding efforts from the securitized aspects of the rapidly growing CVE agenda.
The Department of State & USAID Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism – released at the end of May, officially changed all that. The strategy sets out how American development and diplomacy will work together to help to reduce violent extremism. Navigating this cooperation is a complicated and at times dangerous path, and following the upcoming election, the next US administration will have a good deal of work ahead to decide whether it is really progress or not. My thoughts on that are here.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for a country it had all but abandoned just 10 years earlier. Indeed, if one word can summarize the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, “volatile” might be it. Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has appropriated nearly $61 billion in aid to Pakistan – more than twice what it received since independence in 1947.
Though some remaining funds may still be disbursed, the latest round of aid came to a close last September amid growing dissatisfaction on both sides. The Department of State billed the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (or Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, also known as KLB) as an “innovative approach” to aid because of its attention to Pakistani priorities, its support of visible infrastructure projects, its focus on areas most susceptible to violent extremism, and its whole-of-government coordination.
Jens Mjaugedal, Special Envoy of Norway to Somalia, is frustrated… which is hardly surprising given his mission to try to turn Somalia, which has officially been the world’s most failed state for many years, into a success. The biggest problem in Somalia is how to keep the deadly al-Qaeda-affiliated, Islamist militant group al-Shabaab at bay.
The African Union’s robust peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expelled al-Shabaab from Mogadishu two years ago, and is now engaged in a major offensive to try to rid the country of the scourge altogether. AMISOM claims to have liberated 10 strategic towns so far, though the war is very far from won.