Leveraging Development Aid to Address Root Causes in Counterinsurgency

Balancing Theory and Practice in "Hold" and "Build"

by Ben Connable

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This working paper focuses on the application of aid money and resources by both military and civilian officials in the hold and build stages of western COIN doctrine, providing a review and analysis of selected expert criticism, case study examples of successes and failures, and recommendations to improve both theory and practice. This examination reveals serious flaws in the current U.S. approach to applying aid in the stabilization phases of COIN, but also reveals the lack of acceptable and generalizable alternatives to current practice. Possible alternatives to spending vast amounts of money to address root causes in COIN include: 1) treating insurgencies as systems while ignoring root causes; 2) spending money only in areas showing signs of stability; and 3) targeting aid only at elites in order to cut quid pro quo deals. The systems approach and elite theory approach offer reasonable tactical options but are politically unpalatable and do not address root causes of conflict. Targeting aid only in areas that are partly stabilized will improve efficiency, but takes a potentially valuable tool away from officials operating in more dangerous areas. Smaller footprint operations like those in Colombia and the Philippines offer greater efficiency and effectiveness for aid spending, but the conditions in these campaigns are not necessarily replicable in larger scale conflicts. An alternative to current practice for aid use in large-scale COIN is warranted.

This research was prepared for the U.S. Government and conducted within the Intelligence Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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