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US study on Iraq, Afghanistan say focus on small projects to win hearts, minds

Washington , Wed, 05 Oct 2011 ANI

Washington, Oct.5 (ANI): Three American researchers have suggested in a study that U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq and Afghanistan will depend on spending money on small projects to win the hearts and minds of the local populace.

 

In a study published in the Journal of Political Economy, University of California economist Eli Berman, Princeton political scientist Jacob Shapiro and Stanford political scientist Colonel Joseph Felter said they focused on the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Iraq to arrive at their conclusions.

 

The CERP empowers junior officers to spend reconstruction dollars on small, local projects like digging wells or paving rural roads. The theory driving CERP is that when government provides basic services, the population will turn towards the government and away from insurgents.

 

While this theory is the cornerstone of the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy currently practiced in Afghanistan, there has been no systematic empirical evidence showing that aid spending by foreign forces actually helps quell violence.

 

To test the theory, Berman and his colleagues analyzed the effect of the nearly three billion dollar in CERP spending in Iraq.

 

Using geo-spatial data, they looked at whether changes in CERP spending in a given area correlated with changes in rates of violence over a six-month period.

 

"We found that CERP projects, especially the smaller ones, are effective in reducing violent attacks on Coalition forces," Berman said.

 

He added: "The research provides strong evidence in favor of the population-centric approach to counterinsurgency currently practiced by the U.S. military, which necessarily involves economic and political development."

 

Despite the success of CERP, however, the program represents only a fraction of reconstruction spending in Iraq.

 

Berman and his colleagues also tracked the additional 26 billion dollars in reconstruction spending that focused on larger, less community-oriented projects.

 

The researchers did not find evidence that those larger projects reduced violence locally.

 

Berman surmises that this is because such projects were administered by authorities that had less direct contact with the population, and thus less understanding of the needs of each community.

 

"Our research suggests that development money best reduces violence when projects are small and selected by consulting community members," Berman said.

 

"Communities respond when you think small and local," he concludes. (ANI)

 



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