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The Successes and Shortcomings of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the U.S. War in Afghanistan: Lessons from the Scholarly Conflict Literature

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Insurgency within a state is an important and frequent occurrence during armed conflict. The large political science literature on conflict reveals that there are many factors that contribute to insurgency within societies engaged in armed conflict including the scope and

Insurgency within a state is an important and frequent occurrence during armed conflict. The large political science literature on conflict reveals that there are many factors that contribute to insurgency within societies engaged in armed conflict including the scope and intensity of violence, the relative strength of insurgent groups, and the type of regime in power. In addition, there are other relevant issues for understanding the causes of insurgency in a particular place, including greed, grievance, ideology, sociopolitical institutions, geography, ethnicity, and the specific nature of the conflict’s impact on particular communities. In this study, I review the political science literature on conflict as a means of gaining insight on how and why individuals join insurgent groups and the causes and severity of state retaliation against both individuals and insurgent groups. Frameworks within the conflict literature provide a better understanding of key aspects of the U.S. War in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2012. Specifically, I focus on the ways in which these issues are related to the practices and policies of the U.S.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), civil-military joint teams created by the U.S. government, are intended to assist in development and reconstruction projects throughout Afghanistan. The mission of PRTs involve locally grounded engagement linking security and community assistance as a central means of supporting the larger counterinsurgency model. Humanitarian activities as undertaken by PRTs attempt provide stability to civilians that they might otherwise turn toward an insurgent group to find. Ideally, PRTs should understand the factors that cause individual and group insurgency against a state and utilize that knowledge when attempting to address the conflict that results. This study focuses on the successes and shortcomings of the Jalalabad PRT and their implementation of a new project development model in the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan in 2006. It was successful because it directly worked to remediate the underlying causes of insurgency as proposed by the technocratic conceit, with a focus on improved water sanitation and sewage, agriculture, and basic infrastructure. It was unsuccessful because it failed to promote local ownership, the development of a community identity, or a methodology to measure the effectiveness and impact of its projects.

According to the lessons from the conflict literature, the Jalalabad PRT’s actions only partly reduced the factors that lead to individual and group defection into an insurgent group.
In actively working to incorporate the lessons from the conflict literature into the Jalalabad PRT project development model, PRTs will more aptly and successfully achieve their stated goals of providing stability, reconstruction, and security. Without addressing the potential other underlying causes of insurgency, however, U.S. PRTs are unable to produce measurable, empirical reductions to insurgency in Afghanistan.

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Date Created
2019-05

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Cultist terror groups: Dividing out a subset of religious terror.

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In this paper, I define a religious-political phenomenon called cultist terror groups. A cultist terror (ct) group is a nationalist insurgent organization which employs extreme, ritualized violence, and establishes a cultist doctrine, commonly borrowing elements from established religions. IS, or

In this paper, I define a religious-political phenomenon called cultist terror groups. A cultist terror (ct) group is a nationalist insurgent organization which employs extreme, ritualized violence, and establishes a cultist doctrine, commonly borrowing elements from established religions. IS, or the Islamic State, is the latest example of a cultist terror group. This paper examines and contextualizes IS by analyzing death cults throughout modern history, and contrasts these case studies with violent, religious, political groups that do not meet the heuristic characteristics of a cultist terror group. Cultist terror groups are so named to drive home the idea that these groups belong to a subset of the broader, religious terror (rt) group category. The paper aims to discern the key components of cultist terror groups that distinguish these groups from other violent, religious groups with political goals (a political theology). These include identity and strategy components. Specifically, it presents a concise set of hypotheses about how cultist terror groups create in-group solidarity (e.g., through synchronous activities), recruit members, prevent defection, select targets, and how these aspects differentiate cultist terror groups from other violent religious organizations with political theologies.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Judging their own: when and why states pursue accountability for human rights violations of security forces

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What explains why governments and militaries pursue accountability against some human rights violations committed by members of their armed forces during ongoing conflicts, but not other violations? Further, what are the consequences of such prosecutions for their military and governmental

What explains why governments and militaries pursue accountability against some human rights violations committed by members of their armed forces during ongoing conflicts, but not other violations? Further, what are the consequences of such prosecutions for their military and governmental objectives? The theory put forth by this study suggests that rather than only the natural outcome of strong rule of law, domestic prosecutions within a state’s security apparatus represents a strategic choice made by political and military actors. I employ a strategic actor approach to the pursuit of accountability, suggesting that the likelihood of accountability increases when elites perceive they will gain politically or militarily from such actions. I investigate these claims using both qualitative and quantitative methods in a comparative study across the United States and the United Kingdom. This project contributes to interdisciplinary scholarly research relevant to human rights studies, human rights law, political science, democratic state-building, democratic governance, elite decision making, counter-insurgency, protests, international sanctions, and conflict resolution. Particularly, this dissertation speaks to the intersection of strategy and law, or “lawfare” a method of warfare where law is used as means of realizing a military objective (Dunlap 2001). It provides generalizable results extending well beyond the cases analyzed. Thus, the results of this project will interest those dealing with questions relating to legitimacy, human rights, and elite decision making throughout the democratic world.

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Date Created
2018