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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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2019-05

Critical Cartography and Territorial Conflict

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This paper examines the role of persuasive cartography in territorial conflict through the case study of Azerbaijan and Armenia's dispute of Nagorno Karabakh. In particular, the paper connects theories of critical cartography and territorial conflict to the way that maps

This paper examines the role of persuasive cartography in territorial conflict through the case study of Azerbaijan and Armenia's dispute of Nagorno Karabakh. In particular, the paper connects theories of critical cartography and territorial conflict to the way that maps can influence opinion and lead to negotiation breakdown. I analyze cultures of geography from both sides before analyzing how Armenian maps have changed between the period of 1994 and 2016. Focusing on Goddard's (2006) theory of how the way actors make claims to territory can result in indivisibility, I argue that the powerful rhetoric of maps can strongly influence perception of territory. I connect the shift in rhetoric about the territory to shifts in how the territory is depicted in maps. Using public survey information from other researchers working in Armenia, I find that Armenian geographic culture and use of maps almost exclusively uses the most maximalist depiction of the territory, which may explain why it is difficult for leaders to compromise on the territory. After conducting analysis, I concluded that cartography can be used by actors to argue their territorial claims, with the unexpected effect of polarizing public opinion. It is unclear if persuasive cartography is a symptom or a cause of territory negotiation breakdown. In order to study whether cartography itself plays a role in negotiation breakdown, a larger sample size of disputes is necessary.

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2018-05

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Bandok Lul

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ASU student Bandok Lul (Nuer) rehearses a pitch for Refugee Coding Academy. “Lost Boys Found” is an ongoing, interdisciplinary project that is collecting, recording and archiving the oral histories of the Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan. The collection is a work-in-progress,

ASU student Bandok Lul (Nuer) rehearses a pitch for Refugee Coding Academy. “Lost Boys Found” is an ongoing, interdisciplinary project that is collecting, recording and archiving the oral histories of the Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan. The collection is a work-in-progress, seeking to record the oral history of as many Lost Boys/Girls as are willing, and will be used in a future book.

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2017-03-29