Brief 08: Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan

  • The study bolsters one of the central principles of counterinsurgency – that civilian casualties dramatically undermine efforts to win civilian hearts and minds, at least for coalition forces.  The surveys also find that ISAF violent event reports often do not align with civilian reports of violence, suggesting that civilian violence might be more widespread and damaging than the ISAF believes.
  • The study also calls into question whether aid programs actually win civilian support.  Civilians who have received aid are no more likely to support ISAF forces than those who have not.
  • The study also suggests that personal interaction, and especially apologizing in person for civilian casualties, might be a good method of reducing the impact of civilian casualties.  Although it is a seldom-used tactic (only 16% of harmed individuals report being approached by coalition soldiers afterwards), it does appear to be a way to regain civilian support in the wake of violent events.