Impact assessment in special warfare
Searle, Garrett M.
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The impact of operations that build partner capacity to counter extremist groups is difficult to measure. Assessments usually focus on the outcomes of training (was capacity built?) but not the ultimate effect of that new capacity (was a violent extremist group degraded as a result?). To address this shortfall, this thesis argues that a method known as impact assessment, used by the development and law enforcement communities to evaluate countering violent extremism (CVE) programming and policing strategy, can be applied to assess the social impact of military capacity-building efforts with similar goals. To demonstrate that utility, the author examines the case of U.S. engagement in Niger and develops a theory of change to describe the logical path from capacity-building activities to their intended effect of countering extremist groups. Then, to test impact assessment in practice, the author conducts an ex post facto, quasi-experimental assessment of the treatment effect of U.S. engagement in Niger. The substantive results of this study identify impact that was otherwise hidden in observational data and highlight the need for more rigorous assessment. The author recommends the application of impact assessment methods to improve the theoretical understanding of cause and effect, identify real impact, learn from unexpected results, and motivate adaptation and innovation.
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