Hilary Smith

Dr. Idil Izmirli

Conflict 610

14 April 2014

Research Design

Statement of Problem

This research strives to add to the analysis already conducted on the War in Afghanistan addressing what questions (such as what is going on?) by adding analysis answering why questions (i.e. why is this going on?). Because good conflict resolution comes from good conflict analysis, it is imperative to understand both the manifestations and the root causes of conflict so that a comprehensive conflict resolution strategy may be adopted. This research takes this question one step further and seeks to fill in the gap of knowledge of what do Afghans think are the root causes of the war in their country. Since most conflict resolution strategies will strive to be administered by or at least touch of the lives of native Afghans, it is important to understand their viewpoint of the root of the conflict so it can be addressed in a satisfactory manner for them. For this purpose, this research will focus on the question, what is the Afghan perspective on the root causes of the War in Afghanistan, 2001-present? It will encompass in its definition of Afghan Afghans living in Afghanistan as well as refugees from the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s to the present.

Overview of Research Design and Methods

This project will explore the research question using a mixed methods, grounded research design. It will utilize survey questionnaires to quantify results, as well as interviews to obtain qualitative data. A thorough search for primary sourced blogs, interviews, and news articles that explain the Afghan perspective on the root causes of the War will also be undertaken, but as shown in the literature review, not many sources, especially English language sources, exist in this category.

This is a grounded theory method because the research approaches data sources without a theory and seeks to create a theory through collection, analysis, and re-collection of data. Though grounded theories are largely quantitative, a portion of this research will also be qualitative.

This design presents some administrative hurdles that will need to be overcome. First, survey questionnaires will need to be designed and then translated into Pashto and Dari primarily. If visits to the field reveal that certain minority groups are exclusively conversant in another language, the survey questionnaire will need to be translated into that language as well. Additionally, the dissemination of the survey questionnaires will vary widely across different populations. These groups are discussed in greater detail below, but survey questionnaires will be distributed on a basis of what is easiest to administer while encouraging the respondents to complete the survey questionnaire. For example, in regions where email or facebook is used, survey questionnaires will be sent through those means. If contacting subjects through electronic media is impossible or ill-advised, survey questionnaires will be collected in the same settings they are distributed in. Some survey questionnaires will also be distributed through key contacts who will give them to friends, family, and acquaintances and return the questionnaires to the researcher. For interviews, many will be conducted in person and others over Skype, where personal interviews are not possible due to time, expense, or security concerns.

The actual survey questionnaire questions will be divided into two parts. The first part will collect demographical and biographical data without collecting personal identification information. The second section will consist of open response questions that assess the root causes of the present war in Afghanistan according to the viewpoint of the subject.

Interviews will follow a similar format in establishing demographical and biographical data points. Then, several open ended questions probing the causes of the war in the interviewee’s opinion will be asked.

Sampling Scheme

My sampling scheme endeavors to correct sampling errors. Because of the difficulty traversing Afghanistan, security concerns, and local politics, obtaining a completely random, representative sample would be extremely difficult. Reaching people outside city centers will be difficult. Many survey questionnaires or recommendations for interviews will be determined by family or tribal connections and will likely overlook some groups that fall outside the connections of the group assisting with the research. This is likely to create a patchwork of representation, where the opinions of the root causes of the Afghan war are well understood from some Afghanis, but remains an unknown statistic in other quarters. This research is also likely to underrepresent women unless certain sampling precautions are taken.

Despite these difficulties, this research will overcome sampling errors by taking a wide sampling from varied locations in and outside Afghanistan, by engaging local governments and Jirgas to reach rural populations, and by leveraging female groups and researchers to access the female population in Afghanistan. The sampling will be taken from varied locations, including city centers like Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar, rural areas along the Pakistan border and the central and southern regions of Afghanistan, the semi-autonomous north of the country, as well as ex-patriot or displaced populations in Pakistan and the U.S. The responses from this varied sample will be averaged together to provide as representative a picture as possible. However, data from individual data sets will also be coded and analyzed in order to give a more nuanced view. For example, responses from minority groups in Afghanistan, like the Hazara, Balochs, and Tajikis, will be coded and analyzed together to discover if views of the root causes of the war in Afghanistan are related to demographics. In addition, local governments will be useful in disseminating survey questionnaires to local populations. Finally, female surveyors partnered with Afghan females through informal as well as formal connections, such as with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) which has been in existence since 1977, will help reach the sometimes secluded female population in Afghanistan.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Design and Data

The strengths of this design project is that it is simple in only employing and administering two main research methods, survey questionnaires and interviews, however the administration of these research tools is complicated. Survey questionnaires must be translated, disseminated, and collected to a variety of regions using several distribution methods, all while working in a conflict environment. For ex-patriot populations and some city centers in Afghanistan, online survey questionnaires may be used, while rural regions may require paper copies of survey questionnaires. In places where subjects are illiterate, interpreters and security personnel may need to accompany research teams to different locations.

Contingency plans for incomplete research will also be devised in case certain sampling groups are not able to be surveyed or interviewed. This may require changing the research question to “What does [particular Afghan group] think the root causes of the 2001-present war in Afghanistan are?”

Pilot Description

A pilot will be conducted by distributing survey questionnaires to the Afghan ex-patriot and refugee population in northern Virginia. In addition to this, a few interviews will be conducted. I have access to a large, Afghan population, many of whom came to the U.S. on special visas after working as translators for the U.S. and NATO governments. I will disseminate survey questionnaires to this largely male population and give them extra survey questionnaires and ask them to distribute it to their family and friends, especially females in their circles. I will also interview, in person or over Skype, as varied and representative a sample of this group as I can, including an older married female and male and a younger unmarried female and male.

The strengths of this pilot are that I will survey native Afghans, many of whom were directly affected by the War in Afghanistan. Many of them are in the U.S, so reaching them and asking them to fill out a survey questionnaire should not be difficult. The drawbacks to this pilot are the narrow sample size. These are all educated Afghans who were not in favor of the Taliban or insurgents, so we will not have as varied a view on the root causes of the Afghan War according to Afghans’ perspectives.

Ethical Issues

Some ethical issues involved in this research include that, in asking people to contemplate the causes of a war, it might bring up harmful memories and experiences and possibly lead subjects to reliving those memories. There is also a security concern for those still living in hotbeds of active conflict. If enemy groups see that the local population is working with an outside group, reprisals may occur. To overcome these issues, special care will be taken to prevent subjects who may be less stable from discussing the war. Warnings will be given up front, the nature of the survey questionnaire or interview will be explained, and researchers will be trained to watch for signs of undue distress. Eliminating test subjects who have a difficult time remembering their experiences with war will decrease the sample quality, but it is a worthwhile decrease. Also, an in depth situational awareness assessment will be conducted prior to venturing into live conflict zones. With these precautions, it is hoped that any reprisals or reliving of painful memories will be avoided.


What are Afghan perspectives on the root causes of the 2001-present War in Afghanistan?

Thank you for taking part in this survey questionnaire! Your viewpoints are greatly valued. After completing Sections A and B, please return to Hilary Smith via email, mail, or through the person who gave this to you. Thank you. (hilaryflier@gmail.com, 226 N Oakland St, Arlington, VA 22203)

Section A: A bit about you

  1. Gender M         F
  2. Age Range:

18-24               25-30               31-40               41-55               56-70               70+

  1. Are you: Single               Married                        Divorced          Widowed         Other________
  2. Where are you from originally? City/Region ___________________ Country________________
  3. Did you spend significant time living in another place or places? If so, where and what years (i.e. 2005-2009)?

City/Region ________________________ Country_________________________________Years______

City/Region ________________________ Country_________________________________Years______

City/Region ________________________ Country_________________________________Years______

City/Region ________________________ Country_________________________________Years______

City/Region ________________________ Country_________________________________Years______

  1. What is your ethnicity? ___________________________________________________________
  2. What’s your first language? _______________________________________________________
  3. Do you speak other languages? If so, which ones? ______________________________________


  1. What religion are you, if any ______________________________________________________
  2. How religious do you consider yourself?

Very                 Somewhat                   Neutral                                    Not Very                     Not

  1. What is your education level?


Primary school

Secondary school

Some University



Trade School



Other: ___________________________

Section B: Your views on the 2001-present Afghanistan War (please use the back of the survey questionnaire to answer any questions for which there is not enough space below. Please number your responses if writing on the back.)

  1. In considering what led up to the War in Afghanistan, 2001-present, what do you think are the 2-3 main causes of it?


  1. Briefly, what led to those causes?


  1. What do you feel is at the root of the causes in Question 2?


  1. What do you think is the most important root cause of the Afghanistan War?


  1. Why did you choose this root cause?