Special Forces Veteran and Stanford Scholar Applies Data and Scholarship to Conflict

Joseph Felter underscores the importance of rigorous data and scholarship in understanding violent conflict and reducing casualties. He brought scholars into the field when he was deployed overseas and he draws on this experience to give his Stanford students a first-hand look into challenges facing the U.S. military.
Two soldiers in front of car Joseph Felter (left) in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, where he was the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team commander.

Special forces veteran and Stanford scholar Joseph Felter will never forget when U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal was briefed on a study Felter had co-authored concluding that civilian casualties inflicted by international forces in Afghanistan increased insurgent violence.

McChrystal was gripped by one finding in particular in the analysis by Felter and his colleague, Radha Iyengar: If the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could eliminate incidents that left at least two civilians dead, then there would be one less insurgent attack over the following six weeks.

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