The U.S. military has undergone a crash course in economic development while fighting the war in Afghanistan, and development agencies could stand to learn some of the military’s lessons.

Take for example the National Guard unit out of Indiana. The unit is called an “Agribusiness Development Team” and is teaching Afghan high schoolers about agriculture and business. The unit provides lesson plans on over 60 subjects, including financial management and record keeping. U.S. Army Major Jeremy Gulley is quoted as saying, “Improved education will illuminate the path to a future that thirty years of war has made impossible and unknowable.

When a significant portion of insurgents are fighting for a paycheck and not out of ideology, education and job training can be effective tools in fighting the Taliban.

A Provisional Reconstruction Team in Nangarhar Province is aiding in the construction of a bridge over the Kabul River. This bridge will open commerce between nearby districts and major city centers, allowing farmers to sell their goods in larger markets. It will also provide district residents a permanent river crossing; they are usually cut off during the annual flood season. By providing a regular market for the farmers’ goods, this project will enable them to earn a better and more consistent income and better provide for their families.

These principles apply not just to war-torn areas but to developing countries more generally. Effective development aid should enable people to help themselves. By focusing on education, training, and tools that allow people to pull themselves out of poverty, development work has the potential to create economic opportunities that can help to undermine support for the Taliban.