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Ashley Jackson is currently a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute, focused on non-state armed groups and humanitarian crises. She has conducted dialogue with and researched 27 armed factions across 13 countries, including research with the Afghan Taliban, Al-Shabaab, various Syrian factions, Hamas and others. She has been widely quoted in the media, authored numerous features and editorial for Foreign Policy, Politico, the Guardian and others, and was named a Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellow in 2018.

Ashley has extensive experience on the ground in conflicts and complex emergencies. She served as a Political Affairs Officer with the UN and as Head of Policy for Oxfam in Afghanistan, where she successfully lobbied international forces to introduce tighter restrictions on the use of force and do more to protect civilians.  Prior to that, she was a Red Cross delegate in Southeast Asia. She also provides high level policy advice and expertise, including as an advisor to the UK parliament on Afghanistan and to the UN on humanitarian access and peacebuilding.  She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and a MSc in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics.

Doctoral Research

Bargaining for Survival: Insurgent-Civilian Relations in Afghanistan

While the literature extensively covers violence against civilians, there is a gap in understanding interactions between civilian and insurgents that are not explicitly violent. Why civilians react in certain ways at certain times, and how they make these calculations, is underexplored. Consequently, much of the existing literature often treats civilians as a passive, faceless and undifferentiated category. Insurgents and civilians bargain with one another, with each side levying sanctions and offering benefits to obtain the best deal. Although civilians generally have considerably less power to wield in these interactions, they use whatever leverage they have, both collectively and individually, to maximise their chances of survival. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Afghanistan, including interviews with both civilians and he Taliban, this work explores the rational and intuitive factors that influence the form and content of bargaining. It is these bargaining processes that ultimately regulate the conduct civil wars and shape their outcomes.

Research Interests



Insurgent Governance


Fragile States





Primary: Dr Kiernan Mitton

Secondary: Professor Mats Berdal