Jessica Trisko Darden, Ph.D.

American University

Country: United States (District of Columbia)

About Me:

Jessica Trisko Darden is an Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. For 2017-2019, she is an inaugural Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. From 2010 to 2012, Dr. Trisko Darden was a Visiting Scholar with Yale University's Program on Order, Conflict and Violence.Dr. Trisko Darden's research focuses on the relationship between international development and conflict. She is the author of "Aiding and Abetting: U.S. Foreign Assistance and State Violence" (Stanford, 2020) and co-author of "Insurgent Women: Female Combatants in Civil Wars" (Georgetown, 2019). She has published peer-reviewed articles on alliance dynamics, political violence, and human security. Dr. Trisko Darden has contributed op-eds and commentary on international politics and conflict to The Baltimore Sun, The Conversation, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, US News and World Report and The Washington Post. She been interviewed by BBC World Service, CNN, The Globe and Mail, The Today Show, and The Wall Street Journal. She's been featured on Cato's Power Problems podcast and AEI's Banter podcast. You can listen to her latest NPR On Point interview about what to do with the women and children of the Islamic State. Dr. Trisko Darden has expertise in: U.S. foreign aid; development and security; human rights; Asia (particularly Southeast Asia and Central Asia); and gender issues and security.

Research Interests

Foreign Aid

Human Rights

Political Violence


Conflict Processes & War

Gender and Politics

Countering Violent Extremism

Foreign Assistance

Gender And Terrorism

Terrorism And Insurgency

Foreign Aid

Countries of Interest






Books Written:

(2020) Aiding and Abetting: US Foreign Assistance and State Violence, Stanford University Press

The conventional view of foreign aid is that at its best foreign aid helps lift people from poverty and, at its worst, foreign aid is simply wasted. This book challenges the longstanding notion that aid does no harm by providing a wide range of evidence demonstrating that foreign aid can have deadly consequences. Drawing on statistical analysis and country case studies, the author identifies two pathways – a capacity-building and an income effect – for the coercive effect of foreign aid and illustrates how aid led to violent outcomes in recipient countries. U.S. policymakers did not simply turn a blind eye to human rights violations; rather, the author demonstrates that members of the U.S. government intentionally manipulated foreign aid to achieve their policy objectives in the face of overwhelming evidence of abuses. Furthermore, the author provides evidence that coercive effect of foreign aid has endured well beyond the end of the Cold War. The book closes with an assessment of the future of U.S. foreign aid policy and suggestions for reform.

(2019) Insurgent Women: Female Combatants in Civil Wars, Georgetown University Press

Why do women go to war? Despite the reality that female combatants exist the world over, we still know relatively little about who these women are, what motivates them to take up arms, how they are utilized by armed groups, and what happens to them when war ends. This book uses three case studies to explore variation in women's participation in nonstate armed groups in a range of contemporary political and social contexts: the civil war in Ukraine, the conflicts involving Kurdish groups in the Middle East, and the civil war in Colombia. In particular, the authors examine three important aspects of women's participation in armed groups: mobilization, participation in combat, and conflict cessation. In doing so, they shed light on women's pathways into and out of nonstate armed groups. They also address the implications of women's participation in these conflicts for policy, including postconflict programming. This is an accessible and timely work that will be a useful introduction to another side of contemporary conflict.


(2019) Tackling Terrorists' Exploitation of Youth, American Enterprise Institute

Key Points -Young people serve as a vital source of support for terrorist groups. Extensive youth participation creates an intergenerational terrorism problem and lays the foundation for future conflicts. -Youth end up in terrorist groups through forced and voluntary recruitment. They perform a range of roles that vary according to age and gender, with girls and young women often being subject to gendered social roles and sexual and domestic violence. -To effectively counter terrorists’ exploitation of youth abroad, governments should adopt a data-based approach to improve the targeting of terrorism prevention programs, move beyond a traditional focus on young men, address the potential for radicalization within the family, and emphasize attitudinal and behavioral change among those most vulnerable to recruitment.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2019) Efecto Naim

Desde Colombia hasta Ucrania, las mujeres han jugado un papel fundamental y muy variado en los conflictos armados. Y aún así, sabemos muy poco sobre ellas en este contexto: ¿Quienes son estas mujeres que participan en las batallas? ¿Son sus motivos para tomar armas diferentes a los de los hombres que luchan junto a ellas? ¿Y qué funciones cumplen una vez que cesa el conflicto? La politóloga y investigadora, Jessica Trisko Darden, nos responde.

Radio Appearances:

(2019) BBC World Service - The Real Story

What next for the wives of Islamic State fighters? The fate of thousands of foreign born women who went to Syria is uncertain. Should they have the right to return to their home countries?

(2019) NPR - On Point

An American woman joined the Islamic State, went to Syria, married three ISIS fighters and called for attacks on Americans. But now, she says she was brainwashed, is rejecting extremism and wants to come back — with her child. She says she's willing to face justice here in the U.S, but will she be allowed home?

(2019) Cato Institute - Power Problems Podcast

Women play an increasingly important role as insurgents and rebels in civil conflicts all over the world. But most often their story goes untold and their impact has been poorly understood. Jessica Trisko Darden, co-author of Insurgent Women, joins Emma Ashford and Trevor Thrall to discuss her new book to discuss.

Blog Posts:

(2019) The Conversation

How Women Wage War: A Short History of Female Insurgents