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The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq

Author

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  • Luke N. Condra
  • Joseph H. Felter
  • Radha K. Iyengar
  • Jacob N. Shapiro

Abstract

A central question in intrastate conflicts is how insurgents are able to mobilize supporters to participate in violent and risky activities. A common explanation is that violence committed by counterinsurgent forces mobilizes certain segments of the population through a range of mechanisms. We study the effects of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan to quantify the effect of such casualties on subsequent insurgent violence. By comparing uniquely detailed micro-data along temporal, spatial, and gender dimensions we can distinguish short-run 'information' and 'capacity' effects from the longer run 'propaganda' and 'revenge' effects. In Afghanistan we find strong evidence that local exposure to civilian casualties caused by international forces leads to increased insurgent violence over the long-run, what we term the 'revenge' effect. Matching districts with similar past trends in violence shows that counterinsurgent-generated civilian casualties from a typical incident are responsible for 1 additional violent incident in an average sized district in the following 6 weeks and lead to increased violence over the next 6 months. There is no evidence that out-of-area events--errant air strikes for example--lead to increased violence, nor is there evidence of short run effects, thus ruling out the propaganda, information, and capacity mechanisms. Critically, we find no evidence of a similar reaction to civilian casualties in Iraq, suggesting the constraints on insurgent production of violence may be quite conflict-specific. Our results imply that minimizing harm to civilians may indeed help counterinsurgent forces in Afghanistan to reduce insurgent recruitment.

Suggested Citation

  • Luke N. Condra & Joseph H. Felter & Radha K. Iyengar & Jacob N. Shapiro, 2010. "The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq," NBER Working Papers 16152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16152 Note: ITI LS PE POL
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16152.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stefano Iacus & Gary King & Giuseppe Porro, 2008. "Matching for Causal Inference Without Balance Checking," UNIMI - Research Papers in Economics, Business, and Statistics unimi-1073, Universit√° degli Studi di Milano.
    2. Radha Iyengar & Jonathan Monten, 2008. "Is There an "Emboldenment" Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq," NBER Working Papers 13839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Noury, Abdul G. & Speciale, Biagio, 2016. "Social constraints and women's education: Evidence from Afghanistan under radical religious rule," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 821-841.
    2. Caruso Raul & Klor Esteban F., 2012. "Political Economy Studies on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Introduction," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 18(2), pages 1-10, August.
    3. Andrew Shaver & Jacob N. Shapiro, 2016. "The Effect of Civilian Casualties on Wartime Informing: Evidence from the Iraq War," HiCN Working Papers 210 updated, Households in Conflict Network.
    4. Beath,Andrew & Christia,Fotini & Enikolopov,Ruben & Beath,Andrew & Christia,Fotini & Enikolopov,Ruben, 2012. "Winning hearts and minds through development ? evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6129, The World Bank.
    5. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Ruben Enikolopov, 2011. "Winning Hearts and Minds through Development Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," Working Papers w0166, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    6. Atkinson, Michael P. & Kress, Moshe & Szechtman, Roberto, 2012. "Carrots, sticks and fog during insurgencies," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 203-213.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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