NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Austin L. Wright

Harris School of Public Policy
University of Chicago
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago IL 60637

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

June 2017Insurgent Learning
with Francesco Trebbi, Eric Weese, Andrew Shaver: w23475
We study a model of insurgent learning during a counterinsurgency campaign. We test empirical implications of the model using newly declassified microdata documenting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2014. This period was characterized by substantial US investments in anti-IED technology and equipment. We find no evidence of decreasing effectiveness of IEDs across time. Qualitative evidence suggests that this is due to innovations in IED devices and tactics. Our results are robust to numerous alternative specifications, and yield insights on a technological revolution in insurgent violence—the proliferation and evolution of IEDs—with implications for scholarship on civil conflict and future investment in tactical countermeasures.
July 2010The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq
with Joseph H. Felter, Radha K. Iyengar, Jacob N. Shapiro: w16152
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 ov...
 
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