Rebel Capacity and Combat Tactics

80 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2017 Last revised: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Konstantin Sonin

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Jarnickae Wilson

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 19, 2019

Abstract

Both classic and modern theories of rebel warfare emphasize the role of unexpected attacks against better equipped and larger government forces. We test empirical implications of a simple model of combat and information-gathering using highly detailed information about Afghan rebel attacks, military base infiltration, insurgent-led spy networks, and counterinsurgent operations. As rebels gather more resources, their attacks become temporally concentrated: a one standard deviation increase in opium revenue leads to a .3 standard deviation increase in temporal clustering of rebel attacks. In contrast, following abnormal battlefield losses (labor scarcity), the timing of insurgent attacks becomes less concentrated: a one standard deviation increase in labor scarcity increases randomization of attack timing by .12 standard deviations. We supplement our benchmark specification with a novel instrumental variables (IV) approach that uses high resolution data on agronomic inputs and dimensionality reduction to instrument for opium suitability. We use LASSO and sample randomization tests to assess and confirm the validity of our IV approach. The main effect is significantly enhanced in areas where rebels have the capacity to spy on and infiltrate military installations. We use proprietary military surveys to estimate exposure to informal taxation by government officials, which shows that relatively lower reservation wages lead to larger revenue effects. We find evidence that rebels exhaust their resources during the fighting season after taxation.

Keywords: economic shocks, civil war, rebel tactics, counterinsurgency, spy operations

JEL Classification: O1, P48

Suggested Citation

Sonin, Konstantin and Wilson, Jarnickae and Wright, Austin L., Rebel Capacity and Combat Tactics (April 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3030736 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3030736

Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Jarnickae Wilson

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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