Rebel Capacity, Intelligence Gathering, and the Timing of Combat Operations

54 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

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: September 2018

Abstract

Classic theories of counterinsurgency claim rebel forces execute attacks in an unpredictable manner to limit the government's ability to anticipate and defend against them. We study a model of combat and information-gathering during an irregular insurgency. We test empirical implications of the model using newly declassified military records from Afghanistan that include highly detailed information about rebel attacks and counterinsurgent operations, including close air support missions, bomb neutralizations, and covert government-led surveillance activity. Our conflict microdata also include previously unreleased information about insurgent-led spy networks, where rebels monitor troop movement and military base activity, as well as military base infiltration and insider attacks. We couple these data with granular information on opium production and farmgate prices. Consistent with our simple theoretical model, we find that the capacity (wealth) of local rebel units influences the timing of their attacks. As rebels gather more resources, their attacks become temporally concentrated in a manner that is distinguishable from randomized combat. This main effect is significantly enhanced in areas where rebels have the capacity to spy on and infiltrate military installations. Taken together, these findings suggest economic shocks that increase the capacity of insurgents may influence the timing of rebel attacks through the acquisition of precise information about military weaknesses.

Keywords: Civil War, counterinsurgency, economic shocks, rebel tactics, spy operations

JEL Classification: O1, P48

Suggested Citation

Sonin, Konstantin and Wilson, Jarnickae and Wright, Austin L., Rebel Capacity, Intelligence Gathering, and the Timing of Combat Operations (September 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13155. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3247227

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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