Wired’s Danger Room reports on a new study finding that civilian causalities in Afghanistan lead to anti-coalition feelings and an increase in insurgent attacks. Although this would seem to be blindly obvious, the study adds some morbid detail to the picture and provides evidence for some in the US military who had suggested no such link existed.
The study was completed by four economists and it reports its uncomfortable results in stark statistical terms. Interestingly, not all civilian casualties are created equal in terms of their backlash:
‚ÄúWhen ISAF units kill civilians,‚Äù the research team finds, referring to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, ‚Äúthis increases the number of willing combatants, leading to an increase in insurgent attacks.‚Äù According to their model, every innocent civilian killed by ISAF predicts an ‚Äúadditional 0.03 attacks per 1,000 population in the next 6-week period.‚Äù In a district of 83,000 people, then, the average of two civilian casualties killed in ISAF-initiated military action leads to six additional insurgent attacks in the following six weeks…
But in their study, the researchers found that there‚Äôs a greater spike in violence after ISAF-caused civilian deaths than after insurgent-caused ones. ‚ÄúAn incident which results in 10 civilian casualties will generate about 1 additional IED attack in the following 2 months,‚Äù the researchers write. ‚ÄúThe effect for insurgents is much weaker and not jointly significant.‚Äù
Which is perhaps not particularly surprising if it is the insurgents who are setting most of the IEDs. However, the research also found a long-term effect of civilian deaths on the radicalisation of the local population.