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Examining the Counterinsurgency-Counterterrorism Tradeoff: The Effects of Targeted Strikes on Militant Attacks


Do targeted strikes against militant groups affect insurgent operations differently from terrorist operations? One of the reasons it is challenging for states to counter militant groups who simultaneously wage an insurgency and a terrorist campaign is that there are offsetting effects between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. As both an insurgent group and a terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses particular challenges to states. Since 2014, the United States and coalition allies have conducted thousands of targeted strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). In this article, we examine the effects of targeted strikes against ISIL. Using a novel dataset of time-series observations from Iraq and Syria between 2015 and 2018, we examine the relationship between targeted strikes conducted under OIR and the number of insurgent and terrorist attacks conducted by ISIL. Our findings give empirical support to the theoretical argument that the same military strategy can have different effects on insurgency and terrorism.

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Carter, Brittnee, Thomas Guarrieri and Daniel S. Smith. 2024. "Examining the counterinsurgency-counterterrorism tradeoff: the effects of targeted strikes on militant attacks." Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict (February). https://doi.org/10.1080/17467586.2023.2285439

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