Regional data is available on civilian deaths from insurgent activity and counterinsurgent activity in Afghanistan.  There is also data on the level of insurgent attacks.  In principle, this might allow an analysis of the impact of civilian deaths on insurgent and insurgent support.  If civilian deaths caused by insurgents cause an increase in support for counterinsurgents, perhaps the local population will give information about insurgent location to the opposite side.  Then, insurgent attacks will decline.  If civilian deaths caused by caused counterinsurgent activity increase support for insurgents, perhaps insurgents find more recruits leading to more attacks in the future etc etc.

A recent paper by Condra et al attempts to study these issues.  One key finding:

“Counterinsurgent-generated civilian casualties from a typical incident are responsible for 6 additional violent incidents in an average sized district in the following 6 weeks.”

Are the causal statements water-tight?  I wasn’t sure but certainly the questions are apt.  This account summarizes many of the study’s findings.