Classic and modern theories of asymmetric warfare emphasize the role of combat tactics rebels employ against better equipped government forces. In our model, rebels acquire information about government vulnerabilities and calibrate the timing of their attacks. We test implications of the model using highly detailed data about Afghan rebel attacks and U.S.-led counterinsurgent operations as well as previously unreleased military information about rebel-led spy networks. Leveraging quasi-random variation in revenue from the opium trade, we find a robust link between local economic shocks and the patterns of rebel attacks, which is significantly enhanced in areas where rebels spy on and infiltrate military bases. Shortages of rebel fighters and increases in government surveillance operations reduce attack clustering. Finally, we present the first evidence that the clustered timing of rebel attacks undermines soldier efficiency, leading to an increase in bomb-related casualties to government troops.
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