Airstrike-only Military Interventions and Their Civilian Consequences - Evidence from the Kosovo War

Led by Chandler Williams

Jan 2022 – May 2022

Master's project in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Oslo.

Master's project in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Oslo.

  • PRIO Supervisor: Andreas Forø Tollefsen

In airstrike-only third-party military interventions, what are the consequences bore on civilians? Prior studies have worked towards answering this question but lacked a “clean case” where only two warring groups were intervened upon. The lack of “clean cases” provides noise in making causal estimates between airstrikes and civilian victimization. I fill this gap by exploring the Kosovo War, where NATO intervened with airstrikes against the Yugoslav forces who were fighting the KLA guerrillas. I link high-resolution spatiotemporal data on civilian victimization to a novel dataset I created with all known NATO airstrikes to investigate this relationship. I find that levels of civilian victimization increased shortly after the introduction of strikes and following a shift in strike strategy. Yet, I also find that while strikes at-large increased civilian victimization, in municipalities recently struck, they decreased the levels of civilian victimization. However, strikes also increased the expected count of civilian victimization following battles and troop losses. Therefore, while strikes were effective in municipalities recently struck, I find they increase the expected levels of civilian victimization through other means. This study shows the implications of airstrike-only interventions and has implications on future policy and military strategy.

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