City scientists help predict future of Afghan war

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Models to accurately predict the future of military conflicts based on classified information from the Afghan war revealed by whistleblower website Wikileaks have been created by scientists at the University of Sheffield.

Using war logs with about 77,000 events including location, day and time of occurrence and other details from the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009, the scientists – including experts from the universities of Edinburgh and Columbia, USA – were able to predict armed opposition group activity way into the future of the battle.

The researchers’ model was able to create an accurate prediction of armed opposition group activity in 2010, based solely on the data from the previous years, including which provinces would experience more and less violence as well as anticipate by how much the level of violence would increase or decrease.

The new technology could be used in the future to help better plan deployment of resources, including soldiers, and better manage conflicts.

Professor Visakan Kadirkamanathan, a co-author, head of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and member of the Centre for Signal Processing and Complex Systems, said: “Conflict dynamics models of the type developed here can provide forecasts of the levels of conflict with a degree of uncertainty, and reveal geographically spatial patterns in the conflict.

“The dataset used in this study is the Afghan War Diary, a compendium of military war logs released by the whistleblower site Wikileaks in 2010 associated with the war in Afghanistan. Its disclosure is unprecedented in the history of modern warfare.”