Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 7:57 AM
Back to David Kilcullen's essay on what
works in counterinsurgency, what doesn't, and how to tell the difference.
But first, a couple of points in response to yesterday's
rasher of comments. First, to my knowledge, the paper hasn't been published
anywhere -- but I'll skate as close to the copyright laws as I can and give you a
good overview. Second, Kilcullen isn't out to attack all metrics, just bad
metrics. Which leads us to the point of today's post. Yesterday, he told you why
he dismisses certain metrics as unhelpful. Today, he discusses how to tell what
effect your operations are having on the
- "Voluntary reporting." How many tips are you getting from
the population? And how many of them are unsolicited? He warns that this metric
must be assessed in the context of how many tips pan out. The more accurate the
tips, the more confidence the population has in your and your allies in the
- "IEDs reported versus IEDs found." This one took me a
moment to get my mind around. "Accurate reporting indicates that the population
is willing to act voluntarily to protect the security forces." Variations in
this rate may be a good indicator of local support for security forces and the
government, he says.
- "Prices of exotic vegetables" and "Transportation prices."
Now we are getting into the nitty gritty. Anything that embarrasses your S-3 as
he discusses it in the briefing probably is a good metric. Until now most of
DK's recommendations have been more or less rooted in common sense. But to
understand this weird one, you need to understand local conditions. What people
are paying for vegetables grown outside their district is a quick indicator of
road security. Trucking companies factor in the risks they face, as well as the
cost of bribes and other forms of corruption. So variations over time may be a
helpful indicator of trends in public perception of security conditions and the
corruption level of government security forces.
- "Progress of NGO construction projects." A better
indicator than government-sponsored works, which, he notes, "the insurgents may
attack on principle." NGO projects go well when materials prices are stable,
the labor supply is adequate, and security problems aren't interfering.
- "Influence of Taliban versus government courts." If the
locals trust the Taliban-run courts more than the government's, you have a
problem. How many cases are each handling in a given district?
- "Participation rate in programs." Both the government and
the Taliban have a variety of economic and community programs. Which are more
- "Taxation collection." What is the compliance rate with
government taxes, vs. Taliban taxes?
- "Afghan-on-Afghan violence." Unlike sigacts against
coalition forces, he says, this is a good measure of public security.
- "Rate of new business formation and loan repayment." A
good indicator of public confidence. He notes that Afghans tend to have a low
rate of business formation but a high rate of repayment.
- "Urban construction new start rate." Another good
indicator of confidence in a given area.
of local people with secure title to their house and land." This one really
surprised me. Kilcullen says that the Taliban has used land disputes adroitly,
sometimes settling them justly to further their influence, and at other times
exacerbating them to gain the allegiance of one side. The higher the percentage
of secure titles in a given area, the less chance for the Taliban to step in
and exploit the situation. Can you imagine being a new battalion commander in
the area trying to keep up with this stuff? Tribes, women, feuds, land disputes,
religion -- it is just too hillbilly
for me. Where is Andrew Exum when
you need him? Probably off writing up the new policy for Afghanistan.