Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
Thursday, February 11, 2010 - 7:18 AM
Next, COIN thinker David Kilcullen offers these
helpful ways of measuring local security forces.
"Kill ratio." Body counts stink. But the ratio of enemy
killed vs. security forces killed may tell you how aggressive and confident an
Afghan unit is. Note that you must handle these numbers very carefully. Kills
caused by indirect fires such as mortars and artillery must be excluded. And be
careful of civilian casualties. Pare this ratio down to its essential core, he
says: Count only confirmed kills or captures directly inflicted by the unit on
positively identified insurgents who were engaged in combat at the time. Even
then, the ratio is only useful when interpreted alongside other information.
"Win/loss ratio." Another well duh metric. But don't pay
attention to the overall number, but instead to the trend. And don't count
actions won by bringing in allied units, or air strikes or artillery.
"Kill versus wound/capture ratio." A unit that is killing
more than one person for every three to five wounded or captured may be
executing people or posthumously defining dead civilians as the enemy. "[A]s an
indicator of possible security force brutality this needs to be tracked."
"Detainee guilt ratio." This is an ingenious way to track
the quality of an ‘Afghan unit: Track
how many of their busts turned out to be righteous. A low rate can be
counterproductive and be driving military age males toward the Taliban.
Conversely, a high rate indicates a unit that is getting good intelligence and
so probably gaining the confidence of the local population.
"Recruitment versus desertion rates." Despite huge
recruitment efforts, Afghan security forces in the south actually shrank last
summer, he says. But don't worry about AWOL rates, because soldiers go home to
deliver their pay.
"Proportion of ghost employees." Pay attention to the
"Duration of operations," "night operations" "small unit
operations" and "dismounted operations." Four good indicators. A unit that only
does single day operations and then comes home to its fort is a unit lacking
confidence or energy. Conversely, a unit that conducts multi-day operations,
staying among the people, or operates a lot a night, is a unit that feels
confident in its environment. Night operations in particular can help a
population feel safe, if they intended to protect the people rather than scare
them. Units that break out into smaller operations are showing more confidence
and covering more areas. Units that are comfortable operating on foot are more
among the people, especially in a country that has many roadless areas.
"Combined action operations." Army and police units
working together, and cooperating also with coalition forces, is a good sign.
"Driving technique." The worse a unit drives around
people, usually the worse its relationship with the people. (Tom: I think this
like many of his observations in this section, applies to our own forces as
"Reliance on air and artillery support." Calling Keith
"Pattern setting and telegraphing moves to the enemy." The
first is usually bad. Surprisingly, the second isn't. Kilcullen says that
calling ahead and warning a local valley about a move is very much in the
Afghan tradition, and that the Taliban tends to seek permission before moving
into a village. So, he says, it is sometimes appropriate to say that if the
Taliban doesn't leave a valley in 10 days, we might be forced to come in.
of the high ground at dawn." Who is up there, the Afghan security forces or the
Taliban? This is one of the eternal verities.