We bring Kilcullenpalooza
to an end with his observations on a few ways of judging the performance of
your local Taliban unit. Significantly, only near the end of the essay does he
focus on the enemy. You listening, S-2s of the world?
So here are some ways to know your enemy:
- "High-technology inserts." When you see the enemy using
satellite phones, sniper optics and high-end roadside bombs, those indicate that
the group may have access to external sponsors, and is a mainline Taliban
outfit, rather than just the local minor league team.
"Insurgent medical health." What shape are detainees
arriving in? The local wannabes tend to suffer from afflictions like
malnutrition, parasitic diseases, TB, and such. "Main force units, on the other
hand, often have a better general level of health," especially if based in
"Presence of specialist teams and foreign advisers." If
you are facing a Taliban group with mortar teams, intelligence teams, and more,
then you are facing the major leaguers. Doubly so if they have foreigners with
"Insurgent village of origin." Where is the guy from? If
he is caught fighting on his home turf, he may well be a part-timer and more
amenable to switching sides. These are the guys to think about reconciling,
especially because "attempts to destroy local guerrillas outright can backfire
by alienating communities, creating blood feuds that perpetuate the conflict."
But guys from outside the district "should be targeted with maximum lethality."
They can be killed without disrupting local relationships -- indeed, the locals
may feel safer without the outsiders
"First to fire ratio." Which side starts the firefights?
That shows who holds the tactical initiative. And the side holding that is
better able to control both its loss rate and that of its opposition. "If they
are losing more of their casualties in engagements we initiate, then we control
their loss rate and can force them below replenishment level and ultimately
destroy the network in question."
"Price of black market weapons and ammunition." Price
fluctuations in common items, such as AK-47s, or bullets for them, are possible
indicators of changes in the enemy's operating tempo. But price increases also
may be signs of greater demand by the local community, or of more effective
"Insurgent kill/capture versus surrender ratio." You can
track enemy morale by following rates of surrender.
"Mid-level insurgent casualties." Pay attention especially
to the middle tiers, the planners, facilitators, specialists, trainers,
recruiters, and low-level operational commanders. This is the guts of an organization,
and so a good indicator of its health. Conversely, you may want to keep alive
the rank and file, who "may be good candidates for reintegration," and the top
guys, who might be convinced over time to give up.
it. Again, I think this is a terrific paper, one of the most insightful things
I've read lately, and one of Kilcullen's best essays. I think it is most
significant for the order of its recommendations. It tells you what not to
track, and then emphasizes measuring the people, the government, the security
forces -- and, lastly, the enemy. It is signed, "David Kilcullen/ Kabul, December