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Security Metrics in COM: effects based analysis.


The methods of measuring progress in any large endeavor are essential, yet often difficult to agree upon. (1) This is particularly true when the endeavor requires qualitative measures. Public debate regarding counterinsurgency (COIN) often raises this issue, but attention span in the news cycle does not permit complex answers to complex problems. (2) This complexity stems in part from the numerous entities involved which include external or foreign forces, host nation (HN) forces, HN government agencies, subsets of the population, and insurgent elements. Given this complexity, how can leaders translate the desired end state into specific tasks for Soldiers? Answering this question first requires clarification of desired outputs of the tasks.

Traditional measures of security in COIN often focus on the number of attacks executed or number of detainees captured. (3) While these are valid measures, a more holistic approach requires an examination of instances resulting in positive outcomes. In this, HN government and population activities are as important as enemy activities. Appropriate measures include events on the timeline in cases with successful outcomes. Such measures can shape priority intelligence requirements and reinforce or shape the commander's assessment of the environment.

Based on this, an examination of the "successful event" timeline or process, starting from the last event back to the beginning significant activity or incriminating act, produces measurable data points. Apart from a lack of casualties, the ideal situation ends in conviction of the insurgent. Prior to this, the security forces must capture the individual and exploit all available evidence at the point of capture or other relevant location. Prior to capture, the security forces must have a warrant or positive identification of incriminating activity. Prior to the warrant the security forces must receive tips or reporting of incriminating activity, such as the assembly of an improvised explosive device. Prior to the tips or reporting, the insurgent must attempt an attack or activity which would lead to a kinetic attack. Thus, six different metrics result from the timeline in case studies with positive outcomes. The acronym SLTWC2 captures these benchmarks for success.

SLTWC2 Security Metrics


2. Local security force networking.

3. Tips and reports.

4. Warrants.

5. Captures and sensitive site exploitation.

6. Convictions.

These metrics serve to evaluate the effects on the environment as well as those on the enemy. In order of priority, desired effects on the enemy include reconciliation, capture, kill, marginalization, or exile. The criteria used to assess as green, amber, or red will vary based on local conditions and the desired end state. Each of the six metrics has unique linkages with each of these effects which can occur at any point in the SLTWC2 cycle. When tied to geographic areas, the six measures serve to indicate progress, stagnation, or regression and the boundaries between one or more of these assessments of the terrain. In all cases, HN buy-in dramatically increases the probability of success. What represents an external threat to the external force is a domestic threat to the HN.

A simple matrix captures the essential bits of information for each of these metrics. A workbook, such as the type typically used for SIGACTs, serves as an excellent tracking tool for the six components. An elaboration of each metric offers insight into the headings for each worksheet in the workbook, as well as their relationship to the five desired effects.

SIGACTS. While SIGACTs only provide a portion of the information necessary to effectively evaluate the environment, (4) they remain valid as one of a number of measures of effectiveness. SIGACTs and the events and resources which precede them are critical as incriminating evidence in the development of the rule of law. When combined with other information, SIGACT data can help explain the reasons for boundaries between permissive and non-permissive areas. SIGACTs also indicate threat group capabilities through the identification, elimination, or proliferation of new or signature tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Key to most successful SIGACT responses is the forensic exploitation of biometrics and ballistics. A qualified investigative officer must be part of this process from the beginning. Depending on the volume and nature of most SIGACTs, the type of crime qualifying as a SIGACT may be broadened or narrowed to include a meaningful yet manageable volume.

Local Security Force Networking. Local security forces are a critical component for evaluation. (5) Even when the actual perpetrator is captured or killed on sight, after a SIGACT occurs the counterinsurgent must know who to call to gain additional information or to explain the circumstances accurately before insurgents do. Security forces must establish roots in the community and fight to maintain them. This is true for both the foreign forces as well as the HN force. It takes a network to defeat a network, and nodal analysis is critical. (6) A key leader engagement with a local leader is good for a foreign force, but there is generally more value added between two or more HN elements. The frequency and outputs of HN key leader engagements allow opportunities for both qualitative and quantitative measures, the two categories of data points in determining success. (7)

In addition to engagements a number of other factors impact success. The existence of liaison officers, an active internal affairs, professionalization (consisting of expertise, corporateness, and responsibility), (8) clear roles and responsibilities (jurisdiction), the ability to gain biometric entries and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requests are some instances which provide opportunities to enhance COIN networking. All these organizations merit nodal diagrams which run vertically and horizontally and show informal relationships. Every driver of instability in a particular environment ties into one or more of the networks in the environment. Network challenges include vacant positions; the transition of former insurgents; the replacement of corrupt, complicit, or incompetent leaders, and political motivations.

Security force networking measures also include nonlethal aspects of COIN. The details of SWEAT-MTA (sewage, water, electricity, academics, trash, medical, transportation, and agriculture) and other elements of intelligence preparation of the environment offer inject points to enhance both the COIN and civil service networks. Hosting meetings to discuss various drivers of instability offers opportunities to increase interaction internal to local COIN and other environmental networks.

COIN leaders from all agencies should shape a common assessment of the enemy and intelligence preparation of the environment. Good networking helps prevent overreactions to significant events. Security forces and other community leaders such as essential service, social, and business leaders must be perceived as a consistently united front and key to a better future. This strengthens rule of law. The external security force must seek to be a catalyst for HN COIN efforts. Local security forces must actually be in the lead, and not just appear to be in the lead. Networking effects are primarily reconciliation of insurgent elements and fence sitters but also lead to the other four effects.

Tips and Reporting. As networking begins, tips and reports will begin to flow in to the extent that support for COIN exists within the community. These can vary from mere rumors to incriminating physical evidence and come from initial contacts or historical relationships. It is important to get sworn statements, and when possible, testimony. Atmospherics, early warning, cache, or high value target locations are most meaningful in areas without significant prior reporting.

Counterinsurgents must be alert to filter false accusations or deceptive information. Tracking the volume, accuracy, tone, and geography of reporting yields key insights into both the enemy and the operational environment. An increase in tips and reporting often indicates an increase in reconciliation and can lead to other desired effects.

Warrants. Following a stream of reporting the counterinsurgent should seek a warrant. Critical to this are topics such as appropriate jurisdiction, judicial independence, and biometric matches. After obtaining a warrant, wanted posters and other targeting efforts possess a greater level of legitimacy. The ability to obtain a warrant depends upon available evidence and probable cause, judicial independence, resistance to corruption and political connections, and investigative and judicial competence.

Investigative officers must be able to analyze and summarize incriminating information as well as gather and present evidence. Warrants are also critical for the release of detainees into HN police custody from external force custody. The publishing of warrants generally results in one of three things: the insurgent is turned in (capture), flees (exile), or claims innocence (reconcile). In all three instances, case development does not end at this point, as the ideal case ends in successful prosecution.

Captures and Sensitive Site Exploitation. After obtaining a warrant, the counterinsurgent typically enjoys increased legitimacy to conduct detentions. Conversely, extralegal actions reduce security force credibility and the perception of professionalism. Like SIGACTs, capture and search actions should include a trained and certified investigative officer to supervise biometric and forensic collection and processing of evidence. The capture must lead to initial and follow on judicial reviews. Proper chain of custody helps determine admissibility in court. This requires timely release of the details of the capture to HN authorities. Understanding HN investigative standards and any gap with desired standards aids the foreign force in providing assistance.

The significance of captures varies according to the detainee's place in the threat order of battle and the willingness to provide information in interrogation. Cache significance varies according to size and content. Detention orders following an unplanned detention reflect positively on the legal environment. Dry holes, indicators of early warning, or subsequent releases often reflect negatively. While a desired end state in itself, capture can often lead to the other four desired end states.

Convictions. True success following a capture includes a conviction in an HN court. This requires the political will to prosecute and knowledge of specific judicial preferences. Key aspects of conviction outcomes include judicial throughput, length of sentences, number of pardons, conviction/acquittal rate, specific roles of the defendants, and the details of testimony. It is important to consider that the need for judicial independence must have a significant impact on meetings with judges.

Failure to convict can result from complicity, incompetence, investigative or judicial corruption, or exposure of false accusations. While most prefer to think of courts as apolitical, courts often demonstrate a certain legal threshold which may or may not be met by available evidence. This requires significant HN administrative skill sets. Within this metric, convictions in cases of external force casualties weigh more heavily than HN victims, as the threshold is generally higher for the external force. Regardless, each conviction marginalizes or exiles a specific threat but can also lead to the other effects.


The use of SLTWC2 enhances planning to better define and apply resources to influence the environment. These metrics flow from the desired end states and the events which precede them. SLTWC2 offers opportunities in subordinate criteria to examine both quantitative and qualitative measures. It also offers commanders opportunities to translate intent into specific tasks for subordinates.

I have successfully used these metrics to evaluate security in partnership with Iraqi forces. While the variables may not be entirely independent, a positive change in SLTWC2 data points coincided with anecdotal atmospheric evidence of success. This success resulted in the reconciliation, capture, killing, marginalization, or exile of significant threat elements. Organization of data collection efforts along these lines can increase the capture of appropriate information which better enables commanders to influence the environment.


(1.) David Kilcullen, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Hearing on HR 1886, the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act 2009, 23 April 2009. 3.

(2.) Eli J. Margolis, "How to Measure Insurgencies," Small Wars Journal Posting, 12 September 2007.

(3.) Jonathan J. Schroden, "Measures for Security in a Counterinsurgency," Journal of Strategic Studies, 32, 5 (October 2009): 715.

(4.) Tom Ricks, "Kilcullen (I): Here's what not to measure in a COIN campaign," Foreign Policy, 8 February 2010. Accessed at here_s_what_not_to_measure_in_a_coin_campaign.

(5.) Tom Ricks, "Kilcullen (IV): How to measure Afghan army and police units," Foreign Policy, 11 February 2010. Accessed at how_to_measure_afghan_army_and_police_units.

(6.) John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Networks and Netwars (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001), 15.

(7.) Jack D. Kem, "Assessment: Measures of Performance and Measures of Effectiveness," Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, April-June 2009, 49.

(8.) Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1957), 8.


Major Charles L. Assadourian is currently the S2 for 2nd Brigade, 1st Calvary Division and recently returned from deployment in MND-N. His last assignment was as the S2X for 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division where he served in MND-B from October 2006 to January 2008. He is a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he received a BA in Political Science. He is a graduate of the Air Assault School, FAOBC, MICCC, and the Signals Intelligence Officer Course. Major Assadourian can be reached at
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Author:Assadourian, Charles
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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