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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 …