Counterinsurgency’s proponents argue that one of the best metrics for measuring progress is the number of civilian casualties, an unconventional metric of success for a military operation. Indeed, protecting the population has held a prominent place in ISAF’s doctrine for years. However, by that metric, the statistics released by the United Nations show that the war in Afghanistan is not going well, and is getting worse. But the blame cannot rest fully on the shoulders of coalition forces. According to the report, 75% of civilian casualties were caused by the Taliban and other anti-government forces.
There is a valid worry that this new focus on enemy body counts will only increase the risk to civilians. The metrics you measure determine the actions you take. By demoting civilian deaths and promoting enemy body counts as metrics of progress, commanders will likely be more willing to sacrifice the former to accomplish to latter. Pressed between the Taliban fighters and ISAF units, Afghan civilians are going to face a tough year ahead.