JD has hit the nail on the head here. This is what must be done in Afghanistan. I don’t know if we are doing this at all but I know this is what our team basically did in Iraq. Not that we took a census but we knew who was where and who they supported. You have to have this information in order to effect a strategy to change things. This means being as JD’s website name states, outside the wire. That is everyday. Everything you see, hear, touch or smell is noted and tracked. Read his whole article.
The problem is nothing new. Insurgency is as old as the first empire. The solution is not new either. In fact it is so old fashioned, boring and dull that most military officers over look it. But it works and every time I have a seen a census data-base built by an infantry battalion, the war promptly ends in their area.
The Talibs and their day-laborers can hide in plain sight because US and ISAF forces do not know who everyone is. (This concept shocks some Afghans who think the American surely have some gizmo that tell them who everyone is in a town.) The local Afghans know who everyone is and use that as leverage on the Americans. Relying on local intel is necessary, but you should not rely on the locals to be your phone book.
The best census is very old fashioned and does not use the HIDE system–the HIDE sytem may be used along with a mundane access or even excell spreadsheet, but is just a supplement, not a replacement for a real database. (A good iPhone App could probably do it all with the integration of the photos.)
Soldiers and Marines need hit the streets constantly knocking on every door getting the names of everyone who lives in a house. The GPS grid of the house is noted and used as a street address. A picture of the house is taken with a digital camera. Pictures of the adult males are taken with a digital camera. The file number of the picture is tagged along with the names of the residents and the GPS grid. All of this is added into an Access database. The pictures are on corresponding power-point slides.
Bingo. You now have a clue as to who is supposed to live at that house. When you go on patrol again, you can check and see who is supposed to be in the house and confirm the data. It will take an entire deployment to get a significant database, but once a unit gets enough names, the enemy will have a hard time hiding and move on.
Other info can also be gathered like age, occupation, vehicle license plate numbers, etc.
This old, slow, boring, dull approach to fighting an insurgency works every time. But I rarely see it employed in Afghanistan. Why? It is a lot of work. It is a lot boring, dull, work and a lot of commanders are too smart and sophisticated to understand how such a boring, straight-forward tactic can work. It also looks very un-sexy on a powerpoint slide. (These operations were used more often in Iraq than I have ever seen in Afghanistan.)
Using a census takes advantage of how little Afghanistan changes. Most Afghans live their whole life within a 30 mile area. Most of the extended families have been rooted in an area for centuries.
It does not take long to start putting together what families go together, what clans go together and sub-tribes. The social networks are not complicated.