India - International Relations
The new challenges of the Pakistani Army
Salvador Raza argues that Pakistani forces must acquire competencies of insurgent combat by redesigning the system of bellicose capacities, overcoming traditions and corporative interests, and receiving public financial support. From Washington, DC.
The speed and virulence of the vindictive Taliban attacks, under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Falazullah, are presenting strategic and military challenges that neither the policy prepared from the vision of Islamabad, nor the armed forces of Pakistan, were prepared to face.
The Frontier Corps, the reaction and combat units made up of paramilitary elements engrained in the regular forces of the Pakistani Army, which rotate in facing Taliban, have been systematically defeated in the Swat Valley – the perimeter of the most violent type - metaphorically called the “hive of terror”. This term comes from the multiples and superimposed dimensions of existing personal and tribal relationships together with an intense information flow of various mechanisms and transport routes for material support, the most varying stations and shelter and rest areas, and the network of small camouflaged arsenals, which feed the tactical possibilities.
When each one of these elements is analyzed in isolation to identify vulnerabilities and define the optimization of the military tactics of the Pakistani Army, the result is a preconception of threats which justifies the continuity of models used such as “the image and similarity” of their American masters, who dispatched to the region billions of dollars in the last ten years to construct solutions of military face-off for emerging insurgencies in an environment understood as being dominated by a mediaeval confusion of developed political practices by primitive cultures. However, when these elements are integrated into the environment by the vital flow lodged in the virtues of the Shariat, they are transformed into an extremely efficient destruction machine.
It is this machine that the Pakistani forces are facing. In addition, for this they have to abandon military logic constructed for conventional scenarios adapting tactics and doctrines to integrate combative capacities in new decision structures with the support of redesigned intelligence systems and command structures so that troops can react rapidly and with precision against movable targets, even using imperfect information with a high degree of uncertainty.
That is neither easy nor simple. The Pakistani forces were designed to face India in regular combat with the sphere of dissuasion and nuclear force, in an environment of fluid alliances with China and Russia. Now those forces must rapidly acquire competencies of insurgent combat. However, acquiring these competencies is slow, since it is not just military training for insurgency combat in short training courses of a few days. In addition, it is costly and complex, since it involves redesigning the system of bellicose capacities, requiring the overcoming of customs, traditions and corporative interests and mainly demanding public support for the financing of necessary changes. To complicate matters even more, in the defense equation of Pakistan, these two elements are mutually defined: bellicose capacitating of people and potentialization of arms systems that those people will use.
Rather, to transform the Pakistani forces is expensive, takes time, demands a complex political arrangement and mainly the driving of the determination of operational requirements held down by mature practices in prolonged and diversified real combat experiences. Theories, technology and simulations are essential but the requirements of experience are necessary conditions to translate theory into pragmatic shapes of war possibilities that simulations will test before being used in the face-off of forces always in mutation of forms and environments, as is modern systemic terrorism, which defines the practices of the Taliban.
Theories, technology and simulations are essential but experience is necessary to translate theory into pragmatic shapes of war possibilities.
The unfolding lessons of recent combats, although still with limited sample volume, show the need to promote autonomy for military combat units with potential for bellicose facing with the Taliban terror. This is the necessary and essential condition so they may rapidly notice the changes in ways of thinking of their adversaries and dynamically reconstruct their own tactics, to rapidly and profoundly penetrate in their decision cycles to identify, qualify and neutralize the elements, which will transform into arms and strategy in the hands of the terror.
Islamabad has a perfect notion of this need. It knows that only soldiers capable of self transformation in the face of the forces of systemic terror by way of change and contingent engagements of their “I within” against all the uncertainties, for months and even years, may hope to see political effectiveness - the maintenance of effectivity (achievement of goals) of the military results over time, under resource restrictions (efficiency).
Islamabad knows that superior intellectual capacity needed to face ideologically constructed mental models goes beyond the technology to lodge themselves in motivation and sensitization, denoting the acquisition of sensitivity for understanding the nuances and particularities of a cultural environment always in evolution.
However, the Pakistani military leadership is not prepared to quickly modify its present operational standard, based on troop rotation to conflict zones under centralized supervision and control, nor is Pakistani policy prepared to concede the degree of autonomy and freedom to the military that combat logic against ideological Taliban terror support demands. Both resistances are lodged in the fear of creating troops resident in the conflict zone to combat terrorism and see them doing just the opposite.
There is in Pakistan a latent (and in some cases even well explained) sympathy by population (and military) segments for the societal arguments that local resistance uses in defense of its support for the warring tribes of the Taliban. This sympathy extends to the recognition of the dedication of the Taliban effort to socialize security mechanisms in the creation of an equitable political structure. This sympathy validates the forms whereby the Taliban transmutes the results of terror (which for them is just another form of resistance like the French resistants, the Polish and Indian used against their oppressors) in political arguments in the disadvantageous struggle which they wage against governmental institutions foreign to the local needs of the people where the Taliban emerges by force of Shariat.
There is in Pakistan a latent (and in some cases even well explained) sympathy by population (and military) segments for the Taliban.
This latent sentiment could manifest itself as explicit support to the Taliban in the construction of the social-mental-cultural connection between the people and the military, necessary to slowly dissolve the ideological arguments for support for the Taliban. This reversal of the military can give a foundation to the military-mental-social base of sustenance of a separatist Taliban state, hived off from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Therefore, this model may succeed following the example of success in a similar condition used in India; elements of the local population (where resistance lies) would have to be armed by the Pakistani Government. In India, as Popular Brigade Rashtriya (Rashtriya Rifles) were armed by the government to confront, together with the Indian Army, the insurgency in Jammu and Kashimir. The regular army stopped the infiltration and the Popular Brigade hunted and neutralized (a euphemism for lethal force) whoever entered or showed up in the interior defensive perimeter. This model also worked in the northeast of India (a region under the influence of Bangladesh) with the Assam Popular Brigades (Assam Rifles).
However, in Pakistan, differently from India, the risk derived from the use of the model is very high, magnified by the enormous porosity of the frontiers. There is no going back if it does not work! Except that the Americans defend it vigorously including the conditioning the continuity of their financial aid to its implementation, since the success of the new USA policy to “pacify” the region (and not just Pakistan), called Af-Pak Policy. This depends on the creation and maintenance in times of antiterrorist operations undertaken by Popular Brigades together with the regular capacities of the Army.
Pakistan is using resources of military aid donated by the Americans to cover defense expenses, but also social ends, national infrastructure and industrial development. Conceptually this budget use makes sense since a reconstituted social fabric reduces the cooptation of the young to terror, while the armed forces are slowly changed. That is not enough for the temporal requirements of the American policy for the region.
Pakistan is submitted to a sense of urgency that removes the capacity to use time in its favor. Time to reformulate its whole force project and recapacitate its military personnel, while it maintains its dissuasion power against external and internal threats that have the force to, at the limit, extinguish the State. Pakistan needs time. However, the control of operational time is being taken from it by the political compression of factors of local decisions by international priorities, making the design of possibilities bringing Taliban confrontation the greatest and worst challenges of its history.