By Brig Yasub Dogar
Once again history is repeating itself. The army has moved into NW much like it used to be done during the British time. The last major operation in which British Indian Army troops took part before independence took place in 1936-37. It was against the Faqir of Ipi and his followers mainly from the Wazir Tribe. The outcome of that operation remained inconclusive as the Faqir and his lieutenants just went across the Durand Line. A chronicle writes,
‘By April 1937, four extra brigades had been brought in to reinforce the garrisons at Razmak, Bannu and Wana and at the height of the campaign in 1937, some 60,000 regular and irregular troops were employed by the British in an effort to bring to battle an estimated 4,000 hostile tribesmen’
The Frontier warfare has modernized itself to an extent that the Faqir would not be able to recognize what his grandchildren are doing nowadays. Modern communication equipment, IEDs, highly effective cross country transport both the 4 wheelers and most versatile motorbikes were missing from the TO & E of the tribesmen then. The PGMs, explosive detection devices, use of communication jammers and scanners, the extremely capable helicopters particularly the armed helicopters are the innovations on the side of the Government. However the main ingredients, extremely tough terrain, population totally out of political agent’s control or under intimidation by the insurgents, concealment particularly of movement, difficulty in identification of friend and foe, going back over their promises and agreements etc. have remained the same. Though some semantic changes like Frontier Warfare being called COIN have taken place.
The Government and in particular the Pak Army must have exhausted their patience due to continues breaking of ceasefire agreements by the Taliban. The intelligence reports coming to the Government and their analysis must have indicated that this menace if not tackled now, would spread to all major cities. It has already taking control of 1/5th of Karachi. The ceasefire was being used aggressively for advancement their networks into all major cities. It is also felt that the groups operating in NW have linkages with Al Qaeda affiliates, and with Islamic army of Levant. If not tackled now it will become an opposition of gigantic proportions with growing foundations in public suffering from extremely bad governance, corruption, inefficiency and despicable behavior of their elected representatives.
NW operations are basically small unit actions they are the battle of young leaders. At times one feels that we are educating our young officers at a much higher level than required. It is basically minor tactics, good field-craft and battle discipline like fire control which will win in the end. Let us not suffer from Kargil syndrome where highly educated senior officers messed the basic drills and requirements and created the biggest blunder causing unreasonable casualties to the Pak Army.
The main objectives of the Army operation should be:
- Gaining total control over population by evacuation to a controlled location i.e., move to IDP camps, sifting and registration.
- Achieving effective physical control over the operational area, clear it of all opposition.
- Destruction of Taliban capabilities to cause any future damage by destruction of IEDs manufacturing facilities, tunnel complexes, ammo storages/depots etc. Full sanitization of the area is required.
d. Simultaneously mitigating the human sufferings of the IDPs to the maximum being the only organization having the capability and manpower to help them.
Such a capability could be achieved in 45 to 60 days and then give way to consolidation phase. After the major operations are over the pattern adopted should be precision guided strikes by PGMs followed by Special Operations by well trained infantry units. Americans went over to special operations long time back. They resorted to the use of drones, Special Forces for the eliminating targets e.g. Osama Bin Ladin. It would have been appropriate if we had recourse to surgical strikes, on comm centres, IED factories, training places, caves complexes etc. whenever any hostile Int Reports came. A continues low intensity process to degrade the Taliban would more paid dividends. However now that a full fledged ground operation has been launched let us hope that it ends quickly and the IDPs are back in their homes by the end of this year. It looks that the Army will have stay for a number of years to give back up support to the civil administration. It is felt that a brigade each at Miramshah, Razmak and Wana with the Div HQ at Dera Ismael Khan would be enough for this purpose soon.
Consolidation Phase: During this period the Government writ should be fully restored and re-established. It is the ability of the civilian officials of the State to work without fear, let or hindrance which will decide the success of the Operation.
- The officials forced to leave the area should be brought back and made to officiate from their place of work within the NW.
- It should be followed by a controlled move back of population to their homes.
Settlement and Rehabilitation Phase: It should be the final phase in which everyone is moved back in a phased programme, village by village, killi by killi. Each village Malik made responsible for his folks and flock along with responsibility comes authority which needs to be given to him. Let the development work be pressed through him till proper civic bodies can take over after introduction of local body elections.
The Pakistan Army’s Role: It has carried out lots of civic and reconstruction activity in the area in last 5 years. It should be further developed. Some of important avenues are:
a. Capacity Building of LEAs & Civil Officers: By far the most important task, It has been 5 years that Army Operations concluded in Swat however the Army has not been able to de-induct itself for want of suitable alternate. In Waziristan also you will require 1st rate political officers backed up by effective LEAs. The Army needs to build up the capacity of the civil administration to be able to perform effectively failing which they are in for a long and frustrating stay.
b. Communication Infrastructure: The 3rd trade corridor to Afghanistan is an excellent idea, it should be fully exploited and developed, and Afghan Transit Trade meant for her central region should be diverted here. It will ease the congestion at Peshawar besides opening up new employment opportunities for the tribesmen.
c. Rehab& Develop Old Railway Structure: This is required particularly for integrated development of 3rd trade corridor to Afghanistan. The Railway track from Kohat to Thal &Mari Indus to Bannu should be rehabilitated and converted into a broad gauge track. They should be further extended to Tank and developed till Zhob. No one can deny the requirement of a 3rd north – south railway link up to Gwadar.
FATA Reforms: They have been spoken off for too long and too often but without any result. The FATA Assembly and Agency Councils on the pattern of Provincial Assemblies and District Councils should be formed immediately after the consolidation phase as part of rehabilitation phase. Let the people of FATA govern themselves as in other provinces.
Conclusion: It looks that Pak Army has to continue to play a leading role in overall transformation of whole FATA and in particular its remotest area of Waziristan. The corruption, indecisiveness and incompetence of the Federal Government precludes any sane decisions by them in the required timeframe. Since the die is cast they may as well get the decision making wheels of a dysfunctional government move in the right direction.