Wednesday, February 6

Pakistani Army's performance against the Taliban

Enclosed is what is said to be an email conversation between 2 Pakistani Army Officers on the presence and performance of the Pakistani Army in Waziristan. One wonders if the grand poo-bah's know about this in the USA, EU and UK?

Read and wonder:


  • Waziristan is the testing ground, the acid test of Pakistan Army's worth in the so- called war against terrorism.
  • What is the Pakistani intelligence ? An intelligence operative stated that they don't have the guts to go out of a fort of FC in Waziristan. They meekly step out of a Qila (fort)  and stop some truck drivers and ask what's going on. From what they scramble all the guys from Military Intelligence, the ISI , the Corps Intelligence and the FC Intelligence sit down and make a generally similar report. The guy who compares all reports in GHQ jumps with joy when he sees all these reports and states that all reports can be cross checked and are correct. There is the Sab Accha mentality since Mughal times. Sab Accha means All Correct. So in the final summing it is gleefully concluded that the writ of the Pakistani Government is established in all parts of tribal areas! Glory be to Allah. (Correct analysis.  Militants are after their blood and a large number of spooks are hunkered down. Both in tribal and settled areas they have assasinated some intelligence opereratives.)

  • I recently met some mid-ranking and major-general level army officers and discussed Waziristan with them. We concluded:
    • Waziristan is a case of clash of interests among  ambitious officers trying to get a good chit (report) and serious regimental officers who see soldiering as a way of life. The fast-track guys want to bash up some villages with artillery fire and do some dog catching for Americans and improve their career index called OEI.
    • The first major disaster was Lt.-Gen. Safdar, a Punjabi and a careerist. He wanted a fast-track approach for the problem, .His policy was bomb everyone, kill everyone and get the feathers in the cap for being a conqueror. This was counter-productive. The armed forces lost all credibility in this area. Safdar was finally packed off to the post of director logistics in the army Headquarters a post seen as waiting area for dumped generals. (Any Corps commander will exceute GHQ policy and not his own independent one. However, two important duties are reporting facts to higher ups even if they are unpleasant and second giving honest opinion. If he thinks that he cannot carry our given orders then only honorable course is to ask reassignment or resignation.  I think Safdar was chosen because of his intelligence background. Safdar became the poster child of Pakistan's ill thought policy.  One day he was firing at 'terrorists' and second day he was garlanded by them at 'peace' meetings.  Pakistan's credibility graph went in negative with such ill thought actions. I think he got some significant illness therefore he was removed from active command.)
    • Lieutenant General Hamid Khan, a Pashtun armored corps officer from 11 Cavalry was not effective. During his tenure the army was neither here nor there. He was serving for most of the time when the Waziristan accord had been signed. (Most Puhstun officers both civil and military are strong advocates of some kind of a deal and removal of regular troops from tribal areas ; the earlier the better.  Iftikhar Hussain, Ali M. Orakzai, Hamid Khan worked as team.  Many others are essentially on the same page.  Hamid was chosen because of his earlier stint at IGFC and familiarity with the crisis.)
    • The present corps commander Masud Aslam was a Kargil Warrior! (Major Amin is not being complimentary.  (The fortunes of Kargil warriors are well known.  The absurd position of Pakistan which made it a laughing stock among professional soldiers was the fact that country denied that any of its regular soldiers were involved and then distributed a truck load of gallantry awards to dead and living who participated in the operation.  Masud was commanding 80 Brigade and got a SJ.  To prove that Kargil was success, Mussharraf promoted a large number of them above Lt. Col. level. At senior level, it later created an awkward position.  Those Corps Commanders and senior officers who were 'Kargil Ghazis' gave full support to Mussharraf while those who were not part of it voiced opinions which sometimes ran against Chief's wishes.) He again tried to introduce the Safdar policy with disastrous results.
    • One Major General level divisional commander stood out. Strangely it was a Shia officer, Major General Mir Haider. (?in what capacity he was operating?  7th and 9th Div commanders are operational commanders but in view of induction of additional troops from other garrisons I don't know how this is being worked out at senior level?) Although a Punjabi he understood the Pasthun psyche and did well. His modus operandi was psy war. Healing the tribal eg . Gifting copies of Holy Quran.
    • Another Major General Sahi was a failure. Again he was using the Safdar approach. Kill , batter , destroy and bomb. Sahi had close links with the Quisling PML (President Musharraf's political party: the writer believes Pakistan has sold out to the Americans) as his brother was a politician from that party. In words of a direct participant officer, he was also a total failure. He was finally packed off as commandant of infantry school. Another resting place of dumped generals. In his dining out he said that he had established writ of Pakistani Government in Waziristan and was corrected there and then by a serving army officer that this was a white lie. He was challenged that he could not drive with his GOC's flag from Miran Shah to Bannu even with an escort! He was infamous in the Frontier Corps Officers for trying to prod them to attack this village or that because he wanted to get a good chit from his bosses. (I think a number of officers were shuffled to try to get some semblance of control on operations.  I think GHQ wanted full control of even minor details and did not allow any room for independent action for officers in charge making things difficult.  In addition, I think nobody wants to hear about any set back while engaging in a very messy operation.  I don't know how much attention is being paid to the coordination between divergent group of soldiers i.e. regular troops, FC and SSG.  Peshawar and Kohat GOCs were shuffled and SSG commander was prematurely retired.  Another Kohat GOC was shunted away after the SSG ambush with loss of many soldiers.)
    • A serving army officer in that area compared Pakistan Army and the FC in Waziristan to a mouse running from point A to point B while he said that the tribals were the lazy cat watching this despicable mouse.
  • We further concluded:
    • The great danger is not Pakistan but the fall-out after its demise.   
    • The great danger to the West is not the hopeless Pakistani state but non-state actors
    • The more Pakistani Don Quixotes are proved to be spineless clowns in Waziristan, the more dangerous the situation becomes.
    • Warfare has become cheap. It is easy to rock the boat and non-state actors are good at this.
    • The front is unclear. The distinction between friend and foe unclear.   (Excellent summary and I agree.)
  • My assessment is that if the Americans decide to knock out Pakistan , in strategic terms , there will be no resistance in Punjab and Sindh ,only the Pashtuns will be their adversaries and the settled area Pashtuns will be as hopeless as the Punjabis and Sindhis. (I disagree with this assessment.  I know that in Pakistan everbody believes that every American is ten foot tall and U.S. can do everything.  In addition, every Station House Officer (SHO) of police station is appointed after consultation with Washington.  Off course Washington has some influence but it is grossly exaggerated.  It is the behaviour of Pakistanis (both official and non-official) which detremines this influence.  Contrary to popular belief and all conspiracy theories rampant in Pakistan, I do not think that a destabilzied or fractured Pakistan is in U.S. interest.  Washington follows its interests and not in the business of running a charity.  If Pakistan agrees to work with Washington, it will get some benefits.  If it decides not to work then it will not get the largesse.  We charge a rent from our own son when he gets 18 and decides to stay in the house.  It will be extremly naive for Pakistanis to expect that they will get regular checks from Washington without any strings attached. Important thing is to focus on common interests and try not to be romantic.  There may be disagreements about how to tackle non-state actors but in my humble view rise of non-state actors of all varieties is a threat to every nation state.  It is a recipe for anarchy and Pakistan is already suffering from its ill effects.  It is upto Pakistanis to decide how they are going to cope up with this painful problem. Those who are targeting worshippers in mosques or dragging members of different sects from buses and summaralily executing them are no freinds of Pakistan.)
  • Pakistan's military and political establishment is simply hopeless. This theme is discussed in my article "5 minutes over Islamabad" (the article details how the US forced Pakistan to join it's side in the GWOT.) The Pakistani military junta has already lost all credibility with the Pakistani population and cannot control the situation.
  • Even the Americans will not achieve much if they enter Waziristan. The terrain is bad and Americans will be a good cause for Jihad. (Looking at the ignorant and arrogant way of some of the U.S. military policies of recent past, direct U.S. involvement may speed up the process of fragmentation of Pakistan and may further destabilize Afghanistan rather than helping curbing the violence.) The solution is withdrawal from Waziristan and regime change in Pakistan. The Americans should let the hopeless Paki politicians do the dirty job of all this.
  • As an officer who served in Pakistan Army I would sum up the situation as following:
    • The Pakistani High Command a Punjabi-Mohajir (Mohajirs are Pakistans who migrated from India to the new country of Pakistan in/after 1947) team lacks the grey matter or resolve to deal with the tribals.
    • The troops they are commanding have lost faith in the cause they are fighting for. This is the worst thing for an army.  (Army is the last and not the first instrument to be used in such situations.  When all is said, in a multiethnic country like Pakistan, army is the only institution which can act as a temporary measure against a serious internal threat.  If army fractures along existing faultlines then this is a recipe for a prolonged civil war. On my recent trip, I visited a battalion.  I think despite serious pressures, the professionalism and discipline maintained by armed forces is admirable.  We are fighting wars in foreign lands (Iraq & Afghanistan) but in 2006 about 1300 soldiers went AWOL while the number in 2007 was about 1400.  Looking at this I think Pakistan army has done well although it paid a price.  Having said that every effort should be made not to stretch it to the limits especially in the context of internal security duties.)
    • All said and done the tribals can be dealt politically. (Lot of things can be achieved quitely without any fanfare. Both Washington and Islamabad need to learn that simple fact.) Any Pakistani officer who is posted as commander 11 Corps is a job seeker. He is trying to be a Napoleon and a Punjabi cannot be a Napoleon with a tribal!
    • The present Governor of NWFP Owais Ghani has already miserably failed in Baluchistan. He is regarded as a non-Pashtun as he is the hated Hindko Punjabi (we dont know what Hindko means; Hind generally refers to India)  speaking from Peshawar city just like General Kakar, whose first cousin he is.
    • The whole situation requires a change in command in Pakistan from top to bottom.

    Since Mussharraf is connected with everything which has gone wrong therefore even if now he wants to sincerely do something it is very diffciult for him to accomplish anything.  The minimum requirement is that he should leave the scene.  Although the popularity graph of army is at its lowest ebb, however if things go further sour with large scale and more bloody violence then everyone will look at the army. Everything is relative.  There is an old saying that 'show them the death and they will love fever'.  New army chief has to then chart out new course.  He would prefer to work behind the scene a la General Aslam Beg. 

    Washington needs to understand the complexity and gravity of the situation.  We can not afford to ignore painful lessons of Iraq.  Our every ill thought action generated problems which were worse than the original issue which we intend to solve. I think our ignorance coupled with arrogance has only given us grief and caused more misery around the globe and made us less safe.  There are genuine problems and threats but I think a different approach is needed.  It is better to live with some nuances to avoid serious headaches.  Perspectives need to be changed.  There are only few venomous insects which can seriously endanger life.  However there are a number of fleas.  A flea can not kill it's victim but if it gets into the pants it can make life miserbale.  One can not work, sleep or enjoy life.  Problems of Pakistan will be solved only by Pakistanis.  A stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan is in U.S. interest.  A Pakistan where every Pakistani is part of the nation.  A weak Pakistan with numerous non-state actors is a nightmare for everyone. 

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