Trojan Tactics

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain comments on this piece

You may disagree but I think Fahd Humayun needs compliments on his ability to articulate exactly what is required in Pakistan today. His emphasis on the non military aspects of the counter movement either COIN or CT hits the nail on the head. The employment of the clergy, exploiting the power of the mosque to slowly dilute the footprint of fascist radicalism, the drying up of financial conduits, the control of drug running, narcotics and arms, the recognition of criminal nexus and how jails can be used for producing fedayeen squads, manipulation of dissensions within the TTP et all are the methods which will work. Force on force, employing weaponry to dilute the lethality of the radically oriented TTP and using large size forces to fight the TTP in its own area which it knows so well, are not measures which will get the Pakistani establishment its gains. 

I am not proffering advice to Pakistan on how to fight its terrorists. I am recognizing the identified aspects which our own establishment has refused to recognize. Ours has been a force on force approach in Kashmir and the Red Corridor. There has been no doctrine specific to the problem. Perhaps we need to take a leaf from the analysis by this young Pakistani who I happened to meet recently. He gave me no inkling of his cerebral capability. Shouldn’t that be worrisome to us; a young Pakistani from its premium think tank, with no ground exposure to CT is able to articulate a counter narrative for the Pakistan Government. I am not sure how many young people from our think tanks have that capability to appreciate which way our policy on Kashmir and the Red Corridor should move. 
Access to Jinnah Insitute’s write ups is a good way of assessing Pakistan’s strategic thinking.
By Fahd Humayun










Last week the PM teetered on the knife-edge of launching a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan. For the first time in months it seemed as if the PML-N had finally come of age and commenced its climb up the steep ladder of national security literacy. But in a U-turn, Team Nawaz announced one final push for mediation with the TTP.

While the PM has finally acknowledged that unmitigated countrywide violence is stymieing stability and economic recovery, he has yet to demonstrate the same resolve in providing direction to Pakistan’s anti-terrorism structures.

The interior ministry’s proposed national security draft, languishing in the corridors of the Cabinet Committee on National Security, is expected to amount to little more than a re-articulation of the all-party conference’s talks-first strategy. The PM’s failure to establish any red lines or TORs for talks in his speech, a halfway house if ever there was one, will only add to the muddied narrative that oxygenates the TTP’s war against the state. (Lack of coherent policy is always oxygen to Separatists and terrorists) 

More worrying is the TTP’s hurried assembly of a 10-member political committee to negotiate with the government. The decision to finally negotiate is loaded with dangerous triggers, and is likely to lend both time and legitimacy to the TTP’s status as a mainstreamed political actor vying for public support.

Still, there are some positives that must be acknowledged: a joint intelligence directorate under a reformed Nacta to coordinate countrywide intelligence-sharing, for instance, is a welcome development. But this alone won’t be enough. In an age where sobering lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan abound, it’s time we move beyond a fight-talk binary.

A French general once described counterinsurgency as a contest between a lion and a flea; in Pakistan’s case, an increasingly adroit flea (the TTP) has demonstrated its prowess to strike anywhere any time, while the lion (the state), despite its comparative advantage, is unable to strike back.

But compared to intermittent counterinsurgency campaigns, an intelligence-driven counterterrorism-plus strategy may offer higher dividends. COIN, by contrast, has two immediate demerits: even if an operation were to be conducted next week, the time lost in strategic dither will have allowed the highest-profile targets to retreat into the woodwork, or worse, Afghanistan. Secondly, the decision to establish a cantonment in Swat suggests that administrative structures are too nascent for the army to fully withdraw.

Against these limitations, the present political leadership must think more creatively about policy alternatives at its disposal. Understanding the TTP’s three-way dependence on ideological mobilisation, a steady financial fountainhead, and an influx of human resource, is vital for furnishing an intelligence-driven strategy that relies on counterpropaganda, fiscal freezing, and covert subversion aimed at striking the TTP’s jugular.(This is the most important paragraph)

The first tier of such a CT-plus strategy will need to target the TTP’s ideological moorings (Right this is). Crucially, a government-sponsored counter-narrative must be organically introduced, beginning with an unequivocal public declaration of domestic terrorism as Pakistan’s foremost security challenge. This must be complemented by unambiguous signalling from the government; one back-to-basics approach could consider bringing the institution of the mosque, whose rural outreach now outstrips that of the state, on board vis-à-vis propagation of synergised anti-terror narratives.(Haven’t we been talking of a National Perception Management Campaign)

The second dimension needs to be aimed at dismantling the TTP’s supply chain and performing a financial vivisection that dries up militant cash flows. Service-delivery vacuums and tattered governance structures in Pakistan’s cities have allowed the TTP to forge patronage networks; profiteering from kidnapping, extortion and bank robberies. A secondary, but equally vital, financial lubricant comes from smuggling and a flourishing drug trade through Afghanistan.(If financial conduits can be strangulated that is the end of such movements; do we have the will and passion to do so)

To stem this backflow of capital, the government will have to surgically subvert fraudulent religious charities and introduce intelligence monitoring in local thanas and kutcheries. Stringent border regulation and narcotics control will have to be brought under a centralised intelligence apparatus.

Thirdly, with organisational cohesion crumbling, CT intelligence should capitalise on the TTP’s internal disarray. Like the concealed Trojans who dismounted while Troy slept and launched an attack from within, there is both room and potential for using reverse strategic depth against the 42 militant factions in North Waziristan.

For instance, if outlier grievances vis-à-vis Fazlullah can be manipulated to interrupt the Mehsuds’ production of fidayeen contingents, the government could have a unique opportunity to separate reconcilables from hardened criminals therein paralysing the production of suicide foot soldiers.

Simultaneously, we need to debunk the effectiveness of parallel CT silos. Punjab’s CT department is being replaced by the Counterterrorism Force, a cardboard cut-out that is fast becoming a nesting ground for retired army officers. Valuable time is being frittered away; time that could be better spent coalescing, equipping and training the state’s intelligence agents to fight enemies within.

To that end, configuring an effective troika of intelligence gathering and infiltration, anchored in robust anti-terror messaging, may be more sustainable in the long run, and allow the state to be sanitised of its militant challenge.

The writer is a project manager for Jinnah Institute’s Strategic Security Initiative. He tweets @fahdhumayun

Please note that the views in this publication do not reflect those of the Jinnah Institute, its Board of Directors, Board of Advisors or management. Unless noted otherwise, all material is property of the Institute. Copyright © Jinnah Institute 2014). Published at The Analyst World in larger interest of Peace in the subcontinent.

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