Counter Insurgency Pakistan III : CI strategies for cold “revolutionary war”

The essential problem for the counter-insurgent stems from the fact that the actual danger will always appear to the nation as out of proportion to the demands made by an adequate response. The potential danger is enormous, but how to prove it on the basis of available, objective facts? How to justify the efforts and sacrifices needed to smother the incipient insurgency? The insurgent, if he knows how to conduct his war, is banking on precisely this situation, and will see to it that the transition from peace to war is very gradual indeed.

Four broad approaches of counter insurgency:

The direct approach consists of depriving the insurgent of any physical possibility of building up his movement. At this stage, the insurgent’s movement generally has no life of its own; everything depends on its leaders, who are, consequently, the key elements. By arresting them or by restricting their ability to contact people, by impeaching them in the courts, by banning their organizations and publications if necessary, the counter-insurgent may nip the insurgency in the bud.

Such a method is easy, of course, in totalitarian countries, but it is hardly feasible in democracies. One of two situations may arise: Either the counter-insurgent government may already have equipped itself as a pre-cautionary measure (even in the absence of pressure) with special powers and laws designed to cope with insurgencies. In this case, the main problem is to act without giving undue publicity to the insurgent, an important matter particularly if the insurgent’s cause has a wide popular appeal.

Pakistan Army tries to engage in some form of media blackout when it comes to TTP but it seems a halfhearted attempt because when Army wants a total blackout say in Baluchistan (no news reaches to rest of Pakistan see Free and independent media?, Daily Times; also Pakistani media does not report on the brutal realities of Balochistan, The News on Sunday).

Whenever it comes to blast and murders by TTP, not only is it announced that Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan called the news channel to take the claim/credit for the terror acts but some journalists go as far as to state that they had ten minute long chat with him.

The best PR for Taliban is done by our free media and I fear that Pakistan Army is keen on allowing that hoping that negative publicity it generates will help turn public opinion against Taliban. Well good luck to them (Pak Army I mean.. as they need every bit of it if this is their strategy).

The other possibility is that the counter-insurgent may not have provided himself in advance with the necessary powers. Thus when he attempts to act directly against the insurgent, he opens a Pandora’s box. Arrests have to be justified. On what basis? Where is the limit to be drawn between normal political opposition, on the one hand, and subversion, which is difficult to define under the best circumstances? The arrested insurgent can count almost automatically on some support from the legitimate opposition parties and groups. Referred to the courts, he will take refuge in chicanery, exploit to the utmost every advantage provided by the existing laws. Worse yet, the trial itself will serve as a sounding board for his cause. The banned organizations will spring up again under other labels, and the counter-insurgent will bear the onus of proving their ties to the old ones.

One can readily see that counter-insurgency was never a priority for government or legislative of Pakistan as the current legal system is seriously lacking firepower to fight this menace (see Anti-Terrorism Legislation, Frontier Post; Pakistan incapable of prosecuting terror suspects, The Telegraph). The laws that they passed were of a different kind  (An Epic Tale Of Loot and Plunder: PPP’s Last 24 Hours in Power, Seedhibaat blog; making fun of President Zardari is banned, The Telegraph). Pakistan recently passed a Fair Trial Act to use electronic surveillance to nab terrorists but it is feared (not without merit) that it may mainly be used for political vendetta or prosecuting those who share President Zardari jokes.

The counter-insurgent will inevitably be impelled to amend normal procedures, but this time under pressure. Since legal changes are slow, the counter-insurgent may be tempted to go a step further and to act beyond the borders of legality. A succession of arbitrary restrictive measures will be started, the nation will soon find itself under constraint, opposition will increase, and the insurgent will thank his opponent for having played into his hands.

It can be therefore concluded with relative safety that the direct approach works well if:
1. The insurgent’s cause has little appeal.
2. The counterinsurgent has the legal power to act.
3. The counterinsurgent can prevent the insurgent from gaining publicity.

Insurgency cannot normally develop unless two essential prerequisites are met: the insurgent’s having a cause, and his being helped initially by the weakness of his opponent. Two other conditions, although not absolutely necessary, are also helpful to the insurgent: geographic factors, and outside support. By acting on these conditions, a counterinsurgent could hope to frustrate the growth of an insurgent movement.

Geographic factors are what they are and cannot be significantly changed or influenced except by displacing the population—an absurdity in peacetime—or by building artificial fences, which is also too costly in peacetime. The question of outside support offers more leeway but rests largely outside the counterinsurgent’s reach.

To deprive the insurgent of a good cause amounts to solving the country’s basic problems. If this is possible, well and good, but we know now that a good cause for the insurgent is one that his opponent cannot adopt without losing his power in the process. And there are problems that, although providing a good cause to an insurgent, are not susceptible of solution. Is there an intelligent solution to the racial problem in South Africa? It will continue to exist as long as two different races continue to live in the same territory.

Alleviating the weaknesses in the counter-insurgent’s rule seems more promising. Adapting the judicial system to the threat, strengthening the bureaucracy, reinforcing the police and the armed forces may discourage insurgency attempts, if the counter-insurgent leadership is resolute and vigilant.

As I showed above, none of the actions highlighted in above paragraph have been on the priority list of government. Yes the rhetoric has been there but no action.

An insurgent movement in its infancy is necessarily small; hence, the views and attitudes of its members have a greater importance at the early period than at any other time. They are all, so to speak, generals with no privates to command. History is full of cases of obscure political movements that floundered and vanished soon after they were created because the founders did not agree and split the movement.

A young insurgent movement is necessarily inexperienced and should be relatively easy to infiltrate with agents who will help to disintegrate it from within and to derail it. If they do not succeed in this, they can at least report its activity.

In Czarist Russia, the Okhrana had succeeded in infiltrating the Bolshevik Party to such an extent and with such zeal that it was sometimes difficult to tell whether the agents were acting as Bolsheviks or as agents. A Grand Duke was assassinated in a provocation engineered by the Okhrana. When the triumphant Bolsheviks seized the Okhrana record, Lenin discovered that some of his most trusted companions had been in the pay of the Czar’s police.

There is much merit in this idea, but it should be remembered that the longer the insurgent movement lasts, the better will be its chances to survive its infantile diseases and to take root. It may of course dwindle by itself, without outside intervention. Relying on luck, however, does not constitute a policy.

Build a political machine at the grass roots in order to isolate the insurgent from the population forever. It should be easier to implement preventively than when the insurgent has already seized control of the population. Such a strategy, to us, represents the principal course of action for the counter-insurgent because it leaves the least to chance and makes full use of the counterinsurgent’s possibilities. It may be useful to remember that a peacetime political machine is built essentially on patronage.

Counter Insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice“, David Galula. First published in 1964

TTP and other terrorist organizations used every advantage that is available to them yet when it comes to available responses from the state, out of the available four routes suggested above, it seems the Pakistani state which comprises of ruling parties ie PPP, MQM, ANP, PMLN and security agencies ie Army, Police, intel agencies decided to go for the fifth one : blame naive Imran Khan (see Imran says he is neither Taliban Khan nor a US stooge, The News).


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