National and International Issues

The Decade of War (2003-2013)

A Retrospective Review and the Future Strategic Landscape

The Strategic Context

Due to the nature of international state system and global security structure, the situation in any country today cannot be studied in isolation. All countries are beaded into the same geostrategic string and the entire world is part of the same geo-political atlas. The issues of one country are not diametrically different from the others. Information technology of today's postmodern age has further shrunk the world and worked towards globalization of even the matters of purely local nature. The incidents like 9/11 are certainly not local in stature dec2and consequence. 9/11 heralded another epoch of strategic transformation in the world. The world immediately moved from post-Cold War period into post-9/11 era. Note that all states, whether big or small and developed or developing, were directly or indirectly affected by 9/11 and its aftermath. It seemed that practical manifestation of the argument of history as a dialectical process posited by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and subsequently advanced by Karl Marx was indeed an armed dialectic between the states and societies, and was reinforced as an armed exchange as the time elapsed. The twentieth century witnessed the two greatest wars of the history of mankind followed by a string of revolutionary wars driven by various stimuli and rationale from ethnic to nationalist, and anti-colonial to communist.

Wars, both interstate and intrastate have remained the biggest reality of the human history. Peace, in essence, fostered on the sidelines of conflicts and in the pauses between wars. With the end of the Cold War and thus “the End of History,” Francis Fukuyama saw decline in interstate wars through a process of global democratization. Partially true! Partially, for it did not come about the way he envisioned. Whereas the Western world is geographically away from the “war zones” of the world, it is not practically isolated from the kinetic dec3processes and commotions in different regions of the world. Thus, wars, whether interstate or intrastate, do not take place outside the strategic agenda of the states steering the international state system. On a purely strategic note, occurrence of odds like 9/11 and strategic surprises like Crimea are an altogether different issue. Such odds and surprises too have ramifications for a given state, region and at times the whole world. So was the case with the terror incident of 9/11, which not only led to military but also strategic transformation of different regions of the world including South-Central Asia. Volatility in FATA and the Employment of Security Forces

International forces led by the US entered Afghanistan in October 2001. Thus, Pakistan became the neighbour of the most powerful states of the world, which were fighting a unique kind of war, and was thus deeply affected by another spell of instability in Afghanistan. Internal security situation in the country started worsening. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), due to geographical proximity, ethno-linguistic bondages, religious affinity and historical linkages with Afghanistan, became the most affected part of dec4Pakistan. It turned into a breeding ground for militancy, something that worked to evolve the security environment of the country on newer lines. The government was left with no choice but to employ the security forces to respond to the challenge of militancy.

In accordance with Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan, security forces including the Army and Air Force were tasked to act in aid of civil power in the conflict-ridden FATA soon after the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and deterioration of security situation on the Pakistani side. The Frontier Corps (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), Khassadars and police (in KPK and PATA) also invigorated their security related tasks. The year 2003-04 saw a rejuvenated counter militancy campaign in various areas of FATA including South Waziristan Agency (SWA). Since then, Pakistan has endured massive violence both as a state and society.

It has been an inimitable war both in manifestation and magnitude. The unique feature of this war has been the involvement of the entire society rather than the security forces alone, albeit the security instrument of the state spearheaded the kinetic part of the war. The face of war kept changing during this Decade of War (2003-2013) with numerous ups and downs. Certainly, it had external linkages, both positive and negative. Significant part of foreign forces is expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Conciliation and dialogue is being tried in Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan also has decided to give peace a chance. Spearheaded by the Federal Government, these efforts are being supported by all institutions of the state, while the security forces are fully ready for operation, if inevitable. People are up on the heel to view the outcome of reconciliation efforts. The issue deserves a retrospective analysis with what could and should the future look like.

The Campaign Strategy

The overarching policy of the government for countering militancy in FATA revolved around three Ds: Deterrence, Development and Dialogue. Deterrence denoted proportionate use of force where inescapable. Development signified physical measures for socio-economic advancement of the conflict-hit areas including FATA. Dialogue insinuated reconciliation efforts by the government with the militant elements ready to change course and join the social mainstream of Pakistan.

All three Ds were played by the government during the Decade of War with varying enormity in different areas and during different years. Insofar as deterrence is concerned, security forces’ operations were perpetually launched wherever unavoidable. As regards development, the government certainly did its bit. The Army supported, and in some areas spearheaded, the development prong too. A number of dialogue efforts were also carried out by the government during the Decade of War.

Within the national framework, Pakistan's security forces evolved a four-phased operational strategy: Clear, Hold, Build and Transfer. This strategy has been conceptually linear for a given area, but non-linear when applied over the entire conflict-hit area. This means different phases of operations for different areas where security forces are employed. A small area, about 3% of FATA, is still in the first phase i.e. Clear. A little more than that is in Hold phase. Most of FATA and PATA is in Build phase, undergoing reconstruction, and is nearing Transfer. A part of Malakand division has been transferred to the civil administration i.e. already over with the fourth phase.

The Cost of War

The Decade of War incurred heavy cost, which can be analyzed from four different angles: physical, economic, social and psychological. On physical count, the Pakistani society suffered heavily. Pakistan was ranked the second most terror-hit country (only behind Iraq and even ahead of Afghanistan) in “Global Terrorism Index - 2012” based on the data on terrorism from 2002 to 2011. According to data maintained by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) Islamabad, some 18,687 Pakistanis were killed and 51,632 injured in armed conflict and suicide attacks from 2007 to 2012. These are modest figures, only covering the armed encounters and suicide attacks. Actual number of Pakistanis who embraced shahadat in various acts of crime and terrorism are much more and those injured or incapacitated are certainly over 200,000 (Human Security in Pakistan by Ehsan Mehmood Khan, Narratives, 2013, p.105). Casualty statistics estimated by a research project of the Watson Institute for International Studies showed 60,013 Pakistanis (35,600 Pakistani civilians, 3,520 security forces personnel and 20,893 militants) killed from 2001 to mid 2011. Some of the sources also show over 51,000 fatalities in the country from 2003 to 2013.

In the course of research, the researchers and scholars should be sure of the biases or objectivity of the source. To note, the sources such as the Delhi-based South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) and the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) are being paid by the Indian military establishment and are working on a given agenda. It is therefore better not to consult and cite such sources. Pakistan Security Report annually published by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) and Pakistan Conflict Tracker of the Centre for Research and Security Studies are better sources to cite insofar as the incidents of violence, other security related episodes and details of casualties are concerned. Figure-2 shows the details of violent acts and resultant casualties in Pakistan from 2005 to 2013.

On the economic plane, Pakistan has endured over $100 billion loss during the Decade of War as a direct consequence of terror incidents. Public and private property worth billions has been damaged or destroyed. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) went down from $5-6 billion in 2005-06 to just over $300 million in 2013. The country has seen worrisome magnitude of capital flight during the recent years. The tiny industry of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has suffered badly. On the whole, national economic progress has endured unprecedented challenges. One can note with satisfaction that Pakistan's economy is again showing the signs of progress as noted by international finance institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

dec5The social cost of war can be viewed in the lasting dents in country's social fibre. The war has engendered a number of fissures and fault-lines in the society which would take some time to mend. Education has suffered badly in the conflict-hit areas of FATA and KPK. According to a report titled “The State of Pakistan's Children-2011,” a total of 710 schools had been destroyed or damaged by militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some 640 schools were destroyed in Malakand, while 70 educational institutions were destroyed or damaged in various other districts of the province. Statistics on the school destroyed and damaged vary. Yet, the fact remains that the schooling of millions of children across the country has been affected. Around 600,000 children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa missed one or more years of education due to militancy (Dawn, September 12, 2012). The word “Taliban” is the plural of Talib, which literally means student. Imagine the magnitude of devastation brought about by these so-called “students” to the educational institutions in a country which is already moving with heavy feet on the path to literacy. The wave of destroying schools has pushed the affected areas back in decades if not in centuries.

Besides physical loss, the wave of terror has been responsible for psychological effects, too. All sections of society endured loss, damage, fear, terror, harassment, duress and anxiety. Nearly 0.4 million individual Pakistanis have undergone shock and trauma. The Challenge of IEDs Paul Wilkinson, former Director of the University of St. Andrews Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence noted: “Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.” This is true in all cases but even more veritable for the incidents involving Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in which human and material loss is comparably more than other terror incidents. Unfortunately, IEDs have become a weapon of choice for the terrorists around the world, more so for the groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It is of note that Pakistan is not the only country hit by the menace of IEDs. According to U.S. Lt Gen Michael D. Barbero, former Director of USA's Joint IED Defeat Organization, who noted in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on May 18, 2013, “Around the world, there have been more than 700 IED explosions each month outside of Iraq and Afghanistan – for a total of more than 17,000 explosions in 123 countries since January 2011. These statistics clearly indicate that IEDs will remain a threat for the foreseeable future.” More than 60 % of U.S. combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan – 3,200 killed and 33,100 wounded since 2001 – occurred due to IEDs.

The enormity of the challenge may be observed from the fact that during the last four years, 79% of global IED incidents occurred in the South Asian region. Of this, approximately 6,485 incidents took place in Pakistan (21% of the region). In 2011, the leading three countries affected most by terror-related incidents (predominantly involving IEDs) were as follows: First, Afghanistan – 6,778 incidents leading to 3313 fatalities; Second, Pakistan – 1,680 incidents causing 1876 fatalities; Third, India – 230 incidents incurring 623 fatalities. Child soldiers employed by the terrorists posed unique challenge in this regards. The number of IED incidents in Pakistan from 2003 to 2013 is given in Figure-3. Nevertheless, Pakistan has put up a professionally structured national and institutional response to the challenge of IEDs. In an overall international context and within a national framework, a Counter IED Organization (CIEDO) has been established. It is a professional organization with a centre of Excellence, Explosive Ordnance (EOD) units, search and explosive ordnance disposal units having search teams, advance search teams, EOD team and advance EOD teams. It is a competent organization capable of putting up strategic response to the challenge of IEDs. It has started acting as the only IEDs evaluation, prevention and training facility of its kind in the South Asian region.

Border Control Measures The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is truly volatile and poses a unique challenge to the internal security of Pakistan. There are terrorist sanctuaries across the border inside Afghanistan, especially in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces, where from the terrorists have been operating to target the security forces and civilians of Pakistan. Likewise, IED-related material also crosses over the border into Pakistan, thereby worsening the already deteriorated internal security landscape of the country. Pakistan's security forces are manning nearly 700 border outposts and over 1,300 security posts. Nevertheless, due to the geography and anthropology of the border region, it is impossible to completely block the movement of people on a frontier over which thousands of people cross daily.

The Drone Debate The US drone attacks in FATA of Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, e.g. Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, generated a heated debate across civil society, policymaking spheres and scholarly circles in the world including Pakistan. It has been an intricate debate comprising criss-crossing narratives. There are numerous stakeholders or parties to the drone issue. Each one has its own concerns, demands and opinion. Various segments, institutions and even individuals have had their own sides of the story, judgment, logic, belief or line of reasoning. The key strands of the debate have been morality, transparency, violation of sovereignty and above all the collateral damage.

The drone debate has reached the good offices of the UN. Lately, a resolution against use of drone technology spearheaded by Pakistan and co-sponsored by Yemen and Switzerland was adopted by a majority vote at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, calling on all states to ensure that the use of armed drones complies with international law including the UN Charter, human rights law and international humanitarian law. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 27 states in favour to six against, with 14 abstentions at the 47-member Geneva forum. The United States, Britain and France voted against. It is a landmark episode in the debate on use of drone technology. Abstractly, the debate is actually a choice between security and morality, despite the gains in the realm of security. Pakistan cannot stand on wrong side of history in this debate and thus the move of resolution has a positive step.

According to media reports, the first ever drone attack in Pakistan was conducted to strike Nek Muhammad Mehsud, a militant leader, in South Waziristan on 18 June 2004. According to the data maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based forum, there have been some 383 strikes in FATA in which about 3213 people, both militants and civilians (including women and children), were killed from 18 June 2004 to 25 December 2013. Figure-4 illustrates.

Development Projects Contribution in nation-building activities and socioeconomic progress of the conflict-hit regions has remained the hallmark of Pakistan Army since independence. Starting from safe arrival of the refugees from India in 1947 and their rehabilitation, the Army has worked in a number of spheres of socioeconomic significance. In reality, infrastructural development, education and thus progress and prosperity, travel with the armed forces wherever they go. It happened exactly in the same fashion in case of FATA and PATA also.

Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization (FWO), in facilitation with the military formations and units deployed on ground, is busy in construction of the Central Trade Corridor (CT), a 714-kilometre network of road that links Pakistan's North and South Waziristan agencies. It is the third trade corridor between the two countries, the other two being the Northern Trade Corridor along Peshawar-Torkhum-Jalalabad-Kabul route and the Southern Trade Corridor along Quetta- Pishin - Spin Boldak - Kandhar - Kabul route. Some 501 kilometre roads have been completed while work on the remaining roads is in progress. Details are as follows:

Other noteworthy Projects of socioeconomic significance in FATA are as follows: The Future Strategic Landscape

Global geostrategic environment is evolving fast from Balkan to Southeast Asia, and Latin America to the Middle East. South Asia is no exception. The coalition forces' drawdown from Afghanistan has definitive strategic ramifications for Pakistan alongside other countries of the region. The leading question remains as to whether the region would see a drawdown on militancy too or it would further escalate? Indubitably, the region would undergo a sort of power vacuum which a number of state and non-state actors may endeavour to fill. This may lead to another succession of violence in the region including Pakistan. On the other hand, the Western community is likely to be concentrating on the new strategic issue surfacing in Balkans, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and elsewhere in Africa or Latin America. Thus, Afghanistan would be left to the Afghans and other countries to their own citizens, at large. Hence, “in an era of strategic flux, only the competent states will thrive,” as articulated by Dr Maleeha Lodhi in February 2014 issue of Hilal. Let Pakistan be the “competent state” that Dr Maleeha Lodhi cogitated. However, it can come about only if the entire nation is taken on board and all institutions of the state work hand in glove with each other while keeping eyes on a shared bright future of Pakistan rather than staying in the past. We should learn from history but must not live in it.


The writer is a PhD (Peace and Conflict Studies) scholar, author of Human Security of Pakistan (published 2013) and co-author of Kashmir: Looking Beyond the Peril (published 2014).
[email protected]

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