National Security

Military Operations & Societies

The traditional path to military operations is often defined against potentially devastating consequences of asymmetrical warfare on a society. The media and security assessments roughly construct primary importance of military solutions to the complex issues of sociopolitical and religious power-play. As soon as the causes and interests of military solutions are served, it would be absurd to consider that the “new strategic interests” or demands from the major powers would never surface again. The media and sponsor of such ideas can display state of the art communication techniques and themes to stimulate debate about the short-term benefits of military solutions to social, ethnic and sectarian conflict. Thus, fostering greater support and influence, in order to create further fragmentation and divide between unity codes of military and society. In the case of Pakistan, the consistent and formidable military campaign has tremendously degraded the overall ability of militants. Still, more than 6000 TTP militants under the command of Mullah Fazlullah is taking refuge in Afghanistan. This part of asymmetrical warfare clearly reflects the complexities as to why any new military operation cannot be an “incident-based affair, hence raises the importance of strategic-decision making, especially in terms of implications of major military operation on Pakistani society.

The tremendous loss of life and lifestyle of ordinary Pakistani citizen does raise the question as to why the society has to face such an uphill battle to preserve the unique social fabric of a democratic Islamic society.  Up until now this question is dealt in a very traditional manner, that is, either the violent militants should be dealt with an iron fist, or there must be a negotiation if these non-state actors surrender their arms and will to fight. An apparent solution is that both Afghanistan and Pakistan devise a bilateral operational strategy to terminate those who are aiming to dent the people-to-people and brotherly relations between two countries. The expected Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be a landmark development. The British High Commissioner, Adam Thomson endorsed this strategy and stated that, “the SPA would provide the framework for enhanced military-to-military and intelligence-to-intelligence interaction, besides allowing space for political and military initiatives to resolve the contentious issues between Islamabad and Kabul”.

Today, the strategic advantage of friendly countries, especially of the US is submerged with risks to Pakistan’s national security imperatives. To accomplish the purpose of social stability and cohesion, a unit of key elements of motivation and resilience is required to both military and political leadership, because battlefields set up by the foreign and homegrown enemies are generally is a program of active and long-term participation of armed forces in asymmetrical warfare, and hence calls for rethinking the strategy of “only” military operations on Pakistani soil. This assessment is based on observations of emigrational and social instability factors, because the combat units that participate and some unfortunately also lose their precious lives in the line of duty can be placed in stark contrast to the usual depiction of social impact if the political dispensation and other resolutely concessions are not being granted.

Often, the hardline/impulsive forces characterize such military strategy as cowardice act of surrendering to risks, instead of considering the fact that no military in the modern asymmetrical warfare could continuously appease the foreign domination and take the risk of losing socially cohesive structures in a society, which inherently are based upon mutual, continuous, and common understanding of each other’s sensitivities. Temporary frameworks of applying psychological and political pressures do create an interest-based and, ad hoc, components of mistrust, which in turn produce power struggle between internal sociopolitical forces and thus diminishes or damages the perception and popular image of a military in the view of their own people. Pakistan is recovering from the similar situation, and this can be further strengthened if the order of “wish list” is based on the internal dynamics and national requirement of peace.

Contrastingly, the illegal drone attack campaign and the US pressure to carry-out an operation in North Waziristan depict several possible explanations as to why the international forces have not given a consideration to both instant and long-term social changes that a larger military operation would bring on Pakistani society. Importantly, the focus is merely on the engagement of Pak-military and ISI in a complex and unending mission of serving the ever expanding regional planning requirement of the US and NATO. Hence, the standard model of current “cooperation” is being utilized as a tool to implicitly sensitize Pakistan’s enemies that its society is a “ready-made” field to create further social and religious fragmentations. This consequence inherently touches upon the serious issue of migration as well as the worsening law and order situation in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan. Therefore, the importance and relevance of future military operations must consider that committing combating forces for a longer period will have cost and, it may well negatively affect the urbanization process, which in turn can cause deadly conflict over resources, jobs, food and most importantly space to live. While it is just impossible to predict the extent and degree of such an impact, the strategically driven “new alliances” may further dramatize the 21st century asymmetrical warfare. Unfortunately, the US has totally ignored the international law, especially in the case of drone attacks in Pakistan’s FATA region. If the CIA and US political strategists continue to argue against the application of international law on the grave matter of drone attacks, the UN will virtually become irrelevant toward the end of this century. Moreover, it is already the fact that in recent years, the major powers tactically impeded the operationalization of international law in war zones.

Recognizing at least the potential consequences of further military operations, Pakistan’s state should synchronize the elements of national power (i.e. diplomatic, economic, military and information), and thus, establishing the rationale behind negotiation and achievement of tactical objectives against foreign and domestic enemies. These varied forms of socio-military considerations will be resourceful in tackling the complex topology of military operation and society.

By Rana Athar Javed (The author is a Denmark-based National Security Expert and Defence Analyst.)