Transcript: Learning by Doing – The Pakistan Army’s Experience with Counterinsurgency

Full transcript of the February 1, 2011 South Asia Center event “Learning by Doing: The Pakistan Army’s Experience with Counterinsurgency.”




Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

DAMON WILSON: Good afternoon, everyone. If you could take your seats, we’ll go ahead and get started. My name is Damon Wilson and I’m executive vice president here at the Atlantic Council. Thank you for joining us today and welcome to today’s event, “Learning by Doing: The Pakistan Army’s Experience with Counterinsurgency”.

As most of you know, the South Asia Center, which we launched just a year ago here at the council under Director Shuja Nawaz, has quickly become a central forum and point of contact for policymakers and members of Congress, as well as European and regional leaders.

The center focuses on wider South Asia, which includes, obviously, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India at the core, as well as the Gulf, Iran and Central Asia, recognizing that the subcontinent is not isolated and very much linked to its surrounding region.

Pakistan, of course, continues to be a central point of focus here and of much tension in the region, and also is the key to the region reaching a sense of stability. How effectively the government of Pakistan and its military address insurgencies in the border areas, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, will determine outcomes in Afghanistan and the strategy of the United States and its allies, as will the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which remains tense.

As the United States and its allies determine their short-, medium- and long-term strategies in the region, it remains important that they have a full understanding of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency, or COIN, experience, in order to adequately assess where there may be limitations and opportunities for improvement through assistance and our training.

Much of the debate in Washington over the past couple of years has focused on our perspective on COIN. Today’s discussion, today’s report, is an effort to consider COIN from a Pakistani perspective.

To bring this vital issue to the forefront, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center is pleased to announce the release of “Learning by Doing: The Pakistan Army’s Experience with Counterinsurgency”. This report provides firsthand analysis on Pakistan’s experience with counterinsurgency in FATA, historical context, the current strategy, evolution of the operations vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India, collaboration between civil – civilian government and military, and limitations – for example, in their ability to detect IED devices and record incidents.

In his analysis, Shuja argues that Pakistan’s COIN efforts will only succeed if their civilian and military authorities better support each other and integrate COIN in counterterrorism efforts. We hope the insight from this report will help guide U.S. policymakers and military leaders in how to best work with their Pakistani counterparts in more effectively executing their COIN and counterterrorism operations.

Without further delay, I’d like – now like to introduce Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center and the author of this terrific report, to say a few words. Thank you very much. Shuja, the floor is yours.

SHUJA NAWAZ: Thank you very much, Damon, and thank you all for coming. I know that the weather reports had scared a lot of people, and, of course, this is Washington; one shouldn’t just trust the weatherman. So I’m glad that you all made it, and I’m looking forward to the discussion of this report.

But let me first of all start off by thanking some people, some institutions that made this work possible. I want to especially thank the Pakistan army and its various components that were extremely open in allowing me to go back and revisit many of the areas that I had visited earlier, during my work on my book on the Pakistan army and also in my research for a paper that I did for CSIS on FATA a few years ago.

And that’s really where the idea for this study came about, that maybe I should go back and try and debrief some of the people that were involved in that earlier experience and see what lessons emerged.

But in addition to the Pakistan army and the Pakistan air force and, of course, civilian ministries, including the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance, to get the background to the economic crisis that Pakistan is engulfed in, which also affects its ability to fight a war.

I do want to thank the Department of Defense and the Naval Post-Graduate School at Monterrey for being a partner in this effort and being a very patient partner, without in any way taking over the effort or trying to guide what we were doing but, you know, being patient with what we were doing and giving us feedback as needed. And of course JIEDDO, the Joint IED Defeat Organization, through whom we were linked with the NPS. And so thank you to them for their support, which made some of this work possible.

I want to start by actually sharing with you a new story that appears in today’s Dawn newspaper in Pakistan which is an indication of how current this issue and this particular report is. And the headline of the story says, “Army Starts Relocating from Swat.”

Now, if you’ll remember, this is where it all began in 2008 and then in 2009. And of course, with the IDPs, Swat was at the center of attention. And the Western media in particular were talking about the militants’ being 60 miles from Islamabad, and that was getting everybody’s attention. And that certainly got the attention of the people of Pakistan, which supported the military in going back in and doing something about the militancy. And that led to the induction of something like 52,000 troops into that area and a successful clearing out of Swat, reclaiming it.

And so today’s headline talks about – the army’s begun to withdraw thousands of soldiers, and they’ve started this partial drawdown, and that the districts of Shangla and Buner – which hit the headlines at that time as being under militant control, and the ones nearest to Islamabad, that they be handed over to the law enforcement agencies after – (inaudible).

Interestingly, it talks about some of the issues that I mentioned in my report, which is that there has been an induction of retired army personnel into the police force, which has kind of given strength to the local police force. And that is, perhaps, a lesson from this counterinsurgency operation, that you can hand over at that point, when there is a civil police force that can protect the population.

So the gist of my report, very briefly, is that there has been, in my view, over the past two years, an extremely rapid shift of the Pakistan army from its very conventional approach to operations against militants and insurgents inside Pakistan to a COIN orientation.

And even though in the initial phases they refused to acknowledge this and dub it as a COIN operation, calling it instead a low-intensity conflict, whatever that meant, they are now very much imbued with all the principles of COIN, to the extent that even visitors from the U.S. are surprised when the Pakistani military uses the continuum of “clear, hold, build and transfer,” which is at the heart of COIN.

But I also come to the conclusion that there are still some gaps, and the biggest gap is in the civil-military collaboration at two stages. One, at the planning stage, when COIN operations are launched, there isn’t a counterpart – there isn’t enough of an effort on the part of the civilians to contribute meaningfully to the shape of the military operations, to anticipate their need during the operations and after the operations, and then eventually to take over once the military clears the area of insurgents.

Secondly, I detect the absence of a nexus between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. This is also a reflection of the absence of a nexus between the civil and the military, because CT has been largely handed over to the civilians, although the ISI does have CT responsibilities in each of the provinces. But the largest number of agencies and individuals inside Pakistan that are devoted to counterterrorism are in the civil sector, and they are not coordinated.

So there is also an increase in the use of IEDs, and this is partly as a result of the success of the COIN operations of the military, because as they’ve made life difficult for them in the areas of operation, in FATA in particular, they have chosen to break out into the hinterland and to attack the civilian targets – the soft targets, to attack the less-guarded police, for instance.

So almost every day – you just have to follow the news – there are attacks on police to try and dishearten them and to try and dishearten the population into thinking that, you know, the militants have a long reach and they can hurt. There is also an absence on the part of the government to take these attacks and turn them around and use them as a weapon in countering the militancy and the terrorism inside Pakistan, as well as on the border region.

So my final conclusion really is that the success of counterinsurgency depends on the civilians taking on their responsibility and changing the environment that breeds insurgency and militancy. They have to recognize that the military can only provide a solution to the symptoms of the insurgency. They cannot root out the causes of insurgency.

A little bit of background about the study: As I said, I began thinking about this after having done the study in 2008 on FATA, which had been provoked by a request from General Petraeus to CSIS, saying, I’m going to be taking over CENTCOM and I don’t know enough about this region, I would like to know more. So I was asked to put together a team and produce a report in QuickTime, which is always the way the Army wants things to be done.

And so we did that, and it was a good opportunity to actually go into the field and talk to people and see what was happening on the ground. And it took me to North Waziristan, to Peshawar, to Swat and Malakand. And I think that gave a pretty good idea of what the basic approach was, which at that time was still of a conventional army taking on what they thought was a ragtag bunch of individuals, that they would basically clean the floor with them and that was the end of that.

And it took a while to realize that it was a much more difficult situation, and that what was really demanded was a change in thinking at that time. And I quote at that point Major General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who was director general of military operations, saying to me that all you need is a well-trained infantry soldier. Well, now he has changed his mind. He now recognizes that you need much more than that. And as the head of ISI, I think that’s a very critical realization for Pakistan. But so does the rest of the army.

And so out of that, I started looking at this issue and then looking also at the IED issue, because the question was, do you go for the technological fixes to counter IEDs or do you go and try and take a holistic approach to understanding the landscape in such a way that you can address the issues that give rise to the insurgency and militancy? And if you can get rid of them, then perhaps you won’t even need the military option and you won’t need the jamming devices and you won’t need all the other high tech that, in the end, you have to rely on.

So last year, I began the work with a visit to Pakistan that included the military headquarters, a visit back to SWAT and Malakand, and then to Peshawar as well as to Orakzai Agency, where at that time the last major operation of the Frontier Corps in the army was taking place. And then I visited the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, the Infantry School – or the School of Infantry and Tactics in Quetta, and the Staff College in Quetta.

And then in December, 2010, I went back again to the army headquarters, to other establishments, including the National Defence University, the Frontier Corps headquarters in Peshawar, the FATA Secretariat, and also met with the Governor of Khyber Pakhtukhwa again, the minister of interior, the minister of finance and other senior officials.

Part of my aim on both of these trips was not just to see what was happening in the field, but, more important, to see what changes had occurred in the training of the Pakistan military. Had they really taken to heart the lessons that they had learned in the last two or three years? And what had happened to the curricula of the institutions?

Now, just a little bit of history will give you why I needed to do that, because going back to the British Indian days, there was something called frontier warfare. And there were actually manuals that were written in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century on Indian frontier warfare that were taught. And I have those and I have read them a number of times, and it’s very interesting that nothing seems to have changed. Except for the technology that is now available to the bad guys and the good guys, almost nothing has changed. Economically, politically, the area is still backward. Is still treated – as it’s called in Pakistan, as the – (speaking in Urdu) – meaning the foreign land, so it’s not integrated into Pakistan. It’s a kind of a buffer zone. And the education level is still abysmal: women 3 percent, the men are below 14 percent. Number of doctors, number of roads – every – all the indicators are way below normal in Pakistan. So that’s one thing.

Secondly, in the Pakistan military, they had continued this course in frontier warfare up to the ’50s and maybe even early ’60s, and then it sort of died out, because, you know, they decided they would revamp. And by the time the ’70s rolled around and we got into other activities, particularly in Kashmir, the mountain warfare was introduced. Mountain warfare meant fighting at heights of 18 (thousand), 20 (thousand), 25,000 feet. This was Siachen, this was Kargil. That was the area of operation. And so frontier warfare basically was lost.

As a result, when, after 9/11, the Pakistan army decided to go into FATA, it really had very few people that even understood what it meant to fight in that terrain. I mention in my report that I think perhaps a mistake was made earlier on where, instead of selecting those regiments of the Pakistan army that were 50 percent Pashtun and 50 percent Punjabi Musulmans – and there are many of those regiments, and the officers and the Junior Commission officers speak Pashto – if they had gone in, they would have spoken the language, they would have been seen as locals by the locals.

But what they did was the easiest thing, which was to take the divisions that were posted outside FATA closest to it – so 9 Div, 7 Div and so on. Unfortunately, the area of operations of these divisions was always the Kashmir border. So even though they were posted near FATA, they never actually did their war games and exercises, and didn’t know the terrain as well in their neighborhood as they did on the Indian border in Kashmir and south of Kashmir.

So this was for convenience, and obviously something that could be done rapidly. So they did that. As a result, the army became a kind of alien force in its own territory, and the locals saw it as an alien force, because you needed interpreters. And if you look at the composition of the Pakistan military, it still remains predominantly, because of population, a Punjabi army, with 60 percent Punjabis and about 14.6 percent Pashtuns at last count.

So I think now that is being addressed. Increasingly, there are – they’re mixing, they’re cannibalizing forces, they’re mixing in people. And so there is now recognition that you need people who know the language, or at least some people who know the language, who go in with the force.

The other thing that immediately became evident was that the Pakistan army was ill equipped for this kind of warfare. It was not a mobile force. I remember Bruce Riedel calling me from the White House when he was doing his review and saying, well, what do you think we should do for the Pakistanis? And I said, helicopters, helicopters, helicopters – among other things. But, you know, helicopters meaning that that terrain, on which there are no roads and where the locals know how to get across very easily and are very mobile – the Pakistan military and the Frontier Corps was really not able to chase them, to interdict them, to stop them from moving at will and attacking posts and disappearing into the night.

And Pakistan did not have enough helicopters. In fact, I have some statistics which might be interesting. There are, by one count – under coalition support funds, the United States has only provided 26 Bell 412 utility helicopters. And these are not fighting vehicles so much, because I’ve sat in them. And in Swat and Malakand, in – even in April, when it gets warm, anything above 4,000 feet and the helicopter starts gasping. So you know you’re in trouble, because the hills are higher than 4,000 feet, so you have to find your way along and cross at passes.

And then the United States has provided a very small number of – actually, four Mi-17 multi-role helicopters that can also provide heli-lift capacity and another six that have been loaned at no cost to Pakistan, plus 20 Cobra attack helicopters via the Excess Defense Articles Inventory.

This is very useful, but it’s not enough when you look at the arc which is covered by the operations all the way from South Waziristan to Dir and beyond. And so clearly this was one area where Pakistan needs much more help.

Secondly, it was quickly discovered that the frontier force – the – sorry, the Frontier Corps, which is the locally recruited militia officered by regular officers from the Pakistan army, at that point had fallen into disrepair. Most of the officers were not the best and the brightest from the Pakistan military, because it had lost its allure. Previously, when young officers went on extra-regimental employment – ERE, as they call it in the army – they chose the Frontier Corps because it was a great adventure. You went out, you ran up and down hills, you occasionally shot at bad guys. And you know, it was like Boy Scouting with weapons.

Now, it wasn’t that. It was a kind of a backwater and it had – it was not capable. And so when the army went in, its officers weren’t ready and neither were the soldiers. And so there were some embarrassing incidents, including one when over 200 soldiers and a colonel had to surrender to a bunch of 10 militants who had them surrounded because they forgot the basic rules of moving in that terrain, which is, you have to capture the heights first. And they were in a valley, and these guys said, we’ve got you surrounded from the hilltops, and that was it.

So that was the other lesson that they had to learn, which was, you have to equip the Frontier Corps. You had to retrain it. And here, the United States has already come in with a training regimen and a center at Warsak and is trying to fill that gap.

Since 2001, there have been at least six major campaigns. The last major one was the invasion of South Waziristan. But the approach used in many of the earlier campaigns was not entirely correct by COIN standards, and the Pakistan army has learnt that lesson. The approach was based on the COIN principle that you separate the bad guys from the good guys. Well, they did this by telling all the good guys to evacuate the area and then assuming that whoever remains is the bad guys, and then bringing in aircraft, tanks, artillery, heavy weaponry.

And so in Bajaur, for instance, about half the agency was leveled, and then they stopped and realized that this was very difficult. But they also realized that without civilian collaboration, it was impossible to look after the populations that left, and you in fact were adding to your troubles by creating despondency and despair amongst the population that you emptied. Not only that, but when you cleared the area of the militants and the people went back, they had nothing to go back to. So you had to be ready with that, and it wasn’t the military that was going to be ready, it had to be the civilians.

There have been some good lessons that have emerged in the past two years, largely because of the way the military captured its experience from the early encounters. For instance, the div commander that had gone into Swat in 2008, commander of the 17th Div, came back and he basically produced a very long PowerPoint presentation. All militaries love PowerPoint presentations. That’s the rule. And he then went on a tour of the training establishments and the operational divisions that were either going to or had been to FATA and that region, and he basically shared his experience and what lessons he had learned. And that fed into the planning, quite clearly, for the later movement into Swat when 52,000 troops were sent in. Because when he went in, he only had one division. And one thing they learnt was that you have to have enough force if you’re going to overwhelm the countryside, particularly given the terrain. And so that was – that was one lesson.

The other lesson was that you have to find partners among the civilian population. And so in Swat – and in my report I’ve gone into some detail – they actually partnered with NGOs and civil-society organizations, and they also, as I mentioned earlier, discovered that you need to build up the civilian police force. And by inducting retired soldiers from the region into the police force, you were now strengthening the backbone of the police and giving the locals a community police that would make sure that the militants did not have an opportunity to re-enter the territory.

They also got into civil works. Planting a million trees, for instance, was a way to employ people but also to help prevent floods, which is a long, pretty, sort of, far-sighted approach.

Let me come to the nub of what I’ve learned. At the Pakistan Military Academy, at the Infantry School, at the Staff College, at the National Defence University, there is a discernible shift away from a total obsession with fighting a conventional war against a conventional enemy to the east: India. There is a recognition that India remains a powerful force and that the army has to be prepared until the situation with India improves.

However, the immediate threat is internal, and therefore almost all the training institutions that I saw – and I spent time with the students, sat in the classes, saw their exercises, saw the – their mock battles, et cetera, in the simulated villages that they’ve created all over the countryside – that they are now totally focused on understanding the militancy, fighting it with words as well as with deeds and recognizing the importance of rotating the military through this FATA theater of war.

So for instance, at the Infantry School, almost all the lieutenants who were there and almost all the directing staff, the instructors who were young majors, had been through FATA, and now they were putting an academic structure on their lessons and what had they learned and what were they going to do, et cetera.

Moreover, it is now incumbent on all Pakistan army units that are being deployed into FATA or into Swat or any other area where there’s militancy or insurgency that they have to go through this kind of induction training. And so they have three centers that they’ve set up.

In addition, every division now has its own mini-center. And they are – at the Pakistan Military Academy, they have what they call a “quick course,” where people run around a particular course, firing at enemies inside, using an electronic firing range, and the same at the Infantry School. And another interesting footnote on the Infantry School is it is no longer for the infantry alone. It is now open to all the service arms that are employed in the fight.

Now, a few words about the – you know, fighting IEDs. I think this is, as I mentioned, a growing threat, particularly once you’ve got the militancy on the back foot. And since the army now has cleared South Waziristan, only North Waziristan remains, there will be an uptick, and there is already a discernible uptick, in the IED attacks, not only in FATA but in the rest of Pakistan, particularly starting in the border regions.

The army doesn’t have, in my view, the equipment that it needs to fight this. They still rely on these wand detectors that have been already the subject of some criticism in Iraq. In fact, I have a footnote about this episode where the supplier of this equipment, from Britain, has already been charged, or may even be behind bars as a result. But somebody has convinced the Pakistan military that this is a very useful way of detecting explosives, and so you see these soldiers standing with this little antenna. And it’s like a divining rod for detecting water underground – it probably works as well.

So I think clearly there is a need for a much more advanced system. Officers and soldiers I talked to on the ground said they do need much more effective jamming devices, particularly as they are now able to detect many of the wire-guided devices. So they need devices that can jam cellphone frequencies and intercept them and so on.

There are many lessons that have been learned. I will just go through very quickly a few that are important, I think, at the tactical level. I mentioned already taking of the heights. The other lesson that – this is from the Pakistan army that they shared with me: avoid collateral damage. Let the insurgents collect in one place, isolate them and then take them out. Use multiple thrust lines so that they don’t know where you’re coming from. The troop ratio should not be the bare minimum, but as much as you can afford. I think this is the Colin Powell doctrine that somehow has permeated into the Pakistan military, going back to Desert Storm.

And then another is use the local people as your front line to be able to separate the black – the bad guys – from the white, so that you can isolate and weaken them.

And then, very important lesson: that public support is paramount. Avoid the disconnect which exists between the federal and the provincial governments, because that gives opportunities for the militancy to get its message across. And then use quick-impact projects to win over the local population.

The one thing that they’ve learned is that governance is key. If it is – if you can address governance issues with good governance, not with force, that’s the best way of doing it. And this is what they’ve been trying. And then follow it up by helping build local structures and then the army recognizes that political follow-up is critical once the army succeeds in clearing an area. And finally, overall, that a national effort is needed to fight militancy – that it’s not a tactical military operation that will do the trick.

These are some of the broad lessons that they’ve learned and that I’m sharing with you. As I said, there’s a lot of detail in this report. I’d be happy to address some of your questions and see what I can answer. But as I mentioned at the beginning, I think a lot more needs to be done on looking at the CT-COIN nexus and I hope we can continue this work along those lines.

Thank you very much for your patience. (Applause.)


MR. WILSON: I should mention, and I normally do when I moderate these for others, that – when the – please wait for the microphone. When the mic comes to you, please identify yourself so that we can capture you for our audio and also for the transcript.

Q: Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council. Shuja, I don’t know if you go into this in the report, but I’d be curious to know whether the Pakistani army has civil-affairs and psychological-operations units similar to those that we have in the American military, and how robust they are, whether they’re increasing the use of these units. You mentioned quick-impact projects and all the influence on – all the emphasis on hearts and minds. Thanks.

MR. NAWAZ: No, they don’t. And I mentioned this in the report as an area where, perhaps, much more needs to be done. And I also mention the national solidarity model of Afghanistan, where combined civil-military teams might be a useful way of addressing it.

But they’ve learned very quickly. And so the Inter-Services Public Relations directorate, whose job previously used to be basically sending out press releases and escorting visiting journalists around, has now developed some expertise in counter-propaganda and in – and using people from the region as officers whom they’ve inducted back from the army into the ISPR, and sending them out so that they know the local people and the terrain.

Of course, there are attendant risks involved in this, and, you know, they are recognizing that. But there is still the absence of a formal structure and a whole cadre of people that are especially trained for it. And here, I think some closer collaboration with coalition forces – probably be quite helpful.


Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. Shuja, thank you for a tour de force. I want to ask you three of 455 questions. The first has to do with capability; the second has to do with organization; and the third has to do with so-called whole-of-government approach.

As recently in October – as October, I’ve been out in the field with the Pakistan military, and their equipment reminds me of – and I’m old enough to remember Vietnam in the 1966, ’67 timeframe. I mean, it’s unbelievably bad: helicopters – General Kayani had loaned me his helicopter, which crash-landed, which was not a very good experience. But in terms of basic things like kit, like armored vests, like basic command-and-control, the Pakistan army is really ill equipped. Frontier Corps is even worse. So how do we turn that around?

Second, there’s a huge organizational problem, as you know. The national security council was abolished by the prime minister; national security advisor was fired; the defense committee of the cabinet is a joke. So there’s no coordination. Is there any way, in your judgment, to fix that?

And thirdly, while the army has been out on its own, there has been no national system of coming in place with any kind of a public relations campaign in – to turn against the villains and the bad guys. How do you see we get around that?

MR. NAWAZ: These are all very key questions that are at the heart of what I’ve tried to cover here. Let me start me with the last one. There is no national campaign because there is no national vision at the moment. We have a civilian government, and I think the leadership has to emerge from there, because if you cede that space to the military then you stop being a civilian establishment running the country.

What has been happening is that public opinion, as was the case in Swat, took the lead, and then the military understood that this is what the people of Pakistan wanted. They didn’t want a Taliban-style government inside Pakistan. So the military felt that it had the support of the people. And it continues to try and win that support through its various campaigns, including, now, a very sophisticated drama series that has been just launched a week ago in Pakistan.

You’re quite right: There is no national security council. But even if there was one, the question is, would it be allowed to work as a national security council? I don’t know if there’s any clarity on that. Even without the national security council, you yourself have talked about the defense committee of the cabinet, which doesn’t meet. And if it does meet, there’s no secretariat for it.

So there has to be an effort, I think, on the part of both the civil and the military but more on the civil side, to empower and strengthen these bodies so that they can understand what the military is doing and support it in a much more meaningful manner, rather than simply outsource it to them, as happened in this case in 2008, where the National Assembly met and passed a resolution which basically said to General Kayani, you’re responsible for this area; you go and fight the fight and tell us about it when it’s done. And having been forced into all signing up to that resolution, none of the other parties actually sat on the press conference the next day to say that we actually support it, because they didn’t fully support it. So there wasn’t that consensus among the political elite, which is missing.

As for the equipment: Yes, it’s a very large army, and re-equipping it on that scale, particularly for such a protracted battle, where the wear and tear is enormous – I mean, the helicopters need to be constantly refurbished – they don’t have time for that. At any point, half the fleet may be grounded. And you’re quite right about the equipment: The Frontier Corps still – I mean, it has improved equipment now, much better night-vision goggles – not the 1970 vintage that had been given earlier – which is a – which they appreciate.

But the equipment is still – is still not there. And as I said, helicopters, helicopters, helicopters. When the U.S. moved 17,000 troops into Helmand, 150 helicopters were supposed to have gone in with them. And you know, Harlan, better than I do that the National Guard – just the Army National Guard has 7(00) or 800 Black Hawks sitting in the United States. And since they’re not part of CENTCOM’s share, they’re just sitting there. So there are all kinds of facilities that are available. I think there needs to be clear thinking on, what do we do to get this job done?

But let me go back again and say, all this is important and necessary, but what’s really ultimately necessary is a stable civilian enterprise in Pakistan that can make decisions; on the economic front, strengthen Pakistan in such a way that it can then fight its own fight, doesn’t have to rely on handouts. I think that’s really for the long run, the salvation of Pakistan.

Yes, sir.

Q: Tom McMahon (ph) from JIEDDO. During your study, you spoke to a wide variety of people. Did you ever detect any sympathy or support for the insurgents?

MR. NAWAZ: Obviously, I had a very biased sample, because I – you know, I wasn’t wandering around among the insurgents. But the ordinary people that I spoke to, whether it was in the cities of Pakistan or in the areas where I went, clearly had no support for them.

And this is one thing that comes across. Unlike, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, where you had a foreign army fighting against foreigners in a country where you weren’t sure if the locals are with you or against you, here, predominantly, the locals still look up to the military, and when the military comes in, they tend to support it.

What they don’t look up to is often the civilian authorities, because they find them to be corrupt or inept or inefficient and not meeting their needs for services. So in that sense, all the polling shows in Pakistan that when you ask people – and the Pew polls has a trend line which is quite robust – you know, which agency do you respect the most? The Pakistan army is now back to number one.

At the time just before the Swat operation, they had gone to number three, behind journalists and lawyers, for god’s sake. (Chuckles.) So they – I think the message got to them; it got their attention; it concentrated their minds. And there is public support, because the Swat operation, I think, established quite clearly that the vast majority of Pakistanis have no time for this kind of behavior, and the last thing they want is this kind of radical, extremist, Salafist type of government that excludes everybody else.

Q: I’m Rajesh Kadian; I’ve done some writing on South Asian military affairs. Between the 1900s and 1926, seven major cantonments were developed in the FATA region. These were wound up between ’47 and ’48. Are there any plans to revive these cantonments as a permanent practical military presence in the FATA region? That’s one.

And second is, I wonder why so few leaders seem to have been killed or captured of the militant groups. Thank you.

MR. NAWAZ: You’re quite right about the cantonments. One of the biggest cantonments that the British set up was in Wana, and that has now been revived to a very large extent. That is the base; in fact, one of the first things General Kayani did when he took over was he sent the engineer-in-chief of the Pakistan army to Wana and basically, what I heard was, told him, stay there until the airfield has been expanded – don’t come back till you’ve completed that project. So it had to be done in what the military calls double-quick time.

So yes, they are establishing. I didn’t detect any creation of permanent bases in Miranshah, for instance; 7 Div has its headquarters there but they’re still kind of temporary. There is a proposal that has been discussed about setting up a cantonment or two in Swat, because they always see the possibility of a recrudescence of the militancy, particularly since the territory from Nuristan and Kunar, through Bajaur and Dir, comes straight into Swat. So you can have movement from Afghanistan of the people that escape there.

And that is one of the reasons why the leadership escaped: because the moment they could detect that there was some activity that was planned – and these things always were signaled quite powerfully, by dropping leaflets, for instance – because when you tell the locals it’s time to leave, then it’s time for the bad guys’ leadership also to leave. And this is why many of them managed to find back doors and escape.

What they left behind were, in South Waziristan, the Uzbeks, for instance. And they fought to the last man, last bullet. But the leadership escaped through the north by bribing their way out. And in some cases, I’m told, the Swat and Malakand leadership is now sitting on the Kunar side of the Afghan border where there isn’t a very strong coalition presence. So that’s – that’s the reason. Yes.

Q: Hello. Nilanthi Samaranayake from CNA. I wonder if you could speak to the patterns of recruitment in areas of open insurgency. What has the army learned? What has the army not learned, when you look at other instances of recruitment in previous areas of insurgency such as Baluchistan?

MR. NAWAZ: Could you explain what you mean by “recruitment”? Recruitment by the militants or by the military?

Q: Yes. Recruitment by the army.


Q: By the army.

MR. NAWAZ: Recruitment by the army of people in those areas that are affected by the militancy.

Q: Exactly, and what has the army learnt, and maybe what have they not learnt based on historical cases?

MR. NAWAZ: Okay. I’m not quite sure I fully get your question, but let me try and answer it.

Q: Okay, thanks.

MR. NAWAZ: The reason is – I just published last month – today’s the first of February – in January in the issue of “Journal of Strategic Studies” a paper that is already on our website. It’s called “The Changing Pakistan Officer Corps.” And that’s with Chris Fair, and that’s based on data that I collected from the Pakistan military earlier on when I was working on my book, in 2006. This is from 1970 to 2005, recruitment by district into the Pakistan army and then at the officer level as well as at the other ranks – the soldiers.

It’s quite clear, first of all, interestingly, that the recruitment from FATA has increased over time. And, in fact, traditionally there’ve always been people from FATA who’ve joined the military, and there’ve been Mehsuds who’ve been generals in the Pakistan army. So it’s not as if they were excluded from recruitment.

It’s still a volunteer army, and for them it’s a very useful way of enlisting. Plus, the Frontier Corps is also a volunteer force and locals are recruited quite easily, and it’s easy for them to be recruited because they’re posted in their own areas, although now, with the battles the way they’re going, many of them have been moved from one agency to another, and they really have had no respite in the last 10 years, which is a problem because the Pakistan army has been rotating its forces.

And they now have had to – after the floods, they’ve had to change the period of the rotation originally from six months to a year. Now I think it’s almost two years. So it’s going to be difficult for them to stay there for a long time.

I don’t think the military has a problem in recruitment. In fact, all the numbers point to the fact that thousands of people apply for a few hundred seats at the military academy – I think about 40,000 applicants for about 600 seats for the two regular courses a year. So that’s much better than Harvard or Yale or Princeton. So, you know, it’s still a pretty sought-after recruitment – or an area for recruitment. Yes.

Q: Will Bisby (ph); I’m from the CSBC (ph). Having spent time in Pakistan, what can the civilians do to create development and enhance their security in the region? Is there a space or something such a land reform or maybe better irrigation that’ll help development and keep the militants out?

MR. NAWAZ: I think you’ve raised the key question, which is what Harlan was alluding to, which is on what needs to be done. The basic issue in Pakistan at the moment, apart from the continuing insurgency, is a looming economic crisis. The country needs to undertake serious economic reforms. Land reform is one of them; fiscal reform is another; tax administration is another, because in a population of 180 to (1)85 million, only 2 million people are on the tax rolls, so it’s a bit of a joke.

And the people that have to decide this are the people sitting in the Assembly. And one of the senators is my friend sitting – he’s nodding as I say this because he fully understands what back-scratching goes on in those august bodies.

So there is no will to make these changes, to create independence for the state bank of Pakistan so that it will say to the government, when it approaches it and says, can you print us a few billion rupees more, says, no, you can’t have this, because the problems Pakistan is now facing is inflation, particularly food inflation, which is now over 50 percent. And if you know that the poorest spend over 50 percent of their income on food, you have a situation where you’re creating a potential recruitment ground for the insurgents and the militants.

And we haven’t talked about the militancy inside the heartland and the Punjab. That’s the most dangerous, because according to our recruitment study, the recruitment pattern of the Pakistan military has shifted in the Punjab from northern Punjab to central and southern Punjab. And so you have the militants already there, and now you have the recruitment juxtaposed over that, overlaid. So unless you change the economic opportunities and conditions there, you are not going to be able to change the shape of the militancy nor change their ability to become outsourced franchisees of al-Qaida and the TTP and whoever else will pay them to do what they want done.

So that is really the key and that’s the civilians’ responsibility. I don’t think the military can get into economic decision-making.

Speaking of my friend from the Senate –

Q: Thank you. Senator Reahra (ph), Pakistan Senate. My question is, have you ever thought of FATA theater and the border, Durand Line, securing that, manning it by both sides, coalition forces and the army – versus fencing, mining? Various options have been tossed on the table but nothing has really materialized. You chase from one agency, and the insurgents cross the border, come from the other side, so we have been playing a cat-and-mouse game.

And I see greatly the frustration in Pakistan army on that count, where no proposal of checkposts, manning, mining or fencing has been acceptable to Afghan side or even coalition forces.

MR. NAWAZ: This actually has been the subject of a lot of discussion between Pakistan and the coalition forces and Afghanistan. Initially, the Pakistani complaint was, we have set up 1,000 posts along this border, and it’s a very long and a very difficult border. Even 1,000 posts are not enough, because there are at least 243 regular passes that have been identified in that territory.

And if you add all the other smugglers’ routes, then there are thousands of places where people can come in, and a thousand posts cannot do the trick, which is where mobility comes into play – helicopters, for instance. I sound like a broken record on that. I’m sorry.

But mining and fencing and all these have also been discussed. There is an issue which is a diplomatic issue, that the moment you begin the process of fencing or mining, then the Afghans say, well, we never recognized this border, so how can you do this? As far as we’re concerned, this is all one territory. So there’s some fine diplomatic dances that you have to go through.

But I go back to the basics, which is, that’s addressing the symptoms, not the causes of the insurgency and the militancy. So we really have to find other ways of creating opportunities, integrating FATA into Pakistan in such a way that you don’t create this sense of isolation where – I’ll give you an idea. The population of FATA is 3.5 million. Youth bulge is about 17 percent, which means between 16 and 25 age group. So you’re talking about 300,000 male, because you know – if you’re looking at the male population, which joins the insurgency.

It should be easy to find some employment for them, through infrastructure, road-building, bridges, schools, all kinds of other – just opening transport, because the Pashtuns are very good at managing the transport mafia inside Pakistan. They could integrate that with FATA and it could provide a livelihood.

When I was there in 2008, I met 32 Maliks in North Waziristan, from all the tribes. And they had a very sophisticated economic plan for irrigation, for education and primary health care, which would allow them to produce things, scan them and export them to the Gulf, and also to register their smuggled trucks so they could ply them on Pakistani roads and earn a living.

I suggested that to the government. The bureaucrats shot it down because – they tried the same in Swat and the bureaucrats shot it down. That’s one way of allowing people to earn a living.

So there are ways which are non-military ways, I think, of resolving this problem. And you can never have enough troops on that border. Just – I’m an amateur historian, so if you’ll bear with me, a little bit of history.

In the Politburo, Soviet Politburo meeting – I think this is 1986, October 22nd, or so on – yeah, October 22nd – Gorbachev met with his senior brass and he basically said to Akhromeyev and others, you asked for 50,000 additional troops. You said you were going to seal the Pakistan border. I gave you 50,000 troops. The border is wide open. You asked me for another 50,000. If I gave you 50,000, the border will still be open, I assure you.

So that’s the answer. I mean, they learned their lesson very quickly, and he, at the end of that meeting, got agreement from the Politburo that two years later, they would be out of there. There was no way they could send more troops and seal the border. So sealing the border is, to my mind, not the answer.

MR. NAWAZ: Yes, Stan.

Q: Stanley Kober with the Cato Institute. Let’s say you were doing this study, but for the other side, and you were boiling it down to the bullets, like you have on page 19. If you were to have – we’re short of time – three or four bullets, what would they be?

MR. NAWAZ: You want me to give ideas to the other side, Stan? (Laughter.)

Q: They must have a – (inaudible) – during the Cold War days, I did Soviet stuff, you know, and what startles me about this is, we’re saying, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. And I call this “playing chess with yourself.” And they get to move too. And it seems to me somewhat artificial never to examine, okay, what are – what is their strategy? What are they trying to do?

MR. NAWAZ: I think people are actually doing that. In fact, the seminars that I attended at the Infantry School and at the National Defence University and at Staff College, they actually war-gamed these, where people play the role of the other side.

And in fact, in the Pakistan Military Academy, they actually have an easel where they have a profile of a mullah. Now, previously it used to be a map of India or something to concentrate their minds. Now they’ve stopped doing that. Now they have a profile of a mullah, and then some guy stands up and basically says, okay, this is what my plan is, this is how I’m going to do it, et cetera, et cetera, and then you’re supposed to come out with countermeasures.

So they are doing it. What would I do? I would probably intensify some of the things that they’ve done quite effectively, which has created this kind of paralysis among our civilian leadership. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the Frontier Province, they have selectively targeted the Awami National Party leaders, starting at the very top. They didn’t kill the top leader, but they killed a whole bunch of others. So they basically forced them to flee to Islamabad or London. And when they’re not seen by the locals, people lose faith in them. So that kind of destroys the governance structure. And unless you replace that with a robust structure, it offers an opportunity for these guys to come in and provide services.

The other is, of course, take advantage of any natural disaster. If you’re the first to arrive with assistance to help people rebuild and to take them to safety and to give them food and shelter, then that’s what people will remember, and then maybe they’ll forget that you kill them whenever you want to.

But I mean, these are some of the things that I would do more of.

And then the other most dangerous thing, of course, is that they have formed coalitions across the landscape. So the Punjabi Sunni groups – the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Jaish-e-Mohammad – have been brought in to fight against the Shia in quorum.

And so they really – they have a multiplier effect this way. You don’t have to fight everywhere yourself; you just outsource it to another group with whom you share a similar hatred for something or the other, whether it is people that are not like you in terms of which branch of Islam do they belong to, are they Deobandi or Barelvi or whatever, you find some way. And this is the influence in Pakistan of Takfiri and Salafist Islam, which is based on excluding others.

So if I were on the other side, I would do my damnedest to try and exclude as many people as possible and say, these are not Muslims, these are not Muslims, these are not Muslims, and cause terror and chaos. So the government has to learn from that and preempt it and say, okay, if I provide services, if I recognize everybody is equal, if I stand up for the rights of all people of Pakistan, then that’s the message that will get across before they start making small islands out of everyone.


Q: Sir, Steve Murray (ph) from the Pakistan Desk at the State Department. Just in view of the trust deficit that you hear a lot about and in view of the billions of dollars that we’re giving to Pakistan in security assistance just with the secretary’s commitment to a multi-year security assistance commitment in October, the strategic dialogue, what perception do you see among Pakistan military company and field-grade officers, so lieutenant through lieutenant colonel and even colonel, on perception of the U.S. commitment? Do you still see continual mistrust? Or do you see that – what we like to say, where we’re trying to move away from a transactional to a strategic relationship with Pakistan?

MR. NAWAZ: I think, first of all, it’s too early at the moment to understand to what extent this is an actual move away from transactional to strategic. It’s early days, and when you talk to people that know the Hill, for instance, particularly under the new Congress, they will tell you that even Kerry-Lugar-Berman is not a watertight commitment. It’s a pledge of a commitment. So there’s a kind of a fine-tuning of that commitment.

Once the money is appropriated and then released, then they will start seeing results. It’s too early to see the results of many of the early transfers, and particularly at the military level, because KLB is not a military-aid program, but it was accompanied by a separate aid program for the military.

It will take time for this to change, and I think that’s really the only way of proving that the United States is going to be able to walk the talk. I think that’s going to be critical. There is still a fair amount of the clash of the Pakistani narrative with the U.S. narrative, because the Pakistani narrative goes back into history and the U.S. narrative is a few years back, maybe today, onwards.

So there’s a way of addressing that, recognizing that there may be past grievances, but then seeing what we can do about the future. Within the younger ranks, you also have to recall that these are people that grew up in a very closed atmosphere, during the Zia period. These were people that went to school during that period. All they heard about was how everyone and his uncle is against us and they’re trying to shut Pakistan down and take away our nuclear weapons and this and that. And that fear persists to this day.

But interestingly, the new leadership of the Pakistan military, and particularly the last two years, one thing is evident: General Kayani has gone out and selected the best and the brightest. I mean, almost all the three-stars that he’s promoted are people that were either sort of honor winners – that means number one in their class in the Military Academy – and/or had gone to overseas courses, had prize appointments. These are people top of the military ladder.

So there’s a great emphasis on that which I think one needs to recognize. And if the military is professionalized, then perhaps some of these political views of the past will disappear.

Is somebody trying to break in or – (laughter)? Sorry. You have a question too? No, okay.

Q: (Inaudible) – at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Thank you for this presentation. I had two quick questions for you. The first was, in 2010, Human Rights Watch came out with reports about extrajudicial killings by the Pakistan army of militants in the Malakand area. And I’m wondering if in the new curriculum that you have written about, you saw any discussions about those sorts of situations and ethics and human rights and some sort of sense that this is a murkier battlefield than the sort of conventional warfare.

And my other question was about – you mentioned Southern Punjab. Is there any sense of looking forward to fighting militants in different settings in places like the Punjab or in urban settings? Are they having that conversation yet?

MR. NAWAZ: On the human rights watch and other commentary, actually, I discuss the issue of 3,000 people that I was told the military had under their control in Swat. And these are the people that they were trying to classify as black or white or grey.

They realize that there’s a problem there. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place till they are not sure about who these people are and what they did. They feel if they release them, there’s likely to be a resurgence – that’s one thing – or that the locals will lose confidence in them.

On the famous case that was doing the rounds of the Internet, General Kayani is on record as saying that an inquiry will be done and its results will be shared. I hope that that will be completed soon. It has to be done transparently in order to make sure that the people respect what the military is doing.

And if indeed there was an action that was unauthorized and extrajudicial and illegal, then there are ample examples in the Pakistan army’s own history of how to deal with it, including one in ’92 in Sindh when a major who had been involved in extrajudicial killing of civilians was actually sentenced to death and hanged. So there are ample opportunities for that to be followed.

I don’t expect that it’ll be possible to fight a military operation in southern Punjab. The numbers are just too large. And given the – as I talked about – the recruitment patterns and the nature of the military, it will just create fissures. I think a much more enlightened approach – and this is where my plea for looking at counterinsurgency and counterterrorism as one will come in – there needs to be an approach at deradicalization, weapons buyback, stipend programs, training programs in that part of the Punjab.

Of course, part of this is also something that we at the South Asia Center had been advocating, which is if you open the borders to trade with India, you will create jobs in the Punjab – that it’ll become a heaven on Earth. Then you won’t have to do all these things, because people will have something to eat and drink, and they won’t be tempted by people who give them money to go and fight for them.

So I think there has to be a very broad-based approach. And the military approach is not the best one.


Q: Mesiad Aradad (ph) from – a former director of operations of the World Bank. Mr. Shuja, thank you very much for what is the usual lucid presentation and very key findings that you have.

Three questions, probably from the same list of 150 which Harlan had –

MR. NAWAZ: I think he had 345 – yeah. (Chuckles.)

Q: The first is, you talk about the shift in training, strategy, tactics and so forth. In your report, which I look forward to reading – I haven’t read it yet – do you talk about any of the metrics, the results, the outcomes of this shift? Has this produced any results on the ground? Number one.

Number two, which kind of begs the question from number one, is that does this in any way impair Pakistan’s conventional capabilities – the shift itself? And the third thing which comes to mind is, when you are reading the – or telling us about the list of lessons – I think there are about 10 of them. And I think it was number eight and nine which covered things like quick-impact projects, good governance and so forth.

To my mind – and you know, Shuja, I have spoken about this at the Atlantic Council, at Woodrow Wilson and other places, that the endemic problem in Pakistan, and not just confined to the FATA area, has been a lack of a long-term commitment for economic development of its people. And FATA is obviously an area where it’s extreme.

To what extent is the focus now coming on to building some confidence here through long-term development measures rather than the short-term ones which we keep hearing about and which don’t come about? Now, I also can admit that perhaps it’s too early. Perhaps the groundwork there is not sufficiently advanced to launch long-term schemes. But I’d like to hear your views on this, anyway.

MR. NAWAZ: In terms of the metrics, I think that can only be judged by the success of the various campaigns that have occurred since. Because as I said, many of the people that have been trained have been people that have already been to FATA.

And then, all the units that are being sent to FATA are first trained in this process, which means that they’re going to be much more effective at doing what they’re doing in the area. So by the fact that there aren’t any reports of civilian collateral damage – I think is a good sign.

The fact that the locals are now working – the local tribes are working with the military in road building in South Waziristan, for instance, or in Bajaur, the Salarzai tribe – the largest tribe – basically set up its own lashkar – its own posse – to work with the military in controlling – and there’s a very interesting dialogue in my report where I had the privilege of sitting in on a – on a command meeting of the head of the Frontier Corps with his commanders.

And when they talked about the lashkars, he was very careful in describing what can be done and should be done with the lashkars. So the idea was not to create further imbalances in the military and political power of the different tribes because somebody will show up at your doorstep and say, sir, I’ll fight with you. I just need a few mortars and an APC and, you know, maybe a tank or two.

And then, he’s going to be able to dominate his territory after you leave. So you know, the head of the Frontier Corps was saying, we will support them but we will not give them weapons. So there are ways in which the lessons have already been applied that are quite clearly evident.

Most of the lessons that I was talking about with the immediate lessons for what to deal with the current situation – but clearly now, and this is reflected in the infrastructure development project in South Waziristan, that General Kayani personally requested the secretary of state for support where – and it’s now up to 200 million (dollars). It started off at 130 million.

When you build infrastructure, you employ locals and you create openings for them and connect them to the rest of the economy. I think that’s really planning for the longer run. As I said in my opening comments, the critical thing still is economic governance for the country as a whole, in which FATA is a very critical part.

And a very important decision will be on the future of FATA: Do you still continue treating it as a buffer zone? Because if you do, then you’re going to repeat history. I mean, you just have to go back to the late 19th century and the early 20th century. And many of my friends have heard me talk about this before. In my own family, different generations have fought in Waziristan campaigns from 1902 till 1937. So – and now, one of my nephews was wounded in the South Waziristan campaign and lost his leg.

So you’re going to fight these battles again and again if you don’t create a sense of belonging for the people of FATA.

I think I had another question. I guess not.

Well, I appreciate your patience, and I appreciate your questions. And before I end, I do want to mention a very important other partner in crime in this, which is Infarex (ph). My friend Vidya (ph) is sitting here. Infarex helped us in taking a fresh look at the IED data.

And as we – and if we expand this effort and we get more data on IED use throughout the country, we will be able to use their skill at predictive analysis to be able to do much more in terms of preemptive measures that are available to the civil and the military in tackling the militants, the insurgency and particularly the IED threat. So I wanted to thank Infarex for their assistance too.

Thank you all for coming. And we’ll see you again. Thank you. (Applause.)