Pakistan Army: The Fog of War Argument Won’t Do

Since the recent killing of Pakistani soldiers by NATO, the Pakistani political leadership and Pakistani people have entered a sort of crisis overdrive mode.

English: Pakistan Army Logo
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Thankfully, this time the people and politicians are not just railing about the US and NATO. Quite a few hard questions are also being asked of the Pakistan army senior leadership, the kinds of questions that should always be posed to military leaders in a living democracy.

One question that has now become a sort of proverbial albatross around the army’s neck is this: “Why did the army not mobilize Pakistan airforce to support the ground troops who were under attack? An apt question, I must say, of an organization that takes the lion’s share of Pakistan’s meager GDP every year.

The answer, says the army, “we were confused!”

Yes, seriously this is the answer being provided by the army leadership. According to an AP report published also by Dawn:

A Pakistani military statement on Friday said the response could have been more ”effective” if the airforce had been called in, but this was not possible because of a ”breakdown of communication” and confusion at ”various levels” within the organisation.

So basically, this is a roundabout way of saying that we were so inept that even when our troops were dying, we failed miserably in coordinating any countermeasures at the highest levels of military leadership. There is a pattern to this argument and it also has its own history: Kargil, OBL raid, and now this tragic event. So the senior leadership cannot admit that they COULD not aid their troops while they were being killed because their internal communication systems, somehow failed. But the same leaders had functioning communication systems to literally  “PLEAD” to NATO to stop killing their soldiers. So, is PLEADING the highest level of military strategy our over indulged generals can come up with?

The communications failure argument is fallacious on many accounts. First of all there are layered forms of communications available. There is a whole, well-funded, Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters with the sole job of coordinating interservice communication. If they failed, how many of them are willing to resign for letting down their troops?

On tactical level, such breakdown is not possible. Her  is how it goes: a post is under attack; the post commander informs the battalion headquarters (they have both wireless and field telephones to do so); the battalion headquarters launches its own countermeasures and also informs the Brigade Headquarters; then to Divisional and Corp headquarters. It should have not taken more than fifteen minutes for the news to reach the General headquarters, Director general Military Operations. From there, it is a question of reaching out to the airforce. Now if the DG military Operations was busy “pleading” to NATO, someone else could have contacted the airforce and asked them to, at least, pose a challenge to the attackers in support of their troops. Of course, I am not suggesting that the Pakistan Airforce should have launched a counterstrike, but their presence in the area could have sent a message to NATO: A message that they were bombing a Pakistani post.

So, please do not insult the sacrifice of your soldiers. Do not tell us that you lost your “communication” when they needed you the most. This defense of your ineptitude certainly is not very reassuring to your troops and makes you look pathetically stupid and unprofessional. And know that this country belongs to its people and you are nothing more than the servants of your people: they pay for your privilege by sacrificing their own future. The people deserve an answer worthy of the trust they have placed in you: stop acting like bad politicians and answer our questions like good soldiers and servants of your nation.

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Pakistan Should Re-evaluate its Relationship with the US and NATO

Photo From Dawn

In wake of the recent killing of Pakistani soldiers as a result of NATO bombing, Pakistani government has gone into a crisis mode and so has the Pakistani public: while the civilian government and the army have issues some powerful rhetorical statements, including the ultimatum to the US to vacate their base in Balochistan, the Pakistani people are out in the streets protesting against yet another violation of their airspace by their so-called allies.

Yes, I know Pakistan is weak and needs all the friends in the world that it can gather, especially against the daily terror unleashed by the Taliban and others in its cities, villages, and public spaces, but does that mean that Pakistan should be a total hostage to the interests and policies of powers that suffer no direct consequences of their actions in the region.

Here is a sad irony: while the Pakistani troops were being killed by NATO bombers in the tribal region, the US citizens were camping outside corporate big-box stores to purchase the latest gadgets at reduced prices. Is this what Pakistan is underwriting with its sacrifices? Are we there to serve the empire so that its privileged citizens can buy their video games in peace, while our children suffer of malnutrition, our cities stink of raw sewage, and while our soldiers are being killed by the very allies for whom over three thousand of them have died in the past few years.

Yes, the war against fundamentalism is in the best interest of Pakistan, but why should we call it a WAR? Why not call it a struggle and then harness all resources, mostly peaceful and pedagogical, in order to win this struggle against intolerance and terror. In my meeting with a senior ISI officer last year, who happens to be an old friend and my mentor in so many ways, the most important thing that I learned was this: Even the ISI knows that this struggle cannot be won through military action alone and that in order to win, Pakistan would need a lot of international support to literally rebuild its national infrastructure. Yes, rebuild the educational system, the healthcare system, and the system of law and justice. Of course all these sectors are considered “non-developmental” sectors by the IMF. So, if the US is so committed to the long-term interest of Pakistan, then where is the help to restructure and overhaul Pakistani economy and the public sphere?

Sadly, it is quite obvious that the world economy is not really “Flat.” Third world nations have now become living and ghettoized sweatshops for the developed nations: how else could Walmart sell its crap for so less to its American customers. Politically also nations like Pakistan are expected to submit their national will to the dictates of the likes of USA; that, the surrender of our national will, is too high a price for a nation .

The current policies and agreements with the US and NATO, let us not forget, were forged by a dictator under duress. It is time that the popularly elected government asked its people, the people who are the true owners of the nation, as to what its policy should be. Yes, our people are poor and not highly educated but you will be surprised to know that most of them are politically more aware than their average American counterparts.

So, this time let this not again be another set of empty slogans and un-implemented ultimatums: let us remind our so-called allies that killing our soldiers and civilians–even if it is hot pursuit or collateral damage–is not acceptable under any circumstances. I mean what was the army high command doing when two of their posts were under attack? Obviously, according to the protocol, the officers on the posts must have reported what was happening, must have asked for aid: Why did no aid arrive? Where was Pakistan Air Force whose job it is to defend the nations borders? Or was the current military leadership following the same cowardly policies as the ones followed by Pervez Musharraf when he abandoned his soldiers to die in Kargil!

This is also the time to ask these hard questions of our military commanders: did they let these soldiers die in vain without even mounting minimal countermeasures? And if they did, doesn’t that mean that they have let down the very soldiers they expect to die for their country on their orders? Yes, enough empty posturing: answer our questions honestly. Your troops deserve the answers and so does the nation.


Killing of Pakistani Soldiers: A Mistake or a Message?

Map of Pakistan with Balochistan higlighted
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According to recent reports, 24 Pakistani soldiers were allegedly killed by NATO airstrikes along the Pak-Afghan border. The Pakistani government, in retaliation, has blocked the two NATO supply routes and has also asked the US to vacate the CIA (drone)base in Balochistan.

This is a crucial moment for the so-called alliance between Pakistan and the US. So far, this alliance has only brought misery to Pakistani people and caused them to be immediate targets of Taliban and other militant reprisals. Pakistan so far has been the ideal soft target for the militants any time they are under pressure and want to lash out against targets close by. The Americans, on the other hand, might lose their troops in this war but their home country is safely away and thus not subject to such reprisals.

This latest bombing of Pakistani border posts should not be taken lightly: the general fog of war claims cannot hold here as the positions were known to NATO, as they have been provided the exact coordinates of Pakistani posts. If this is a sort of message to Pakistan, it is rather a sad and cynical message. What does it tell Pakistani people: simply that when cornered, the NATO troops have no qualms about killing the troops of their most important ally in the region.

I am glad to know that the Pakistani government is showing some courage here, as they have asked the US to vacate their base in Balochistan, but I think the government and the military need to do more. They need to clarify it to their so-called allies that killing of Pakistani soldiers and civilians cannot be tolerated especially if they turn out to be premeditated or caused by the carelessness of NATO forces.

The NATO commanders should learn that in their zeal to capture or kill their foes in Afghanistan, they cannot just blow up anything that stands in their way. Sometimes, it is necessary to let your enemy escape if bombing them kills quite a few of your friends in the process.

Yes, it is time Pakistan re-evaluated its committment to the war on terror and it is also time for the Pakistanis to safeguard their own people and their own national interest.

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