HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

Anthropology, Policing and Soldiering In al-Qaeda's Pakistani Insurgency

We have made a concerted attempt to distinguish between the employment and deployment of Pakistani Police and paramilitary forces (Frontier Corps and constabularies) and the employment and deployment of the Pakistani Army when news coverage vaguely refers to Pakistani "troops" or "soldiers" being killed, captured or deserting in the conflict with the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the NorthWest Frontier Province (NWFP) inside Pakistan. This is very important in understanding the state of affairs there.

Former head of Indian Intelligence, B. Raman, notes the distinction well and includes ethnic/tribal distinctions as well in a report from the South Asia Analysis Group's International Terrorism Monitor. The unusually long excerpt is necessary, but read the report in full for additional context.

6. The Police has an important role in counter--insurgency and counter-terrorism. They act as the eyes and ears of the Government even in the remotest of villages. They know the community better than the Army. Gen.Zia ul-Haq and other military dictators of the past tried to strengthen the self-pride and elan of the Police in order to secure their co-operation for the Army. Musharraf was the first military dictator, who sought to humiliate the Police right from the day he took over in October, 1999, and marginalise its role. He appointed junior and middle-level Army officers---some serving, some retired--- as monitors of the performance of senior police officers. There were shocking instances where senior Police officers, holding a position equivalent to the rank of a Maj. Gen. in the Army, were asked to report to army officers of the rank of Major or even Captain. These junior officers, who knew very little of the community, were asked to write the annual performance report of very senior police officers. Musharraf also started an exercise to militarise the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the Ministry of the Interior, which, in the past, used to be largely, if not predominantly, staffed by Police and other civilian officers. The IB of Pakistan shared the same civilian traditions and work practices as its Indian counterpart. Musharraf sought to change this in order to give the Army a greater role in the IB. There was a similar mishandling of the non-police sections of the civilian bureaucracy.

7. The result: A drying-up of the flow of intelligence not only from the tribal areas, but also from other parts of the country as well. Police officers hardly investigated terrorism-related cases either because of their resentment with Musharraf or because of a fear of incurring the wrath of the terrorists." It serves the Army and Musharraf right" was their attitude. There was neither effective prevention nor successful investigation in most cases. Successful investigation and prosecution is an important deterrent to the spread of terrorism. This is hardly to be found in Pakistan.

8. Another blunder committed by Musharraf was the over-use of the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps in the operations against terrorists in the tribal areas. He wanted to avoid using the Punjabi-dominated Army for ground operations. While the Army is actively involved in the ground operations against the Baloch freedom-fighters in Balochistan, it was confining itself to the barracks in the FATA and in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). American officials and their counterparts in Pakistan often claim that Musharraf has deployed nearly 80,000 troops in the tribal areas. The Americans cite this as one of the reasons for their strong backing to the General despite his growing unpopularity.

9. What they do not mention is that many of these security personnel are the tribal members of the para-military forces, who come from that area, and not Pakistani military personnel recruited from other areas of the country. A large number of the Pakistani army personnel are used not for ground operations against the terrorists, but for providing physical security to American and other NATO military supplies to Afghanistan from the Karachi port after they are landed there. This has been creating resentment among the tribal personnel of the para-military forces, who feel that Musharraf, under US pressure, is making not only Muslims kill Muslims, but also Pashtuns kill Pashtuns, in the name of the so-called war on terrorism. The FM radio stations operated by pro-Al Qaeda jihadi leaders in the tribal areas have been repeatedly alleging in their broadcasts directed to the fellow-tribals in the para-military forces that innocent tribals are being killed in order to save American lives in the US homeland.

10. As a result of this, there has been a growing number of desertions of Pashtuns serving in the para-military forces. Only now, for the last few days, Musharraf has been using regular Army units to counter the supporters of Maulana Fazlullah in the Swat Valley, but afraid that the Pashtun soldiers of the Army too might start deserting their units like the Pashtun members of the para-military forces, he has been avoiding the use of the army in ground operations and has instead been relying increasingly on helicopter gunships. This has, on the one hand, resulted in an increase in the number of civilian casualties due to indiscriminate air-mounted actions and, on the other, further fuelled the resentment in the para-military forces, whose personnel are asking: Are the lives of the Army personnel more precious than those of the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps?

As noted previously, we have attempted to make this distinction at ThreatsWatch. Consider the following two for more information:

We'd better be able to wrap our minds around the cultural and ethnic dynamics of an embattled Pakistan. To dig deeper into understanding the anthropology required for effective counterterrorism, spend some time with On the Uses of Cultural Knowledge by Dr. Sheila Miyoshi Jager. It's worth your time if you seek to understand the important cultural dynamic of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.


6 years later and where are the Pashto-fluent operators who can pass for indigs?

The Taliban are almost entirely Pashtuns. We need some American "Lawrence of Pashtunistan" types who understand Pukhtanwali and the khels. There are thousands of Pashtuns in the ANA from whom could be selected Pseudo-gangs of Taliban under SOF or CIA operators who have gone native.

There are many Pakistanis living in America. Some are Pashtun. Recruit them.

Conventional Western light infantry will always be at a serious disadvantage from lack of knowledge of the geographic and human terrain.

Writing in today’s New York Times, Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon discuss America’s military options in the wake of a possible collapse of Pakistan’s government. The authors start off sensibly enough by describing Pakistan’s insuperable conditions:
After declaring that stabilizing Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies, the authors then go on to describe a U.S. military expedition to do just that:
Messrs. Kagan and O’Hanlon are depicting a fantasy. The best way to stir up a large-scale civil war in Pakistan and ensure Pakistan’s conquest by radical Islamists would be to inject a large Western military expeditionary force into the country. Pakistani society is substantially anti-American; a large Western army inside the heart of the country would be a dream-come-true for the Islamists.

Contrary to the authors’ assertions, the U.S. cannot accept responsibility for Pakistan’s political course. The U.S. military has no ability to influence Pakistan’s politics and would only make matters worse if it tried.


U.S. Considers Enlisting Tribes in Pakistan to Fight Al Qaeda

“The D.O.D. is about to start funding the Frontier Corps,”