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New Pakistan Army Chief upholds commitment to COIN
July 22, 2017
Photo credit: Inter Services Public Relations

New Pakistan Army Chief upholds commitment to COIN

The new Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, affirmed his commitment to the country’s longstanding counterinsurgency (COIN) effort.

In a press release issued by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani armed forces’ media arm, the Pakistan Army stated: “Appreciating the gains of counter terrorism operations so far, he [Gen. Bajwa] said that focus must remain on indiscriminate [intelligence-based operations and combined operations] for stabilization and consolidation.”

Gen. Bajwa added that cooperation with Afghanistan on controlling the mutually-shared border will be essential to the success of the wider COIN effort.

Notes & Comments:

While General Qamar Javed Bajwa possesses considerable command experience in regards to the Line of Control (LoC), the marker dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, it is evident that Bajwa is opting to maintain a strong measure of continuity (in COIN) from his predecessor, General Raheel Sharif.

In 2014, the Sharif-led Pakistan Army launched Zarb-e-Azb, its first concerted long-term COIN campaign in FATA, specifically in North Waziristan. In the lead-up and in parallel to the campaign, the Army instituted several key programs to directly feed into its COIN effort.

Most notable among them was the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which has been responsible for imparting the requisite skill-sets and expertise for combat in built-up areas and in small teams. As of September 2016, the NCTC had trained 231,000 armed forces soldiers and nearly 3,500 officers as well as personnel from Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies and Ministry of Interior.

Gen. Bajwa may work to build upon Raheel Sharif’s efforts by strengthening the use of intelligence assets to “sever” the “nexus between terrorists in remote areas and their facilitators in urban centres.” This may refer to attacking supply and management channels (e.g. funding for arms).

Post-Notes: Pakistan-U.S. ties

With Gen. Bajwa maintaining continuity on COIN in FATA, Islamabad’s relationship with Republican-led Washington will be significant. Although the Obama Administration had sought to maintain U.S. foreign policy interests in Pakistan through minute defence overtures, such as a proposed subsidized sale of eight new-build Lockheed Martin F-16s, the White House kept Pakistan at arms-length.

This was done to cultivate strong ties with New Delhi, which is now a Major Defence Partner and, considering recent controversies surrounding President-elect Donald Trump and China, could figure prominently in Washington’s maneuvers in Pacific East Asia.

Nonetheless, U.S. Congress passed the 2017 National Defence Authorization Act earlier in the month with the aim of providing Pakistan up to $900 million U.S. in aid to support its COIN campaign. Granted, $400 million U.S. is conditional on the Secretary of Defence certifying that Pakistan is substantively acting to curb the activities of the Haqqani-network, but it is an explicit sign of Republican Washington’s intent to maintain its COIN relationship with Pakistan. In September, Quwa argued that Washington will push for continuity, especially in regards to aid, where Quwa noted:

“Where COIN is concerned, a subsection of America’s policymakers and policy thinkers will also advocate for targeted assistance and support in that direction, even if it means agreeing to big-ticket arms sales (when they align with that objective).”

Senator John McCain appears to be at the forefront of building a slightly warmer bridge with Pakistan.

McCain called upon American and Pakistani policymakers to ensure that “ambivalence and suspicion” do not induce gaps and shortfalls in bilateral defence ties, especially in regards to promoting efforts in “counterterrorism, nuclear security, and regional stability” (Dawn News).

McCain added that “limitations on US assistance to Pakistan and congressional reluctance to approve subsidies for the sale of defence articles have added to tensions between the two governments” (Dawn News). How this translates practically remains to be seen, but previously, Quwa maintained that the release of COIN-relevant systems, including big-ticket items (such as the AH-1Z Viper), could be expected.

  • Farooq Hussain Toor

    Thumbs up

  • Sami Shahid

    Securing border with Afghanistan is essential as terrorists in Afghanistan are highly trained. They know how to move through jungles and cross mountains. Conducting Intelligence based operations will be a frustrating task if the border with Afghanistan is not secured.

  • Headstrong

    “Appreciating the gains of counter terrorism operations so far, he [Gen. Bajwa] said that focus must remain on indiscriminate [intelligence-based operations and combined operations] for stabilization and consolidation.”
    The key word here is ‘indiscriminate’ – unfortunately, as is well known, this is the one thing these generals will not do. Hence Rajnath’s statement of the 10 pieces, not the incorrect (but on expected lines) reporting on Pakistani media.

  • Steve

    I think the West is facing the possibility of failure in Afghanistan because of a local Afghan revolt, which has local support, and they want to put the blame on others. There is a history of this. Cambodia and Laos were blamed for Vietnam, and Syria and Iran were blamed for Iraq. Pakistan has suffered more losses (60,000 casualties), and permanently removed more real estate from militant’s control than any other country. FATA is twice big as Northern Ireland and the terrain is a 100 times tougher. It took the British decades of fighting and finally a peace deal to stop the IRA. An Afghan peace deal brokered by Pakistan is the only way out. After 14 years of fighting, here is no military solution. This “good” and “bad” story is dated propaganda by our enemies to try to prevent military support for our army, which they are scared of despite being 5 times bigger. Only India can get so worried by their adversary acquiring only 8 F16’s.

  • Steve

    Raheel Sharif is from a family of martyrs. That does not equate to “vindictive baggage”….only in some of our neighbours’ minds. We are very successfully clearing out militants in the pay of foreign countries because it is in our own interest. Propagandists like the C Fairs of this world notwithstanding. We don’t really care about any damage or not to relations with India, and will not do their bidding no matter what. You cannot try to improve relations with someone who does not want you to exist in your present state! This has been widely stated by India leaders. There needs to be a sea change in India’s attitude to its immediate neighbors before we will want to improve things. Attempts at domination and hegemony have not succeeded for 70 years.

    • Headstrong

      The family of martyrs story is exactly where the vindictiveness comes in – one look at the rants over the past few years confirms that.
      And for as long as you continue to depend on proxies to further your policies, you will continue to host ‘militants in the pay of foreign countries’. This 1000 cuts delusion can cut both ways….
      India may have had a few issues with some of its immediate neighbours – but mostly they’re under control. No immediate neighbour throws aid back in our face (as Afghanistan did recently to another immediate neighbour of ours) and asks us to get our own house in order.
      And that familiar hegemony story again. Funnily, the country apparently exercised in achieving ‘domination and hegemony’ has not been responsible for starting every war since independence. That dubious honour goes to that very same immediate neighbour of ours, who has lost half its territory and then accuses others of not wanting it to exist in its present state!
      C Christine Fair got it right in ‘Fighting to the End’. The Pakistani Army will fight to the last civilian, as long as its interests are protected. That is not propaganda, simply the truth.

  • Omar

    once again you just regurgitated a decade old rant thrown around by the US and indians and with enough repetition through above mentioned media among others you feel confident just saying the same thing. Your wishful thoughts dont matter so make an argument other than “because I heard it on TV”. You can check out stats of reported incidents of terror inside Pakistan throughout the years and the drastic drop as the op started that was carried out in some of the most urban areas, im not going to waste my time educating you about the importance of all these factors because it seems even plain numbers didn’t make you hesitate to assume nonsense. Also I think i commented about what you mention in the later half of the first paragraph in anticipation of where you were going, not sure if you read it. General petraeus on numerous occasions denied any claims of Pakistan’s duplicity in Afghanistan and stated India’s funding Pakistan’s destabilization through Afghanistan, Michael Scheuer a former CIA intelligence officer head of bin laden tracking team stated Pakistan is doing what ANY intel agency would do to safeguard its interests, I mean these are the abc’s of this subject so I think you should start there before throwing around assumptions based on a few headlines you saw on TV. Let’s keep the debate mature.

    • GhalibKabir

      talking of maturity implies ability to accept evidence and facts. Many Indians incl me will readily accept India needs to do many things better. When some one like Christine Fair who has read every green journal of the Pak Army and has collated evidence of the Pak establishments duplicity carefully (many times using Pakistani sources) is described a paid hack, then what is there to be said? if your view of history is so warped then what can we discuss? very sad.

      What hegemony Steve my friend? Any doubts on partition/dominance/imagined Indian hegemony got over when BJP accepted it in 1999 at no less than Minar e Pak. And by the way what is goose for the sauce is goose for the gander, then we should stop pretending China does not have hegemonic designs in Asia. What is the naval base in Gwadar for? police chowki? If you want to know China constructed highway on what was historical colonial Indian territory in 1954 while talking friendship and when Nehru moved forward (without a plan) they pounced. India is guilty of inept handling of signalling from China, but the qabza and needless humiliation China insists on doing to India every available chance is also needless. everything has two sides friend, not everything Indian is bad…tariq tariq hoti hai

  • GhalibKabir

    I expected a mature discussion, but the moment you disparage ‘Hindu’, there is no point discussing friend. You read what you typed. It is such a pity. It indicates a mindset that like an upside down glass. Discussions are like water, when you refuse to consider or even dismiss evidence as made by paid hacks, all I can say is good luck to you. In the process you prove the exact things Christine Fair or Hussain Haqqani or Mike Krepon assert about Pak. Does the irony strike you?

    PS: you should know China has border issues with many nations and so do many other nations. Your hatred for India has completely blinded you to even basic courtesies to strangers on the Internet.

    • Steve

      I’ll allow you to take the “moral high ground” if it makes you happy. Please look at the history of your country RSS, VHP etc who are in power now. If you don’t want to acknowledge it that’s fine. You should also understand that we don’t care about known Pakistan haters like the people you mention. There is no irony in recognising your enemies. We know how to debate and pick out issues from political and pseudo-academic rants that you guys think we cannot do (the madrissa factor that you guys quote ad nauseum). Good luck and peace

  • Headstrong

    We can see just how independent you are of the rest of the world with just one look at your media. Cravenness assumes new proportions!
    As far as quoting goes, please read the comment to which I responded. Not quite out from under the Western yoke, are you?
    And your ‘astute’ remarks on Hindus just proves what Khursheed Aziz wrote in The Murder of Democracy. Hope that name is kosher for you – after all, he’s Pakistani.
    The only way Pakistan can be ‘different’ is if it understands Einstein’s theory on insanity. Else it is the same old Pakistan, desperately trying to convince itself that it is superior to everyone else, and failing repeatedly. Desperately trying to convince the world that it must equate Pakistan with India, because hey! we’re also nuclear. Could you get more wanna be?

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