17 August 2012

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan: An Instrument of 4th Generation Warfare against Pakistan

The attack on the Pakistan Air Force's PAF Minhas airbase at Kamra on 16 August 2012 is part of the same pattern of terrorist attacks on Pakistani military installations and assets as the one carried out against the Pakistan Navy's PNS Mehran naval base in Karachi on 22 May 2011.

It is useful to look at the commonalities between the PNS Mehran and PAF Minhas attacks:

(i) Both were against Pakistan's military bases.

(ii) Both targeted Pakistan's high-value military assets: (a) the PNS Mehran attack targeting the Pakistan Navy's P-3C Orion Maritime Surveillance and Anti-Submarine/Shipping aircraft and (b) the PAF Kamra attack targeting the Pakistan Air Force's IL-78MP Air-to-Air Refuellers and Saab 2000 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.

(iii) The modus operandi of the terrorists in both attacks was similar: involving terrorists on foot, armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and suicide vests.

(iv) Credit for both attacks was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The difference is that, in the case PNS Mehran, there was a failure of security and the terrorists succeeded in their objectives, whereas in the case of PAF Minhas, the attack was successfully thwarted and the terrorists failed in their objectives. Seemingly, the objectives of every TTP terrorist attack are twofold: to (a) erode Pakistan's capability to effectively defend itself by inflicting losses to military personnel and equipment and (b) discredit Pakistan internationally by demonstrating that Pakistan can neither prevent nor defend itself from such attacks.

This begs the question as to why the TTP, or any other domestic terrorist organization for that matter, would want to destroy those Pakistani military assets that are not being employed in the so-called "War on Terror" and that are not being used against the TTP or any other terrorist organization? The Pakistani weapon systems that have posed one of the greatest threats to the TTP in their mountain hideouts in the tribal areas have been the Pakistan Army Aviation's Cobra AH-1 helicopter gunships, which are based near Kamra at Ghazi for anti-TTP operations. Why would the TTP walk past the Cobra gunships that have pounded them relentlessly and target those aircraft that pose no threat and have done no damage to them? Maritime surveillance aircraft, anti-submarine/shipping aircraft, air-to-air refuellers and AEW&C aircraft pose no threat to the TTP or any other terrorist organization. If Pakistan is deprived of these aircraft, it would make no difference to the TTP or any other terrorist organization because they are not being used against them. From a terrorist's standpoint, therefore, targeting these military assets does not erode Pakistan's ability to fight against them. So why would the TTP then target them?

The answer is simple: TTP is not a domestic terrorist organization with a religious or political agenda but a veritable arm of a foreign intelligence agency that has long-term strategic designs against the Pakistani state. TTP is an instrument of a foreign power's policy of conducting asymetrical warfare against Pakistan, also known as "Fourth Generation Warfare" or "4GW." What makes TTP even more potent is that whilst it was created by one foreign intelligence agency, it is now being used by other foreign intelligence agencies with the same agenda. Thus, the TTP is engaged in a proxy war against Pakistan at the behest of foreign powers.

The faces and footsoldiers of TTP may be Pakistani (in many instances they have also been foreign), but the planners, financers, suppliers and trainers are not. It may be that the TTP footsoldiers who carry out terror attacks across Pakistan may not even be aware of the identity of their ultimate controllers and beneficiaries. They may even think that they are carrying out some religious Jihad when, in fact, all they are doing is serving the interests of foreign non-Muslim powers and inflicting harm on the world's only nuclear-armed Muslim country. This is not too far-fetched. Victor Ostrovsky, the former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, in his 1990 book, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer, revealed that, at any given time, the people who knew they were working for Mossad was only a small fraction of the actual number who were working for Mossad, all unaware of their actual employer.

Neutralizing Pakistan's maritime surveillance and anti-submarine/shipping capability can only benefit a state actor with a navy and naval designs against Pakistan. Similarly, neutralizing Pakistan's air-to-air refuelling and airborne early warning and radar jamming capabilities can only benefit a state actor with an air force and aerial designs against Pakistan. Neither of the two can benefit a terrorist organization engaged in urban terrorism and guerrilla warfare in mountainous terrain. Needless to say, terrorist organizations such as the TTP neither have naval or air power, so what threat are they neutralizing by targeting the naval and air power of Pakistan?

Attacking Pakistan's strategic installations also serves another purpose. One that is part of the objective to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear capability, which is the objective of more than one foreign power. By exposing gaps in Pakistan's security apparatus, those who wish to seek Pakistan's nuclear disarmament can argue that if Pakistani's military installations are vulnerable to terrorist penetration, then how vulnerable are its nuclear installations? Therefore, each terrorist attack on a military base in Pakistan builds the case against Pakistan and feeds the narrative and propaganda against Pakistan's nuclear capability. Of course, to anyone even vaguely familiar with the multiple and redundant layers of security and safeguards surrounding Pakistan's nuclear weapons and strategic installations, the idea of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons or even nuclear installations seems farfetched, if not ludicrous. But who is to educate foreign domestic public opinion when the airwaves are dominated by Western-controlled media, which toe the line of Western political, military and corporate interests.

Another factor that lends credence to the view that TTP is directly controlled by a foreign intelligence agency is the fact that these audacious attacks on defended military installations cannot be undertaken by a bunch of ragtag domestic terrorists. It takes finances, resources, weapons, ordinance, equipment, training and intelligence gathering to undertake terrorist attacks of the scale mounted on PNS Mehran and PAF Minhas. Only the intelligence agency of a state actor can sponsor and provide the finances, weapons, logistics, intelligence and training for such ambitious and audacious terrorist acts against the military installations of a nuclear power.

The lesson for Pakistan here is not to be complacent and be prepared at all times for such attacks against military and strategic installations. The enemies of Pakistan will continue to plan and attempt such attacks in future. PAF Minhas was not the last of them. Pakistan's needs to bolster the defences around all its military and strategic installations and improve intelligence with a view to pre-empting such terrorist attacks. When on the ground, all military aircraft should be parked in hardened aircraft shelters and reinforced hangars. Wide buffer zones with multiple and redundant security systems should surround all military installations, especially air bases.

Whenever a crime is committed, every good detective worth his salt needs to ask and seek an answer to one question: Who is the ultimate beneficiary of this crime? In the case of PNS Mehran and PAF Minhas, we must ask the question: Who is the ultimate beneficiary of the erosion of Pakistan's strategic military capability? Who stands to gain most from the destruction of Pakistan's P-3C Orion maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the IL-78MP air-to-air refuellers and the Saab 2000 AEW&C aircraft? The answer will lead us to the real culprits.